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The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (Prov 16:4).
Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart. Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him (Ecc 7:7-14).
For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me (Mark 14:7).
Epicurus’ Trilemma basically sums up the problem of evil. It is a rejection of the idea of an all-powerful, benevolent God. The Epicureans were the closest thing you can really get to atheists in the ancient world. Epicurus’ Trilemma goes like this:
- If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
- If God is unwilling to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
- If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?
The other day, I was reading something from the book The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (a collection of sayings from early Christian ascetics), and I came across this:
When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men prosper and why are the just in need? He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.”
I think the biggest reason people reject God, based on the problem of evil, is that no theodicy (defense of God’s goodness in the face of evil’s existence) is satisfactory.
When you read what God spoke to Anthony the Great on the subject, what did you think? I’ll be honest: when I first read it, my reaction was, “Really? That’s it? God told him, ‘Don’t worry about it?’ That’s the answer? That’s what God had to say for Himself?”
It’s not very satisfying, is it? But let me ask you this: why should it satisfy?
Explaining it will in no way remove the reality of evil. And if you are satisfied with evil—if you are satisfied with the way things are—then what’s the point? If you’re satisfied with evil, then why do you even care?
You shouldn’t be satisfied with it! You should care! You should be dissatisfied, and that dissatisfaction should drive you to do something about it!
Let us say that it is possible for us to know and understand why God allows evil. Taking that as a given, let me ask you this: What would that change?
What if God doesn’t explain to us (even assuming we could understand) so that we remain dissatisfied with evil? We can’t know this, but it seems possible to me that, if I knew why, I might then think I knew better. I could see myself becoming complacent.
When I’m faced with something I don’t understand, I put a lot more energy into it. If, on the other hand, I feel like I know what I’m doing, it just doesn’t remain as high a priority. I don’t worry about it like I do if I don’t understand it. It doesn’t drive me.
Can you identify with that?
No matter the answer you come up with for the problem of evil, it doesn’t change anything. It won’t satisfy anything except maybe your own curiosity.
And I think this is at the heart of the dialog between St. Anthony and God. Understanding it wouldn’t change anything anyway. Like God said: “It is not to your advantage to know anything about these things.”
So rather than spending time and energy trying to solve a question that may not have an answer you’re meant to understand—rather than wasting time on something that’s not to your advantage—focus instead on doing something about the evil in the world.
Like Jesus said, you will always have the poor with you. You will always have the opportunity to help someone.
Take it! Take that opportunity!
Do you personally give to the poor? Or do you always pass panhandlers by? Even if you refuse to give to panhandlers, what are you doing for the poor? Do you give to support a homeless shelter or a local pantry?
Do you personally give to missionaries to support them in sharing the Gospel? Do you personally give to the ministries you’re a part of, to support them in their ministry?
Do you personally give to cancer research? To Doctors without Borders? To Convoy of Hope? FeedONE? Teen Challenge? The list goes on.
There are so many organizations fighting evil in the world—both moral evil (people doing bad things) and physical evil (sickness, poverty, etc.). What are you doing to be a part of that? Do you give of your time? Do you give of your finances? Do you pray?
Now that you’ve thought of all these things, one last question. You can’t give to all of them; you only have so much money and time. But you’ve probably said, “Yeah, I give to that!” as you read through the list. So:
Are you consistent?
It’s one thing to give five dollars in the offering plate whenever you have cash in your wallet. It’s another thing to regularly bring your checkbook to service and write out a check—even a five-dollar check—every single week. Giving consistently is where the real difference is made.
Here’s a few links to help you get started. It’s not meant to be all-inclusive. Just what I came up with off the bat. I challenge you: Sign up for automatic, recurring payments to support some organization. Maybe from this list, but if God’s laying something else on your heart—like your local Chi Alpha group, your local church, your local food pantry—look that up right now and sign up to automatically support them.
All views expressed on this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.