Answer the skeptic: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Short Answer: There are no good people.

There is a difference between a good person and a person that does good things. Jesus says in Mark 10:18 that, “No one is good except God.” We have created the idea in our culture that if you do good things then you become a good person, and if you do bad things you are a bad person. However, this is not the view that Jesus held. Jesus was very clear that it is only God that is good. Dr. Clay Jones says, “Doing a good act doesn’t make you a good person. You are just a doer of good.”

For the most part, people only choose to do good because of a fear of punishment or negative consequences. We follow the speed limit because we don’t want to get a ticket. It is not the fact that premarital sex is immoral that keeps many young people from having sex, but instead, it is a fear of pregnancy. I see this concept play out in my job as a teacher. If a student thinks he/she is not going to get caught, there isn’t much that is going to keep him/her from cheating on a test. During the class we discussed that when people think they can get away with it and they have half a reason to do it, they do it.

Now, this isn’t saying that every act is done or not done out of a fear of consequences, but this shows the true character of people. There would be tremendously negative consequences if a person lived a life never doing good. In order to survive, and prosper in society, we have to do good acts. But again, this does not make us good; only broken people who do good. The answer to the original question becomes obvious when you instead ask, “Why do bad things happen to bad people?”

Another question that could be asked of a skeptic is, “What do you mean by ‘good’?” If there is no objective standard of good, then who decides what “good” is? They only way there can be objectively right and wrong actions is if God exists. Without God as the perfect moral standard, all actions become personal preferences. In that case, what is good for one person may be not good for another. Good loses its meaning in a world without God.

Whether you seek to answer this question from a Christian worldview or a materialistic worldview, the answer is the same; there are no good people.

This is one part in a series of posts on why God allows evil.  Look below to read previous posts that you missed and see what is coming up. Each section will be posted weekly in the order they appear below.

  1. Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?
  2. Why does God let a child die?
  3. How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?
  4. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  5. Why is eternal punishment fair?
  6. If conscious belief in Jesus is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?
  7. Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.
  8. What good is the suffering I endure?
  9. How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?
  10. Why does God allow evil?