Headline news for the day told of innocent people whom the governor had killed. People began to talk, “Anyone who dies suddenly like that must have done something to deserve it. God doesn’t treat good people that way.”
Jesus said, in so many words, “Do you think that because these Galileans were killed that way, they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all! And if you do not turn from sin, you will all die, too.” (see Luke 13:1-3)
So people who die in tragedies do not deserve it? What about the preachers saying that the tsunamis and earthquakes are God’s judgment on us? Sure, maybe the murdered people Jesus was talking about were not worse sinners than anyone else, but what about when unexplainable tragedies happen—that must be the hand of God against them, right?
Jesus brought up another top news story of the hour concerning 18 people who suddenly died when a building collapsed on them. He asked, “Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4 GNB).
Most religious zealots today would say, “Yes!” Some would picket the site of this tragedy with signs saying, “God hates sinners! Repent!”
Did this happen because these people deserved it? Jesus answered, “No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” (Luke 13:5 GNB).
Insecure people cast judgment quickly
Many are asking why God would let people die in the recent Joplin, Mo. tornado. Issues with small man syndrome in each of us cause us to point our finger at others who are less fortunate beside whom we feel bigger somehow. Too many Christians are like the Levite and priest in Jesus story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Conservative religious folk paint themselves perfect as they cross to the other side of the road, saying, “He had it coming to him.”
While driving into tornado-torn Joplin to help those in need, we saw a man standing beside the road with a sign reading, “REPENT.” My son asked why he was doing that. I tried to be nice and told him the man wanted people to think about Jesus in this time when people have died and get their lives right.
My son said, “If he is a Christian, why isn’t he out helping someone fix their roof?” I had to agree.
People who exploit tragedy to point out others’ weaknesses are bold-letter illustrations of judgmental thinking. These fanatics sin by condemning others. Only One judges us. The weather is not our judge. Acts of nature are not our judge. Earth is groaning under sin and experiencing the labor pains that must come before the new creation is born (Romans 8:22).
If the tornado was judgment on Joplin, then why are San Francisco, LA, and NYC still standing?
Mercy rejoices over judgment
Jesus Christ is our Judge and He hasn’t even scheduled the first hearing yet. The Day of Judgment comes at the end of time. Judgment Day is too big to fit on your calendar. No hurricane, tornado, nuclear meltdown, or blizzard could accomplish His judgment. We should not fear the people or things in this life that can destroy our bodies. We should fear Him who can destroy our souls in hellfire. That is God’s judgment and fortunately no one has experienced it yet.
We are not authorized to ask God why people died by the possible hundreds in Joplin’s tornado or thousands in other disasters. If anything, tragedies in our time are acts of God’s mercy. During these times, living people become more serious about their walk with God. Even in places where public prayer is banned, people call on the name of Jesus Christ during and after tragedies.
No one is righteous enough to escape tragedy. While we have opportunity, let us live for Him, for we never know our appointed time (Hebrews 9:27). Judgment Day comes after you die. Until then, let this be your commitment:
While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. (Psalms 146:2 KJV)