Is God Careless or Indulgent?

It can be a fascinating spectacle to observe a parent dealing with a misbehaving child. Sometimes the parent will make a clear declaration on what must or must not be done, but the child seems not to pay attention and continues doing what he or she wants.  The parental threat (and there can be many of those) is not followed up on, and the child continues on the same behavioral path. Parental standards have been successfully challenge by the child. When the encounter draws to a close, it seems that the parent might be frustrated but apparently not too upset about their own rules and standards being violated. And surely the child has developed the view that the parent is not all that serious about these matters; either because the parent is too indulgent or “loving”; or that the parent is too distracted to really deal with the situation; or maybe that the parent lacks the energy to enforce the rules. 

This same thing has been a problem with God.  He has set down many clear standards of behavior in the “Ten Commandments”, and an untold number of other places.  But many of His “children” don’t seem to pay attention and He doesn’t appear to do much about it.  As a result, the misbehaving person arrives at the erroneous conclusion that God is careless about righteousness and justice. He seems sort of indulgent and, frankly, really doesn’t take His own standards seriously. Their view of God and His standards becomes so badly distorted that they (in the words of the prophet Isaiah) “call evil good, and good evil; and substitute darkness for light and light for darkness…” Another prophet Malachi, looking at the people of his day, noted that these were saying “everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,” and “where is the God of justice?” Today, God indeed seems to be so very tolerant and to fit nicely into tolerant America!

The folks that the ancient prophets were talking about look a lot like many in our culture today. In fact, in our nation, people with these attitudes appear to be everywhere. What God has said doesn’t seem to really matter to them. God has spoken clearly about the sanctity of human life; about the sacredness of marriage; about the clear guidelines for morality and immorality; about the necessity of avoiding lying and deception; about being absolutely fair in business dealings; about being diligent in one’s work; about avoiding using His name in a vain way; about being kind to others; and etc. etc.  And with these commands and precepts, God states that these things cannot be violated with impunity.  And this, of course, is the problem.  These are being violated regularly by many, and God seems not to be paying attention; or worse, He sees it all and indulgently does nothing about it.  Thus, we see this viewpoint developing today as it did with the people of Isaiah and Malachi. But that viewpoint is badly mistaken, failing to observe two major points.

First, judgment delayed is not judgment denied. King Solomon ends his powerful and relevant book of Ecclesiastes by declaring that “God will bring every act to judgment, everything that is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”  When the people of Malachi’s day asked “where is the God of justice”, he immediately responded by stating that He is coming and it could be at any moment, and when He does come no one can handle that day of His judgment.  Even the most arrogant amongst us will find that they cannot stand before Him. Malachi gets specific and states that those who violated God’s standard of morality/immorality; those who deceived; those whose business practices were unfair; those who fraternized with the occult world; and those who did not reverence Him would be severely judged.  So, first God does take His commands and standards very seriously with the result that all in His creation will give an account for the way they have responded to His revealed standards.

But secondly, those who think God has become somewhat careless about enforcing His righteous standards usually fail to understand an essential aspect of God’s nature.  He explained to Moses, on Mt. Sinai (Exo. 34), that He Himself was slow to anger, exceedingly gracious and very compassionate towards the frailty of men. God usually does not judge men immediately (though He has sometimes), but rather works with them through His Word, through the conscience of people and through godly people. So when people seem to thumb their noses at God and get away with all sorts of evil, it is because, the One who loves to save, is using time to reach them in order to bring them to Himself.  However, as God explained to Moses, if a person will not respond and stop their transgressions, then I “will by no means leave the guilty unpunished”.  So, it would seem, that the time is now to take corrective action to insure a good time when that certain day of judgment arrives.