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When Bad Things Happen

In Luke 13:15, Jesus is told of a tragic event, the massacre of a group of Galileans at the hands of Pilate’s soldiers. And a question seems to come along with the report: why do bad things happen to people?

The Events: Bad Things

  • Jesus was told that Pilate had massacred certain Galileans.
    • This occurred in Jerusalem at or near the temple where sacrifices were offered.
    • It’s likely these Galileans were perceived as zealots.
    • It demonstrates the brutality of Roman occupation.
  • A tower in Siloam collapsed killing eighteen people.
    • The tower could have been a scaffold or any tall structure.
    • This even appears to have been an accident (unlike the Galilean massacre).
    • For some, this makes it more difficult to answer “Why do bad things like this happen?”

The Reaction: They Must Be Worse Sinners

  • A popular explanation for these event was that they were punishment for sin.
    • Jesus identifies this sentiment among the people with his question: were they worse sinners?
    • That they suffered seems to be evidence that they sinned.
  • It’s a conclusion that is also common today.
  • It has a dangerous corollary: since I haven’t been afflicted, I must not be so bad.

The Correction: There are other Reasons for Afflictions

  • Jesus’ “No” was emphatic.
  • What was Jesus correcting?
    • That these events were punishment?
    • That those involved were worse sinners?
    • Whether we should try to discern God’s purpose in the affliction of strangers?
  • That these events were punishment?
    • There are many examples in Scripture of God punishing the wicked.
    • God also disciplines his children.
    • But not every affliction is the result of sin.
    • We should consider that affliction we suffer may be chastisement.
    • But we should not assume it of strangers.
  • That those involved were worse sinners?
    • There are different degrees of wickedness.
    • There are also different degrees of punishment.
    • But affliction in this life is a poor indicator of sinfulness.
  • Whether we should try to discern God’s purpose in the afflictions of strangers?
    • We are to work to rescue people from their sin.
    • That may include helping to discern their afflictions.
    • But there is a big difference between counseling friends and condemning strangers.

The Admonition: How to Respond when Bad Things Happen

  • The proper response to learning of tragedies: repent.
  • The reason: lest you likewise perish.
    • likewise means “just as surely,” not “in the same way.”
    • perish in Scripture usually means eternal death.
  • Self-examination is your first and most important duty when it comes to addressing sin.