Why do the Wicked Prosper?

McKinley United Methodist Church

Why do the wicked prosper? It was the sermon assignment Professor Gene Jaberg gave my preaching class at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, back in the 1980’s. Based on Psalm 73, the question of why the wicked succeeded so well, troubled the psalmist.

“For I was envious of the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pain;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not plagued like other people.
Such are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.” Psalm 73:3-5, 12

Indeed, why do the wicked prosper? Through the years I’ve asked that question many times. Why do people who have so much wealth, set roadblocks for those in poverty? How can billionaires possibly need more money? Why can drug lords amass riches, leaving death and broken hearts in their wake, without some form of punishment? Why do the wicked prosper through sweat shops and human trafficking? Why do corrupt politicians continue in power, seemingly immune to the consequences of their wrong doing? Why do the wicked escape unscathed by the limitations and heartaches others face? Why do the wicked prosper when they should be in jail, instead?

Psalm 73 is attributed to Asaph, Chief of the Levites. Whatever was happening in his world, he had seen enough pain and misery, while the wicked flaunted their wealth, to take his protest to God. As Asaph continued to ponder his question, he went into the sanctuary and considered the world from a different view. He saw how many of those he considered wicked, had come to a painful end. Their wealth was transitory, but his own walk with God was everlasting. He would write:

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.” Psalm 73:25-26

On days when I wonder at corruption being rewarded, and the faithful suffering, I remember Asaph and his wisdom. I remember how he trusted God to make all things right, in God’s own time.

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