Why do the good suffer and the evil prosper? This was the form in which the Bible first addressed the problem of evil, as the Jews reexamined their traditional doctrines that God rewards the pious with many children, prosperity,and long life, and curses the wicked with sterility, poverty, and and early death. This was so clearly often not the case, that the inconsistency seemed to demand an explanation. The books of Job and Ecclesiastes, each in its own way, pronounce it an unfathomable mystery. The author of Job seems to regard the very asking of the question as an affront to God. He puts forward all manner of detailed arguments for questioning God's justice; but the deity refuses to reply to his accusations, telling Job only to sit down, shut up, and fear him.
Some argue that sufferings are inflicted on the good to test them, to allow them to prove their virtue.
Why is such testing necessary or desirable? Will the saved in Heaven be similarly tested? Surely not, since Heaven is said to be free of suffering. If virtue can only be displayed in comparison with evil, then it would seem that God is either limited in his powers or imperfectly good.
As the Beatitudes state, those who suffer here on earth will be blessed in Heaven.
- This argument provides consolation, but no explanation. Why should the good have to suffer at all? Like many others "answers" to the problem of evil, it evades the basic question by stating that it is unanswerable in this life. Only in Heaven are there answers.
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