Why Do Morally Unprincipled People Prosper?

An ancient writer asked the same question:

Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued and chastened every morning (Psalm 73:12-14).

It’s not surprising that unprincipled people have a degree of success in this world. Jesus said, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). Because self-centered people have little concern about harming others, they have an initial advantage. Their options aren’t limited by conscience. They are single-mindedly focused on their goals. Their lack of guilt even lends them a counterfeit appearance of innocence, making them effective deceivers.

It is painful to see morally bankrupt people exploit others who tend to be gentle, honest, and meek. But their success is short-lived. The personal qualities that give them immediate success bring about their eventual destruction (Psalms 64, 73)

The inability of self-absorbed people to identify with the needs of others makes it easy for them to manipulate and deceive, but it also prevents healthy relationships and spiritual growth. Their brazen self-centeredness repels people of conscience. Unable to develop loving relationships and lacking inner moral control, they remain like emotional children, passing through life’s stages untouched by maturity and spiritual growth.

“…having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children” (2 Peter 2:14).
“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble” (Proverbs 4:19 NIV).
“The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast” (Proverbs 5:22 NIV).

Because of their moral blindness, the children of darkness judge others’ deeds by the same standards they judge their own (Matthew 6:22-23; Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 John 2:11). Projecting their own self-centered motivations on everyone else, they even hate those who care about them and are trying to rescue them from their moral blindness and self-destruction (Matthew 13:15; 23:37-38; John 12:40). If you tell the truth to a liar, he suspects a lie. If you offer friendship to a schemer, he questions motives. If you offer love to a betrayer, he expects a trap.

“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:7).
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6 NIV).

Worst of all, without the intervention of God, those who are committed only to themselves are unable to comprehend the message of the cross, the only message that can transform, heal, and save them.

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NIV).

So, while unprincipled people prosper in the short-term, in the long-term they are headed for ruin. Jesus said that those who follow Him have a cross to bear (Matthew 16:24), and His cross involves forgoing the temporary and short-lived pleasures of a self-absorbed life. Jesus gave up earthly power, wealth, and security, even to the point of directly confronting Satan’s entrenched power in the political and religious systems and authorities of His day. Although the immediate result of His self-sacrifice was persecution, torture, and death, the lasting result was His resurrection and vindication, and the fulfillment of Israel’s hope.

Those who seek eternal life will experience some short-term pain that others may avoid. But the rewards far outweigh the costs (Proverbs 3:13-24; Matthew 6:33; 11:28-30; 19:29; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 1:5).

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