Almost two weeks ago in my post "Why suffering though doing good," I mentioned the passage in John 9 where Jesus and his disciples came across a blind man. His disciples - thinking the guy was blind due to sinfulness - asked whether this man or his parents were to blame. Something that caught my attention then was that this man was blind since birth so I wondered out loud if people could sin while in their mothers' wombs. I'd always assumed we were not capable of sinning in utero.
This topic wasn't the point of that post so I didn't dwell on it much.
But then yesterday I was reading a book* and one chapter dealt with reincarnation. A chapter note mentioned this story in John 9 as a passage some believe supports reincarnation. If this man's blindness since birth could have - according to the disciples - been a result of his sin then this means he must have sinned in a former life and this blindness was punishment. (If this were true, how nice was Jesus to go against karma by healing him of his blindness!)
The author stated, however, that rabbinical tradition believed people could sin though unborn! He cited Genesis Rabbah 63:6 and the story of Jacob and Esau. I saw this little blurb on Wikipedia pertaining to the twins struggling prior to their birth.
"Rebekah was uncomfortable during her double pregnancy and went to inquire of God why she was suffering. The Midrash says that whenever she would pass a house of Torah study, Jacob would struggle to come out; whenever she would pass a house of idolatry, Esau would agitate to come out."
So I guess Esau's sin prior to birth was his itching to come out when his mom walked past a place of idol worship. I suppose this leads us to believe Esau had an inclination to worship idols rather than Yahweh.
Also here is something the author stated about reincarnation and the caste system and why people of higher castes look down so much on those of the lowest castes especially "the untouchables." He claims with their ideas of reincarnation, they believe those born into lower castes must have done something in their previous lives to deserve such poor, unprivileged stations in society. Therefore they in the upper castes could never do such as Mother Teresa did in helping those people as they felt this was going against karma. I can see this type of thinking justifying a lot of discrimination! For religious reasons too!
This is why I made mention above of Jesus healing the blind man as going against karma. Hey, if he can do it, we can too! No excuse to not help underprivileged and poor people thinking they got what they deserved. With that type of mentality we could say the Pakistanis deserved their land being flooded and possessions lost. Or we could refuse to help so many others who have suffered simply by dismissing it as their getting what they deserve.
By contrast, I believe we should look out for others and seek to meet their needs so we can to show how much our God influences us and enables us to love and serve others. I've heard it said that we are the hands and feet of God meaning He often uses us as His agents on earth to do His will. And it's good to help others without desire for recognition or even good deed points. We never know when the next man-made or natural disaster will affect us and our loved ones. We will then be desperate for others to lend helping hands. Not sit back in judgment wondering what sinful things we did to deserve this calamity.
So be merciful, compassionate and serve others with love. Don't worry about who deserves this or that. Grace is about giving to people regardless of what they deserve. Just like God gives to us when He offers eternal life in spite of our sins.
* pg. 65 & 204, "That's Just YOUR Interpretation" by Paul Copan