1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 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? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)

     When the people shared with Jesus the news of the tragic and insulting death of the Galileans, Jesus asked them the question which was probably already in the backs of their minds. Did these men suffer in this way because they were worse sinners than other men? 

     No, came Jesus’ answer. But he challenged them to repent or they too would perish. Was Jesus talking about an earthly calamity that would end in death? Not hardly. He was warning them of the eternal consequences of rebellion against God, of failing to repent.

     Does God punish people through calamities today? People argue this point on both sides. This passage makes it appear that he does not. But there were many examples throughout scripture when God did use calamities to punish people for blatant sins. Noah’s flood was one of the earliest such instances. And in the New Testament Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives because they lied to the Holy Spirit. Acts 5

     I don’t pretend to know the answer to whether or not any particular disaster of our day and time was the result of the sins of the people who died. I know we live in a fallen world in which sin abounds. People suffer for their own sins as well as for the sins of others.  God sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. 

     Having said that, I must add that it doesn’t really matter what you or I think about the answer to this question. The decision isn’t ours to make–God is the only one who gets the last word. If God chooses to punish a single person or a group of people for their sins, he is powerful enough to do it with or without our acknowledgement.

     Whether or not God is still using disasters to punish in this life, we must still take seriously Jesus’ warning to repent or perish. We will each come face to face with God at the end of our lives on earth, and if we have never repented and believed in Christ we will perish apart from God and his blessings.

     Lord, help us to repent of our sins and walk in newness of life with you.  Give us a compassion for those who still live in rebellion against God that we may extend a life line to them through Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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