Why Do Evil People Succeed In Life?
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Recently I watched a rerun of the movie, “Founder”. Based on a true story, this movie tells the story of how Ray Kroc, a struggling milkshake machine salesman, turned a small, local fast-food restaurant called McDonald's into a global phenomenon. Ray Kroc's ruthless, cunning and selfish actions led to the eventual takeover of the McDonald brothers' original vision for their restaurant.
Initially, Ray Kroc entered into a business agreement with the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, to franchise their successful San Bernardino, California, fast-food restaurant called McDonalds. However, as Kroc expanded the franchise, he made changes to the agreement without the brothers' full consent. This included reducing the royalty fees paid to them.
Kroc then started opening his own McDonald's restaurants in different locations. This created a rival chain of McDonald's restaurants that directly competed with the original ones run by the McDonald brothers.
Kroc introduced cost-cutting measures that led to changes in the quality of ingredients and the menu. The brothers' original focus on quality and a limited menu was compromised in favour of profit maximisation. Kroc gradually forced the McDonald brothers out of the business by buying them out and ultimately gaining full control of the company including the brand name, McDonalds.
When Richard McDonald, one of the McDonald brothers, died in 1998, his net worth was estimated to be around $1 million. Maurice McDonald had already passed away in 1971. Ray Kroc, on the other hand, had significantly more wealth when he died in 1984. His estimated net worth at the time of his death was around $500 million.
After watching the movie, I began to ponder: Why do evil people succeed in life?
We live in a fallen world. Stepping on people is an easy way to get on top. Greed is in human nature, and some people will act on it and do anything to get what they want.
Even Jeremiah grappled with the issue of evil people succeeding in life:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart. – Jer. 12:1b-2
Job and the Psalmist made remarks about wicked people being happy:
Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? – Job 21:7
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. – Ps. 73:3
When bad things happen, we put God on trial, even in our own minds. Habakkuk put God on trial and asked why God seemingly allows evil people to succeed. Judah’s impending punishment would be at the hands of the Babylonians. Habakkuk was dismayed that God would use a nation more wicked than Judah to punish Judah.
why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows upthe man more righteous than he? – Hab. 1:13b
Read Habakkuk 1:12-2:1-20. God gave two answers to Habakkuk’s question. First, God assured him that the righteous would experience eternal success by his faith or trust in the Lord (Hab. 2:1-4).
God’s second answer to Habakkuk's question was His assurance that God would judge all evil people (Hab. 2:5-20). The wicked Babylonians were a proud lot and trusted in their own selves. Their riches had come from the misfortunes of others. But God knew Babylon’s sins and would punish it in due time. Their temporal success would end.
Let us not forget that even the wicked have a purpose to fulfill in God’s plan. God raised up the Babylonians, a ruthless and impetuous people for a reason (Habakkuk 1:6; cf. Jeremiah 27:6). God raised up the Persian king Cyrus in order to accomplish all that God pleased (Isaiah 44:28). God raised up the Egyptians and Assyrians in His righteous judgment of disobedient Judah (Isaiah 7:18). We might want to see the wicked destroyed immediately, but God has a sovereign plan that needs to move forward. And in His love and grace, He wants all to be saved. God’s patience with the wicked is an opportunity for us to pray for them and witness to them so that they will know God’s heart toward them.
Going back to Ray Kroc, he was ruthless in the way he acquired McDonald's from the brothers who originally owned it. If God can use wicked people to accomplish His plans, then what was Ray Kroc’s role in God’s plan?
McDonald's operates in 118 countries and territories. McDonald's brings joy to people in simple ways by offering tasty and affordable food that many people enjoy. When people visit McDonald's, they can have a meal with friends and family, or even grab a quick snack. McDonald's also helps in creating jobs because they have many restaurants around the world. Each restaurant needs staff to cook, serve food, clean, and manage things. This means they hire lots of people to work in their restaurants. So, McDonald's provides employment opportunities for many people, which helps them earn a living and support their families. Also, Ray’s widow donated $100s of millions of dollars to worthy causes. Many organisations have benefited from the riches Ray had accumulated.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, you know the thoughts and motives of men, for you can see what’s in the heart. You will not allow sin to go unpunished because you are just and righteous. Lord, help me recognize the sins I have in my heart, even those I think I may not be guilty of. Have I been corrupt, cruel, and greedy in some of my actions toward others? Have I been exalted myself instead of giving glory to Your Name? Am I guilty of idolatry in my home or at work because I trust in what my hands have made instead of trusting You? Please forgive me if I am. Help me to live a righteous life by always trusting in You.
In Jesus Name. Amen