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God's Kindness to Sinners


By Dennis Pollock

Both the Bible and simple observation reveal something that seems a bit incongruent to many: God blesses unbelievers. God is kind to people who reject Him, who mock Him, who ignore Him, and who vehemently declare that He does not even exist. This seems wrong to many of us. Should He not bless His praying, Bible-reading, praise-singing children, and send nothing but punishment, misfortune, and hard times to those who refuse Him? Yet we find this is not the case – not at all.

Our Lord Jesus makes this very plain, in declaring:

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45).

And if we bother to open our eyes, we find that this is surely true. In every nation and every culture there are unbelievers who do not care at all for God, His Son, and His ways, and yet they prosper, they have nice families, live in large homes, and drive nice cars. They never go to church, never read the Bible, and essentially never give God the slightest thought. Their lives are built around themselves and their families, and they are doing very nicely, thank you very much. If a Christian should knock on their door and invite them to church or ask them about their relationship with God, they would make short work of them, and send them on their way.

God s Kindness to All

This little truth, this rather unsettling insight is acknowledged throughout the Bible. God is good to people who don t care about Him! One of the shortest of the Psalms is unique in that it is addressed, not to the people of Israel, but to the Gentile nations of the world. The Psalmist, overflowing with praise to God, exhorts all the people of the world:

PRAISE the LORD, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!
For His merciful kindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 117:1,2).

Notice: His merciful kindness is great toward us…” Toward who? Toward all you gentiles,” and all you peoples.” In other words, toward everybody. God is kind to men and women, to Jews and Arabs, to Africans and Americans, toward Muslims and Christians, toward Hindus and atheists, toward Anglicans and occultists… and the list could go on and on. God is good to all.

Not Without Witness

As Paul preached in the city of Lystra, he reminded his listeners  that even before the gospel came to light, God did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Sometimes we Christians suppose that God will only bless those who pray in the name of Jesus, go to church, read the Bible, and have been baptized. But in this life, God lavishly pours out blessings on multitudes who never do these things. They are blessed, not because of their prayer life, or their faith, or their status in Christ, but rather in spite of their lack of prayer and lack of faith. They are blessed because God desires to bless them. They sometimes live to be very old, they have large bank accounts, many friends and family members who care about them, a soft bed to sleep in, and plenty of food in their refrigerators. When it is cold outside, their houses are warm, in the blazing summer days they are air-conditioned and cool, and when it rains, they are dry and comfortable.

Job found this troubling, and asked:

Why do the wicked live and become old,
Yes, become mighty in power?
Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes.
Their houses are safe from fear,
Neither is the rod of God upon them (Job 21:7-9).

The thought of comfortable, well-to-do ungodly men just didn t seem right to Job, especially when he was suffering terribly. Should it not be the other way around? If it were up to most of us Christians, we wouldn t do things this way. We might suppose that by sending nothing but trouble upon the sinners, God might motivate them to turn to Himself. But blessing them, even while they curse and blaspheme, take advantage of the weak, and show contempt for the poor and needy? This cannot be right!

But of course it is. We know it is right, because this is what God does; this is one of His rather puzzling ways. And it is universal in its application. God doesn t just bless unbelievers occasionally or rarely, He blesses them often. Prayerless, godless men and women often prosper and live just as well, or perhaps better than their evangelical neighbors.

The Reasons Why…

The question that screams for an answer is Why?” – why would God do this? Since He unquestionably does it, we know that it must be right, but it might be helpful for us if we had some inkling about why He does it. I would like to suggest two reasons God has decided to bless ungodly people.

First, the Bible makes it clear that God likes to work behind the scenes.” Yes, He sometimes does miracles and makes His mighty power known, but He never does as many miracles as we wish He would. He often seems kind of understated in His dealings with men and women. For example, why doesn t God direct one of His mighty angels to appear in front of a huge gathering of thousands of people, which is being broadcast on television, and tell everybody that Jesus is the only way to be saved? That would surely convince many, but He s never done that. Angels come and go quietly, do the business for which they are sent, and nearly everybody is unaware of them. Or why doesn t God convert all the Hollywood celebrities in a single night of visitation? The next day they would all tell the reporters they are now born-again Christians and urge everyone to give their lives to Jesus. That would surely help to build the church and promote the cause of Christ. But this has never happened, and I m not holding my breath, waiting for it to happen.

The God who Hides

Rather than making a public, dramatic splash, God typically prefers to work rather quietly in individual hearts and lives. He is not only invisible to the eye; He seems to prefer to remain mostly hidden to our world in other ways as well. Isaiah writes, Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” (Isaiah 45:15).

And if He were to send blessings only to His children and nothing but punishments and failure to those who are not His children, it would be too obvious, and that s just not God s way. Additionally, people would begin professing Christ, not out of deep conviction, but out of greed, selfishness, and a desire to be blessed. Instead, God allows sinners to be blessed in their unbelief, while they grasp for riches, ignore the poor, mock the weak, and despise the Christians. Still God blesses them – day after day and year after year.

A second reason why God blesses unbelievers is that God is love, and it is His nature to bless wherever He can and as much as He can. Blessing is always preferred to cursing and punishment in His eyes. When we say, God bless you,” we don t realize just how true and how pervasive that concept is. Just like one who hunts is a hunter, and one who fishes is a fisherman, God is a Blesser.” Blessing is what He does. And in the case of the sinner, God knows that their blessings cannot endure. They will inevitably come to the end of their lives, they will die, they will be judged for their sins, and they will be sent to that place of outer darkness where there is weeping, regret, and misery. There will be no blessing for them on the other side. Therefore on this side of the grave God blesses them as much as He wisely can. In relating the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,” Jesus describes Abraham telling the rich man suffering in Hades: In your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented” (Luke 16:25). Since God knows there will be no blessings, no comfort, no luxuries, no wealth, no status for the sinners in the next life, He appears to be often willing to bless them in this life.


There are three basic ways unbelieving men and women interpret the blessings of God on their lives. Two of them are very wrong and one is very right. The first wrong interpretation is to assume that they are blessed because of their superior intelligence and diligent labors. This interpretation pushes God entirely out of the picture. Nebuchadnezzar interpreted his success in building Babylon this way. As he looked over the immensely wealthy and beautiful city of Babylon, he said to himself: Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). God responds by taking his sanity from him for seven years. Wrong, Nebuchadnezzar! Though you worked hard in building this city, it was God who gave you the strength, the intelligence, and the position to do it.

A second wrong interpretation that sinners apply to the blessings on their lives is to assume that this must mean that all is right between them and God, and that their eternal future is secure. Look at how God has blessed me! Surely I must be one of His favorites!” Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Bible makes it clear that blessings on the lives of sinners by no means equals justification or forgiveness of sins. Only Jesus Christ can give that. Just because God pities you, He may grant you some temporary blessings while on this earth, knowing that at the end of your short life, you will never be blessed again.

The correct interpretation of God s blessings on the wicked is to recognize that He is showing them kindness out of His great love, and in the desire that they will repent and turn to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul writes to sinners: Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). At least that s how it s supposed to work. For many it doesn t, and they go through their vain lives foolishly imagining that all their blessings, all their success, all their wealth, and all their happiness was a result of their own wisdom and hard work. But for some sinners who are truly blessed, the day comes when they recognize that God has been incredibly kind and patient with them, blessing them even in their unbelief, and as a result of this flash of divine inspiration and revelation, they repent and put their faith in the crucified and risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then they will experience the greatest blessings of all: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, an eternal inheritance with Christ in heaven, and the privilege of becoming a child of God.



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