Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?


September 24, 2020

John 9:1-7

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.


Who sinned? 

Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We know it as the law of cause and effect. There’s another interesting word to describe this universal law: karma.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Something about our own insecurity demands we ask the question, whether we are conscious of asking it or not. “I wasn’t born blind,” the disciples reasoned, “either me or my parents must have done something right along the way.” We are good people.

These days we don’t so much think this way about people who are physically or mentally handicapped. When it comes to the poor or the imprisoned it’s a different story. We tend to think people are living in poverty or are in jail because of their own fault or the fault of their parents. After all, the thinking goes, one reaps what they sow.

Jesus deals a death blow to this whole system and approach to life.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

So is Jesus saying just the opposite, as in, this tragedy is not a result of someone’s sin, rather God caused this to happen for a reason—and that was so God could get glory from what Jesus was about to do? This would make God out as some kind of monster, wouldn’t it? God caused this man to be born blind so he could suffer untold hardship and constant community shame for forty years or so until Jesus arrived on the scene. Does this sound like God?

What if it’s more like this? Every broken place in every broken life holds the possibility for the glorious works of God to be put on display. Everything that happens in life does not happen as a consequence of some prior choice or action. Nor does God plant every tragedy and hardship in the world because he has a reason for it. At the risk of oversimplification, let me state it simply: Everything that happens is not God’s will, but God has a will in and through everything that happens.

How about cancer? Who sinned? Was it the genetic code of his parents or was it because he was a chain smoker? That’s not Jesus’ question. Cancer is not bad karma. Cancer, in the hands of God, can become one of two things. It could provide an opportunity for the demonstration of the miraculous healing power of the Holy Spirit to eradicate cancer. Or, it could provide an opportunity for the demonstration of the miraculous healing power of the Holy Spirit to transform the life, character, faith, and even the family and friends of the sick person who is given the extraordinary gift of faith in the face of fear—come what may. In either instance, cancer always creates the opportunity for the display of the works of God through the ordinary yet supernatural conspiracy of the love of God for a person through his people, the church.

The cross crushes karma, fatalism, and fear. As they looked upon Jesus on the cross on that Good Friday so long ago, so many were asking the question, “Who sinned?” After all, doesn’t the Bible say “cursed is everyone is hanged on a tree”?

As we look upon Jesus on the cross on this Friday we know the answer to the question, “Who sinned?” It was me and you. In an act that forever crushed karma, fatalism, fear, and, yes, the curse, Jesus holds out healing for all who will receive it. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree—'” (Gal. 3:13 ESV).

We are all pretty sure why bad things happen to bad people. Allow me to turn this equation on its side just a bit. This whole system of thinking has compounded over the centuries to culminate in the question of all questions of the modern age: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It is yet another misguided question pointing to the epic fail of karma. The real question we must all come to grips with is this one: Why do good things happen to bad people (a.k.a. sinners)?

Answer: grace.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is beyond amazing grace. How can we fathom this love who would take our place and crush our curse and redeem our lives? Come, Holy Spirit, and heal our blindness that we might see Jesus and so see ourselves. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


1. How do you see the difference between karma and grace?

2. Do you tend to always look for the reason for a particular hardship or tragic situation? Do you think God caused it?

3. Is there a situation in your own life that could be a place for the demonstration of the works of God? Are you open to whatever form that might take?

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

One Response

  1. Answer 1: karma’s what we all deserve as a consequence of our actions. Grace is what we receive as a result of what Jesus did on the Cross by atoning for our sins.
    Answer 2: While I do not believe that God is ever the cause of evil in the world, I’m not a Calvinist, I do believe that God does allow it to occur for a reasons that sometimes he reveals and sometimes not. The enslavement of Joseph and the crucifixion of Jesus being two notable examples of God allowing evil to play out to achieve a higher good.
    Answer 3: Prior to the the pandemic and ensuing lockout, I facilitated 3 separate Bible studies, a cell group at home, an adult class Sunday morning at church, and one at a local nursing home. Suddenly I was cut off from all these. As a result I joined Facebook and began sharing my Christian thoughts there. My active participation on this site is also a result of these circumstances. And yes, I’m open to whatever God calls me to do. I’m eager to use whatever S,Gifts I’ve been blessed with to expand His kingdom.

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