Why does God allow the wicked
to commit evil? Why does God allow evil rulers to afflict innocent people and persecute Christians? Why does he allow believers to languish in North Korean work camps and Iranian prisons? Why does he place Christians under bosses who mistreat them or next to neighbors who make their lives miserable? I know a Christian woman whose husband gives her absolutely no money and makes her provide for all her own needs. Why does God allow these things?
One of the first principles of interpreting the Bible is to begin with the clear and move to the unclear. So we will attempt to answer our question by beginning with a couple of clear truths.
1. There is no evil in God and God cannot sin.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5
God is perfectly just and righteous. He never does anything unjust. So it is clear that no matter what evil God allows, he never commits any sin and is always perfectly just.
2. God is sovereign over all things, including the evil acts of men.
If God did not allow them they could not do them. But he doesn’t simply permit evil, he works men’s evil deeds for his own glory and his children’s good.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
3. The example of Joseph and his brothers.
God uses all things – even the evil intents, wicked plans and actions of men to bring about his glory and our good. The Bible is filled with examples of God doing this. One of the clearest examples is how God used Joseph’s brothers’ sin to bring about good for multitudes. Joseph’s brothers hated him, threw him into a pit, and sold him to slave traders who took him to Egypt. There he suffered unjustly only to have God exalt him at the perfect time to Pharaoh’s right hand, and he led Egypt to store food, which saved thousands of lives, including the brothers who sinned against him.
Joseph’s brothers were sure he’d take revenge when their father died, but Joseph said to them:
“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleshould be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” GE 50.19-21
How incredible God is! How glorious! He took the evil intents of Joseph’s brothers and caused their actions to bring about the saving of thousands from famine. Later God used Pharaoh’s wickedness to bring himself glory by delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery. As Pharaoh repeatedly refused to obey God, God sent plagues upon Egypt and display his awesome power and majesty, as it says in Romans 9:17:
“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.””
4. The ultimate example is found in Jesus.
The ultimate example of God using man’s wickedness to bring about his glorious purposes is the crucifixion of Jesus by Pilate, the Jewish leaders and people. As Peter preached to the Jews on Pentecost:
“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:23
Peter says the Jews crucified Jesus via the lawless Romans. They murdered the only innocent man who ever lived, the Son of God. Yet God foreknew and planned Christ’s death for all eternity, and caused the most wicked act in history, killing the Messiah, to bring about the most glorious result: the redemption of multitudes. The result: infinite glory to God and Jesus Christ, and forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, and everlasting joy to those Jesus redeemed.
5. God is working all things together for our good.
We may not see it now, but someday we’ll see how God turned every bit of evil, from our secret sins to the historical atrocities of wicked rulers to his glory. He causes ALL THINGS, from greatest to least – ALL THINGS to work for good to those who love him and to magnify his infinite glory.