READ: JOB 4: 1-9


          “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them -- do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?”  Luke 13: 4 (NRSV)


          As in many cultures, in ancient Judaism, when something bad happened, people saw its victims as probably sinners whom God was punishing for their evil ways.  Remnants of this belief still seem to persist in our society today and victims of a tragedy whether natural or man-wrought are often viewed as getting their rightful comeuppance. 


          The following excerpt from a news article in regard to Hurricane Katrina, which recently slammed into the Gulf Coast, shows evidence of this belief:

“At least one New Orleans-area resident believes God created the storm as punishment because of the recent role the United States played in expelling Jews from Gaza.  On Sunday evening, Bridgett Magee of Slidell, La, told the Christian website Jerusalem Newswire that she saw the hurricane ‘as a direct ‘coming back for us’ [for] what we did to Israel:  a home for a home.’  Stan Goodenough, a website columnist described Katrina as ‘the fist of God’ in a Monday column.  ‘What America is about to experience is the lifting of God’s hand of protection; the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel,’ Goodenough writes.  ‘The Bible talks about Him shaking His fist over bodies of water, and striking them.’ ” *


          While not denying the sincerity of the “reporters”, one can question their understanding of God’s Word.  Numerous biblical references could be cited that would raise doubt to the validity of their assertions.  For example, our Lord addresses this kind of thinking in John 9: 12.  “As He (Jesus) went along; he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Our Lord’s reply is brief and to the point:  “Neither!”


*An excerpt from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, section J, page 1, September 4, 2005


          It is rather attractive to think about viewing victims of disaster as targets of God’s wrath and there is also a tone of superiority in that claim.  

After all, those spared the adversity surely were saved by their goodness and moral superiority.  It is all so very neat, so self-satisfying and un-Christian. 


          While denying the authors assertion that God sent the hurricane as punishment for some deed (not being only confident in their beliefs but are able to express knowledge of God’s motives for doing so), I have no doubt that God could send a hurricane or any other calamity if He chose.  However, it is doubtful that He did so.


          Further evidence is reflected in Jesus’ reply to the question concerning the tower of Siloam: “ …do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?  No I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did” Luke 13: 4-5 (NRSV).  What is Jesus saying?  Basically that all of us are equally sinful as they.  Paul echoes these sentiments in Romans 3: 23.  “All have sinned and do now fall short of the expectations of God.”  Further, to deny our own sinfulness and say that other people are more wicked than we are not keeping with either Jesus’ or Paul’s remarks.  This gives us the opportunity to judge them and say that they deserved what they are getting; scripture has much to say about judging others (Acts 2: 11-18; Matthew 5: 19; I Corinthians 4:5; John 8:7)


          In the history of the world there have been earthquakes, famines, wars, floods and other catastrophes.  What does God want us to do?  His basic message seems to be: to repent, to confess our sins and to believe in His promises.  It is wrong to say that God is punishing others.  If we do that, it is because we think we are morally superior to them.  In fact, we make ourselves God when we become the judge of the actions of God.  Like the publican in the temple we must always say:  “God be merciful to me, a sinner” Luke 18:13.  Scripture suggest his is looking at events in God’s way.  Amen