Whenever there is a tragedy or disaster in our world, conversations about the judgment of God often emerge.
This is a sensitive topic that needs to be handled with care. Are the recent bush fires in Victoria the judgment of God? What about that person who died in a car accident last week, that person who died of sickness yesterday, or that couple who haven’t been able to have children? Are they too under the judgment of God because something bad has happened to them? Is any negative experience of human suffering an indication of the judgment of God? These are difficult questions and none of us have God’s full perspective on life’s uncertainties.
In Jesus’ time, there were a number of tragedies that took place (see Luke 13:1-5). Pilate killed a some Galileans and mixed their blood with sacrifices (“human evil”) and then a tower (the Tower of Siloam) collapsed and killed eighteen people (“natural evil”). Jesus addressed these two current issues but he didn’t explain ‘why’ they had happened. What he did say, however, was insightful. He said, "Do you think that these 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."
Jesus makes it clear that when something bad happens it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person(s) affected by suffering are necessarily sinful or evil. Good and evil does not fall on people in some sort of vindictive manner. Jesus doesn’t say that these people are ‘under the judgment of God’ either.
Final rewards and punishments are not given out in this life. The Bible teaches that the righteous often endure suffering and calamities while sometimes the wicked seemed to be blessed. Like Job, we have to learn to accept both good and trouble from God, then trust in his providence (Job 2:9-10). God always acts from the standpoint of eternity and we need to live our lives from that perspective as well.
We live in a fallen world and this often results in human suffering (for both Christians and non-Christians). Some people escape and others don’t. Every day people somewhere in the world have to deal with the effect of sickness, misfortune, and death. This includes natural disasters – whether in the form of an earthquake, a tornado, a volcano erupting, a landslide, a flood, or a bushfire.
Is God judging our State of Victoria? Maybe so, but God told Abraham that he would even spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there but a few righteous people in the city. Are there not more than a few godly people in our State? I think there are. Let’s be careful not to immediately associate every situation of human evil (e.g. arsonists lighting fires) or of natural disasters (e.g. naturally started fires) with the judgments of God.
Finally, we need to realise that we are in the time of God’s favour NOT of God’s judgment. The first sermon Jesus preached was from Isaiah 61. He finished reading after this sentence ... “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” He then closed the book and sat down saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” What is interesting is that Jesus stopped reading in the middle of a sentence. The rest of the sentence says “... and the day of vengeance of our God.” He didn’t read that because that is not this time. Jesus introduced a day of grace and mercy for people, and we are still living in that time. His second coming will be the time for vengeance and judgment. That doesn’t mean that people today won’t at times suffer the consequences of their actions but this is not the day of God’s judgment.
Let’s focus our efforts on helping those affected by these terrible bush fires right now, like the Good Samaritan did.