Bad Things Happen to Bad People

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), October 17

imagesA common belief, both in the ancient world and in contemporary society, is that bad things happen to bad people. If someone is a “good person,” generally things will work out well both in this life and in the next. The Jews of Jesus’ day accept this axiom as part of life; those who have lost houses or jobs, or especially those who have died prematurely, must have brought disaster on themselves. This must have been especially true of the Galileans Pilate had killed and whose blood he had mingled with his sacrifices, so the Jews bring the issue of their horrible fate to Jesus.

Jesus responds, however, with a warning that sounds far more sobering than they want: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:2-3). He then echoes the truth by comparing it to another tragic event: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (13:4-5). Twice in this brief exchange Jesus calls for people to repent. Repentance is the theme of His message; in fact, the verb here does not signify a one-time event. Rather, He calls people to a lifestyle of repentance.

This scene in Luke’s Gospel reveals a number of truths about repentance:

  • Lifestyle repentance means that one never bases his relationship with God on his goodness, his works, his baptism, his church membership, or anything that he can do or have done.
  • Lifestyle repentance means that good people repent of trusting in the good that they do and that bad people repent of the bad that they do. God requires perfect righteousness; therefore, it means that good people repent of comparing themselves with bad people and that bad people repent of comparing themselves with good people. One is just as far from perfection as the other.
  • Lifestyle repentance means that no one evaluates his current righteousness with God by his behavior; rather, he bases his total acceptance before God on the work of the cross.
  • Lifestyle repentance means that one must recognize his unworthiness and inability in himself and live daily in communion with Him, so that he fulfills His will by His power rather than his own.
  • Lifestyle repentance means that one walks humbly with God by faith, knowing that He alone keeps him from falling now and from perishing in eternity.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Lk. 12:35-13:21; Jn. 9:1-41):
Jesus warns His disciples to be watchful. What are the marks of watchfulness He mentions?
What truths does the barren fig tree teach about God? About believers and their work?
Why does Jesus tell the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains” (Jn. 9:41)?