41k_cloudlightening1  Several years ago I had a person say to me,“Ron, If you’re not careful God’s gonna kill you!”  (He disagreed with a stance I took at church).  I’m sure he was sincere, probably having in mind Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) and what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 11:30.  {Just as a reminder, God did strike Ananias and Sapphira dead… Paul did write that because of their conduct some in the church were “sick, weak, and some had died.”}

  Does God strike people dead because of their sin?  Is God sitting in heaven waiting to catastrophically end a person’s life because they didn’t follow His will or keep His commands?  There are many who believe that is the kind of God we serve.  They say Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for New Orleans being evil.  Earthquakes are evidence of God finally having enough of people’s sin so He kills thousands.  In their mind, whenever bad things happen it is evidence of God’s displeasure, wrath, and judgment.

Let’s consider this thought and have the Scripture guide us… 

Luke 13:1-5.  In bringing up these two events, Jesus opposes the notion that tragic events signal God’s displeasure.  His point is that the fact that humans live means they can die tragically.  Jesus’ point was that being killed, or not being killed, is no measure of a person’s righteousness or unrighteousness.  Anyone can die unexpectedly. Only God’s grace causes anyone to live.  This point is brought out in verses 3 and 5… “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  Death is the common denominator for everyone.  Only repentance can bring life as people prepare to enter eternity.  But to die in an “accident,” or to have a horrible event transpire in a person’s life is NOT to be equated with God’s judgment.

John 9:1-3.  God’s plans and ways are so beyond our ability to understand and comprehend that we are incapable of making correct assessments of them (See Isaiah 55:8-9).  What we believe to be tragic may very well be a blessing.  The ultimate blessing (Salvation) came as a result of tragedy (The crucifixion.  See Acts 2:23-24).  And what we believe to be a blessing can result in extreme hardship as seen in the case of Hezekiah from 2 Kings 20, Isaiah 38:1-8, and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 (Hezekiah asked not to die and his request was granted.  But tragedy filled those 15 extra years he was given).  The reason the man was born blind in John 9 was NOT a judgment or curse from God… it was so he would see… so God’s power would be displayed!  How foolish we are to say God is punishing when He is in the process of blessing!  How presumptuous we are to decree to others what God IS doing when we are comically ignorant of God’s ways!

Matthew 5:44-45.  Here Jesus teaches that God’s blessings are upon both the good and the evil… the saved and the lost.  This is called by theologians “common grace.”  The idea is that regardless of a person’s spiritual condition, He blesses.  By the same token, just because a person is a believer does not mean their life will be free from trial.  It is not wise to equate blessings with God’s favor or hardship with his displeasure.  If “good things” are God’s pleasure then why do despicable sinners have so many riches and Godly people have life so hard? 

Job 1:1, 8-11; 2:3-5.  These passages support that as blessings are not a definitive indicator of God’s favor, neither are trials proof of God’s punishment.  Reflect upon Job 1:1 and 1:8.  God’s assessment of Job was that he was a Godly man.  His life was being lived properly.  Yet what happened to him was devastating to say the least!  These events did not take place because he was unrighteous, but more so because he was righteous!  We also learn from these passages that there are events that take place in the spiritual realm that we are unaware of (Job in this life never knew of the cosmic interaction between God and Satan).  Then we learn that there are higher purposes than we are aware of that take place in life (Millions have been encouraged by Job’s story).  Further, we learn that God is sovereign over all… including Satan’s ability to do, or not do, anything.  Satan can only do what God allows and nothing more or less.  We need to be careful that we do not assign God’s activity to Satan or Satan’s activity to God.  We’d be wise to keep our mouth shut and affirm… “God gives and God takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21).

Ezekiel 18:1-3.  Along this same line of reasoning (God zaps people because they sinned) is the idea that children are punished because of their parent’s behavior (Sin).  God does NOT function that way any longer!  If you’ll read the passage referenced you’ll see what I mean.

So what about Acts 5 and 1 Corinthians 11:30 when God DID end their lives?  Keep in mind that those things were written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.  We don’t have the kind of revelation today that was true of those who wrote Scripture.  God revealed those things to Paul and the Apostles.  Therefore if God does do that today, we are not privy to that kind of insight and it would be best for us not to make pronouncements regardless.

Conclusion: Sooner or later we will all die as a result of sin and the disintegration it has brought into the world.  The fact that we are sinners means the world is full of death and destruction.  To live in this world is to be exposed to… and sometimes experience… tragedy.  But to say God either randomly or with purpose murders people because they messed up paints Him in a light that (In my opinion) borders on heresy… and is at best an immature understanding of His nature and attributes.

IF God decided to judge those who deserve it tonight at midnight, then none of us had better have any plans for 12:01 AM!  If Katrina was a punishment for sin, then the hurricane would have wiped out the entire United States!

About the person I mentioned at the beginning… I have wondered if when (And one day it will happen)… I have wondered if when the person who warned of God killing me experiences tragedy will make the same connection to themselves… that God is punishing them?  I hope not because that would prevent them from seeing God as the loving, gracious, and compassionate God He really is!

Let’s end this study with a couple of passages of Scripture…

    2 Peter 3:9 (God) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish , but everyone to come to repentance.

    Romans 2:3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  4 Or do you show contempt for the riches and His kindness, tolerance, and patience… not realizing that  God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

Just in case you missed it… I do not believe that tragedy is proof of God’s displeasure NOR do I believe blessings are proof of God’s favor.  Those issues are in the secret counsel of God and should stay there!  We are to be faithful… love God… and leave all else to Him!