Luke 13:1-5 refutes the false belief that sin is the root cause of tragedy in the lives of godly people. Have you ever felt shame when unfairly fired from a job, or when rumors were spread about a family member’s waywardness, or when you made a bad investment or went bankrupt? Are you able to say that bad things happen to good people? Do you really believe that?
While Jesus was teaching, there were some in the crowd that informed Him about certain Galileans who were worshiping God and were murdered by Pilate, their blood mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus, no doubt heard the implied judgment on the Galileans, and so answered with this rhetorical question, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?” Jesus described another current event, the death of eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell. Jesus asked again, “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?”
We live in a culture of blaming and shaming each other for the consequences that befall us. If someone gets a terminal disease, the fault is laid upon the dying. Lung cancer? He should not have smoked all his life. Melanoma on her face? She was always tanning too much. Or if you have a heart attack, your friends may say that you ate too much red meat. And what about broken bones or a car accident? Should have looked where you were going.
How easy it is then to cross over to spiritual blame for a fall. “It’s my fault that I’m not healed; I must not have enough faith.” Or a woman getting a divorce must not have been submitted to her husband as is commanded in Scripture. No wonder that when we Christians experience tragedy, we hear our inner critic (or actual critical remarks from others) that sickens the soul with guilt and shame. For some believers, leaving their church and their faith is the only way their wearied soul can put an end to the self-inflicted stripes or humiliation from their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Yet are we really supposed to judge the righteousness or lack thereof of those who are dealing with misfortune? Can we say that because a hurricane wipes out a community that all those who lived there must have been beyond God’s grace and mercy? Jesus did not support this line of reasoning. He adamantly proclaimed, “…but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” His response to those who were looking for a reason to judge the unfortunate was unexpected by His hearers and, I would imagine, not received well. Rather than focus on the hypocritical and biased assumption that tragedy only befalls the guilty, Jesus brought Kingdom living into the conversation. He challenged the crowd, saying, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will likewise perish.” He repeated this statement, adding, “… you will all likewise perish.” The word “perish” as used by Jesus did not refer to the physical death of His listeners. He was pointing out that their immortal souls were at risk of spiritual death. Instead of aligning with their false concern for someone else’s spiritual downfall, Jesus zeroed in on the spiritual condition of all those asking the question.
I am aware that I, too, can fall into the mindset of the critical. Though I usually have compassion for those who experience misfortune, I have heard myself murmur the words ‘reaping what you sow,’ or ‘you made your bed, etc.’ Yet, it is when uttering these words that my soul falls into spiritual darkness. Oh, I do not think I will lose my salvation, but having a critical spirit is walking under a dark cloud seen easily by others and fumbling into false perceptions as if in thickening fog. Thank God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit! Thank God that Jesus said to repent. Jesus reminded me that He has always been with me in my own experiences with misfortune, loss, and tragedy. Did I want mercy? Yes, I cried for mercy!
Can I show mercy? I must. So let us comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ.
II Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”