More questions from Matthew Chapter 2
6. How do you explain why God let all these children die?
This is a question that I would rather avoid. However, it is a question that most non-Christians would want answered. Of course, most use this as an excuse not to have faith or trust God, so the possibility of answering the question to everyone’s satisfaction is impossible. Rather than answering directly, I think we need to examine the Bible and see what God’s heart is like.
Did He let this happen because He doesn’t care? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people say that the God of the Old Testament is uncaring and a God of wrath I would be rich. Things like these children being killed in the New Testament just add fuel to their arguments that God is not someone they want to trust or obey. Well, God does care. Regarding death, He had this to say: Ps 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (NIV) or as the Living Bible paraphrases what this means, His loved ones are very precious to him, and he does not lightly let them die. (TLB) Yes, God does let people die, some of old age, others of disease, natural disasters and even at the hands of evil men but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care. For even in these dreaded cases He has a plan.
Since Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being (Heb 1:3) we need to see how Jesus regarded children to see if He cared or not. In Mark 10:13-16 it was evident that the disciples didn’t think that Jesus should be bothered by children. Jesus response shows that God cares for children more than we can imagine. Against custom, He wanted the children to come to Him. He hugged them and blessed them. He gave a command that parents should consider strongly – do not hinder them. What is worse, Herod’s atrocity or parents that try to keep their kids from Jesus knowing Jesus? Our society says it was Herod’s actions, but I think Jesus would say it is worse to hinder a child’s faith in God and so cause him to lose his eternal life. Mark 9:42 "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” (NIV)
Would all of those children who died come to a saving faith in Jesus if they had lived? There is no way we can answer that question. No one can, except God. Are they safe in heaven now because they died at such a young age? There is certainly arguments in the Word that they are. Did God let this happen knowing that they would be eternally safe? I can’t say that for sure, but that’s where I think they are.
What about those who are not like children but are wicked, how does God regard them? Ezek 18:23 "Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” (NLT) Unfortunately for those who want to carry on their wicked deeds, God does sometimes bring punishment upon them that leads to death. However, even in these situations, God would much rather have them repent and turn from their evil rather than suffer the consequences of their actions. The book of Ezekiel reiterates several times that God will relent from His punishment when people repent and turn to Him. I might add that people who want to reject God are not usually doing it because they think that God is unjust, but it is because He is just and they think that by rejecting His authority, they may in some way be able to escape the eternal consequences of their sin.
There are sometimes when God allows bad things to happen because He has a purpose that is beyond our understanding. We can’t see the personal development that will occur in the lives of many people as a result of the affliction that they suffer. Many people respond afterwards, that they grew closer to God during these tough times than during their times of affluence or ease. Those who blame God for the evil rather than see the good that eventually comes miss out on a growing trust in Him as well as becoming better people. Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (NIV) Joseph didn’t become bitter because of what his brothers did to him. Instead, he trusted God even in prison and enslavement. Perhaps he didn’t really understand the full implication of what happened until he became second in command to Pharaoh and his brothers came in search for food. However, there is no indication that he blamed God or was even bitter toward his bothers.
Joseph’s attitude was more like Job’s and is what ours should be when faced with adversity and bad things happening in the world. Job 2:10 He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (NIV) Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him (NIV)
People always want to blame someone when evil happens, even those who cause the evil. Eventually they get back to God and try to blame Him. Look at Gen 3:12-13 The man said, "The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (NIV) Adam blamed Eve for his own failure to obey God and he also blamed God for giving Eve to him. Eve blamed the serpent. Mankind is always able to find someone to blame for evil. Instead of blaming Herod for killing the children, people blame God for not preventing it. In a sense, we blame Adam for all the evil in the world. If he hadn’t sinned, then the children wouldn’t have had to die. God warned him against eating from the tree, but his own moral failure caused him to disobey.
At the point of Adam and Eve’s sin, the whole universe went through a dramatic transformation. It went from a perfect environment without death or decay to what we see today. Rom 8:20-21 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (NIV) Everything wears out and dies. The worst part is that we inherited that sinful nature from Adam. But look at what Paul said. There will be a time in the future when all this evil will be finished. God will take action and say enough is enough. He will restore the universe to its original perfection and maybe even better. The only reason we see it still happening is that God is still waiting for all that He has called to come to Him.
While we wait for that future we must take the blame for our own evils and not blame God for natural disasters or the evils of mankind. It is only when we acknowledge our sinfulness that we will be able to trust God and His goodness.
When evil occurs because of mankind’s sins, Jesus made it clear that we must place our hope in Him. Matt 10:28-33 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (RSV) Do you have an unshakable faith in the goodness of God? Do you believe that He cares for you as an individual infinitely more than He even cares for a sparrow? Jesus made it clear that the soul – our immortal self – is more important than what happens to our bodies. While preserving life may seem like the most important thing to us, our souls are much more important to Jesus. He wrapped up His comments by telling us how to make sure our souls will survive. We need to acknowledge Jesus. If we don’t acknowledge Him as our Lord and our Savior, we will not be able to escape the eventuality of death and eternal death in hell.