When I was growing up in New England in the 1950s and early 60s, I remember certain
folks saying things like, “I wonder why God makes me suffer so?” or “You must have done
something that you have such good luck.” Perhaps it is human nature to look at our
circumstances and “luck” (which I don’t believe in) and decide that it is because of what I
have done, or failed to do, or failed at doing, that I am in the predicament that I am in
today. But David the Psalmist said to God, “if You counted our sins, who could stand?!”
I’m not saying that God doesn’t know about our offenses. But He does say that He will
choose to remember them no more once we are under the salvation offered by His Christ,
the Lord Jesus. Unfortunately, there is still a mind set that refuses to believe that God will
not get you back for each wrongdoing and sometimes it comes on the heels of an
incident. You know, like when you say a bad word and immediately you whack your funny
bone and someone says, “see? instant punishment.” (That’s an incidence of where you
might swear before you have a mishap rather than after).
These are often the same people who count and fuss over individual sins but don’t see
the sin nature as the underlying problem. That breeds religious flesh. Many cults grow
through converting the nervous culprits -- silly people laden with guilt, as St. Paul calls
them. To them, if they jump through the hoops their religious authorities tell them to for
each recorded “sin,” they are able to feel somewhat absolved, all the while ignoring the
disease that brings it to the surface -- sin that causes sins.
This is how a mobster can still have a full “Christian” funeral after a lifetime of
debauchery because his evil works are seen in terms of paying them off through religious
works done on his behalf or in an unBiblical place of purgation. Jesus never spoke of any
such place. He took the entire debt of misdeeds on Himself for those who are truly
penitent. Mobsters, tax evaders, rapists and religious people are usually remiss on relying
on Jesus’ sacrifice. Their pride will not allow them to receive either Him or His Perfect
and Righteous Work for them so they perish in their sins in spite of however many funeral
masses are said or how much temple work is done.
It is too simplistic to assume that God is punishing us for something, known or unknown,
remembered or forgotten, as though that is His main role in our lives. While He is just and
will mete out His justice, let’s not be too quick to assume that when bad things happen to
good people, it is because they’ve secretly been bad. Part of one heresy that was going
around about two to three decades ago was the concept of “secret sin.” It said that if you
were sick, not prospering or just in some miserable state, it was undoubtedly because of
secret, unconfessed sin in your life. I watched that teaching be responsible for the
undoing of many Christians over the years. While some Word/Faith teachers would insist
that that was not was being taught, my position was that that was what was being
understood by the people. The horse was already out of the barn so it was too late to
close the door. Unless there was a public renunciation of the teaching (no matter how
correct anyone thought it was), there would always be misunderstanding, misapplication
and a toxic effect on the lives of many of the hearers. I have counseled yet more of these
people not too long ago so I know they’re still out there, even though that doctrine does
not seem to be the rage it was in the 1970s and 80s.
What really brought this home to me was when I came upon these verses recently that,
while I have read them many times over the years, still gave me a new way of seeing
them. It is from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 13, starting at verse 1:
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose
blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “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.”
(taken from the New International Version; emphases are mine).
The Pharisees made this mistake when they assumed that someone had sinned to cause
the man to be born blind. Jesus said, “WRONG! It’s so God could be glorified.”
Many times have we had to say to other Christians (or have other Christians say to us),
“don’t compare yourself to them.” It is our tendency to do that and it is a form of self-
justification that is steeped in pride. It is like when I would come home with a poor grade
on a test in grade school and say to my folks, “but you should have seen what the other
kids got!” Somehow, my mother never bought it, and gave me that certain cynical smirk
that let me know so.
Unfortunately, self-justification, especially by comparing ourselves to others, is not going
to work when we stand before God to give an account of our lives. I believe that we will be
judged, in part, by our own words -- statements and standards we have verbally set down
all throughout our lives, so we would required by God to see if we live up to our own self-
imposed standards. That is where hypocrisy is born and bred! A hypocrite is someone
whose life does not match up with his words. And it was the hypocrites whom Jesus
singled out for His unique and particular rebukes. I would not want to have Him be my
Judge knowing His preexistent dislike for phonies, especially religious ones.
God does not grade on a scale or a curve. If He did, it would still be lopsided with all of us
settled at the bottom like the sand at the end of an hourglass’ day.
It is not His desire that we perish. But if we do, it will be more because our own words
condemned us, not so much His. He’s not going to buy this excuse that “everyone else
was doing it,” or that, “compared to my in-laws, I was a pretty good guy!” No more than
you are able to rely on your pious grandparents’ righteousness for you to sail in on their
Christian experience, than will you be able to rely on dumping on anyone else’s failures
for your own. You know, the ole’ “I didn’t become a Christian because I didn’t want to be
like the phony ones I saw,” or, the “I don’t go to church because of all the hypocrites”
excuse. You will stand completely alone, before God, without excuse, and what will be the
defense for your life?
Well, rather than leave you hanging, let me proffer this: stop looking for a way around
God’s way to be received and accepted into His Heart. Rely on the finished work of Jesus,
throw yourself completely on Him and His finished Work on the Cross where He said, “it is
finished.” It is by His Righteousness only that you will be able to survive that Interview
anyway, so stop the comparisons, rationalizations and blame-shifting. The Siloam tower
didn’t fall on you because you were more worthy than those 18. You didn’t survive that
crash because you had been good that morning. You were spared the flu last winter, but
it wasn’t because God loves you more or you have more faith than that Baptist across the
street. No, as Jesus warned them in Luke 13, “unless YOU repent,” it’s just a matter of
time until you will likewise perish. It might be better if a tower fell on you than to have the
Cornerstone Whom you rejected fall on you and crush you. Jesus, according to the Bible,
is that Cornerstone.