Central to modern Christianity is the concept found in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV) Someone will say “I lost my job, but God led me to a better job.” or “I developed cancer, but through the suffering I was able to get closer to my family.” or “God led me to this job, which prepared me for a much better job later.”
From a historical perspective, there are at least two problems with this logic. First, even those who do not believe in God have the same kinds of events in their lives. They lose jobs, and find better ones. They have health problems, which can often bring their families closer together. They have jobs which prepare them for other jobs. In the concept of events that “work for the good”, I see little difference between Christians and non-Christians. Second, as often as not, things do not work out for the better. Christians lose one job, and never get a better one. Disease leads to family strife which never gets resolved. Often, life continues down a downward path, and never seems to get better. Life getting better or worse seems to happen equally to Christians and non-Christians.
It seems from looking at the entirety of Church history, the modern interpretation of “works for the good” is mostly an invention of Western Christianity, and especially of United States style capitalism. We have allowed the capitalistic view of good define our interpretation of God’s promise.
Historically, the Christian view of good has been very different. The entirety of good comes from the hope of Christ’s return. Good comes from our transformation, which is constantly being performed through God the Spirit, and which will be complete when we are united with the entirety of the One Christian body at Christ’s return. Good is not about our perceived status here on Earth, but our place as part of the hope that is in the expectation of Christ’s return.