Who’s the worst?

In Lent 24 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

“At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way, they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?”

Luke 13:1-5

I knew a man once who believed that if he caught the flu or a bad cold or got food poisoning, it was directly because God was punishing him for something that he had done. It’s not uncommon for people to make associations like that. “My having cancer is because of something terrible I’ve done.” Or “I lost my job because I did XYZ.” You get the idea.

In Luke 13:1-5 Luke cites the case of a group of people, who were listening to Jesus, provided a real-life case of brutality that happened to some Galileans. Apparently making some connection between their deaths at the hands of Pilate and a judgment-causing sin.

Jesus makes no such connection and gives another such example of his own. “What about the eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them?” To that we could add the Twin Towers on 9-11 or the poor Gazans whose homes are bombed into rubble and children are slaughtered. “What about them,” Jesus says. “Were they worse than anyone else living around them?”

If you were standing with the crowd listening to Jesus, you would have walked away that day with no answer to your question, “Why do innocent people suffer?” Biblical Job struggled with that question, as have countless others since. Sometimes people suffer because of their own stupid sin. At other times what feels like punishment is just a random act like when a fault zone shakes and houses nearby collapse.

Or like when a drunk driver swerves and kills a family. Did they do anything wrong? Only the “sin” of being in the right place at the wrong time. Jesus seems to say, “Don’t try to figure out this question. Repent so that you will not suffer from your own sins.”

Something to think about: What to you is perplexing about the matter of sin and suffering? Do you identify with the people bringing their stories of suffering to Jesus? How?

Something to pray about: O God, life is filled with enigmas for which there is no answer. Please be with us and help us to live with integrity and faith, trusting you to bring our lives to clarity and completion. We trust you to restore, redeem, and complete the work you have started. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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