Luke 13:1-5: Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that the Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Tomorrow I am preaching a sermon from Luke 13 on why bad things happen to good people. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he is teaching his disciples and the crowd that has been drawn to him along the way. Jesus has just made a comment about how the people seem to be able to predict the weather but they are unable to observe the signs of the times. They fail to realize that God’s kingdom, through Jesus the Christ, has arrived.
And then someone asks the question that we all ask ourselves from time to time, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Well the question was actually posed by Jesus because he knew what they wanted to ask. The people were telling Jesus about the killing of some Galileans while apparently in worship at the temple. Did their “sin” bring this horrible judgment upon them? Were these people more sinful than others who also worshiped at the temple on a different day? Jesus said, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
This is a question that we ask ourselves many times throughout our lives. It could be something as minor as a flat tire, a roof leak, or some other costly repair bill. We can’t help but wonder and ask ourselves, “What did I do to deserve that?” Is God punishing me for some sin that is present in my life?
Many of us have heard others pass judgment on someone who has a serious illness or even at the death of a person. They say, “This must have happened because of God’s judgment on their sinful life.” There are many people who believe that there is a reason for human suffering and that it has to do with sinfulness in the life of that person.
In the Gospel of John, we find that the disciples asked this same question of Jesus on at least one occasion when they encountered a man born blind from birth. John 9:2-3: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” This happened so that God’s glory and power would be made known to mankind.
The question of why God allows suffering or why bad things happen to good people is a question that all believers struggle with at different times throughout our lives. There is no clear or definitive answer to this question. It is a question that theologians and scholars and ordinary followers of Christ have asked throughout the centuries.
My first response to this question would be that bad things happen to all kinds of people – both good and bad. Painful and tragic events occur because our all-loving God gave us the freedom to make choices. When bad choices and decisions are made, tragedy and pain usually occurs. Thankfully our God can take our pain and tragedy and turn them into good things that could only come from a loving and all-powerful God.
So why does bad things happen to good people, and not so good people? Jesus didn’t clearly tell us why and so obviously, neither can I. However, Jesus did tell us that we must repent of our sin and accept God’s grace if we want to share in God’s kingdom. Jesus invites us to look for ways to take the things of this world that are evil and painful and turn them into good things – God things. We can’t do it alone, but we can do it with God’s guidance and with His grace.
So the next time you face difficulty in your life, remember that in the middle of those bad things, in the very midst of the pain and suffering, that God is there with you as you walk through the desert, or the wilderness, or even the valley of the shadow of death.
And also remember, that we serve and believe in a risen Savior that has overcome and defeated death for us all. Thanks be to God who always gives us just what we need – lots and lots of grace – to endure and persevere through any situation that we face in this life.