"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why suffering though doing good?

Remember the story in John 9 when Jesus and his disciples were walking along and they saw a blind man?  The disciples asked who had sinned -- this man or his parents. To them it was logical that someone had sinned; otherwise, this man would not be blind since birth.

Tangent Time

First off this wasn't what I was planning to blog about, but two things struck me from just this short remembrance.

1.  If this man was born blind, what sin could he have done in utero?
2.  Do we pay for others' sins?

Back to the Post

Jesus assured his disciples that the blindness wasn't the result of this man or his parents' sin, but that the glory of God might be displayed. Jesus then went on to heal him, the Pharisees investigated and so forth.  Good story.

But my point is do you get the impression that some people - back then, even now perhaps - believe good, moral, upright living should equal a blessed life whereas sinful lifestyles equal bad things such as blindness and sickness? 

I think most people realize bad things do happen to good people. You think of yourself or your grandma as good, right? Yet at times bad things do happen. Even to grandma. It's part of life.

We all recall Job who was a man stripped of his children, wealth, servants and cattle within a few hours.  He was a moral, upright man yet disaster of the worst kind hit seemingly out of nowhere!   Not only did he lose so much, he was stricken with painful boils.  What had he done?  In A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, author Gleason L. Archer, Jr. speaks of Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar who seemed to have this very question in mind.   

What in the world had Job done 
to warrant God's outpouring of wrath? 

Have you ever wondered this about anyone?  Archer says Job's "catastrophic disaster had placed them" in a "dilemma."  If these awful things could happen to a man of such high reputation, what would happen to them?   Archer claims these men were seeking assurance, security. 

"Job, admit to us that you sinned greatly so we will know that this is why God has dealt so harshly with you. Tell us!  Admit your wrong deeds!" 

If Job admitted to some secret sin these men could go home "relieved and reassured that calamity would be kept from their door if they only 'lived a good life.'"  (pg. 455)

Are you ever tempted to think the same?  As long as I'm good, my life will be OK.  As long as I'm moral and pious, God will reward me.

It's true that God taught that when the Israelites obeyed Him, they would be blessed and favored. And that seemed to happen in the Old Testament record.  It's when the people strayed and worshipped false gods that disaster happened.

So how do you reconcile the two? And while you're at it, what do you think of my tangent questions above? 


Amber said...

I think it's very human to want there to be a cause and effect. Someone did this sin, and therefore bad things are happening to them because of it. It makes us feel like we have some control over the world and our fates in it. But that's not the way the world works. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people.

Why? I don't know. I do think that the promises in the Old Testament of good things for following the Law are very much a part of the rewards system that existed back then. They weren't concerned, really, with the 'afterlife', but rather this life, here, and what they would have here. So it makes sense for God to promise rewards and punishments in this world to them. It's what would be understood.

Some people believe that bad things happen to good people as tests from God. It's true that Saints are attacked more by evil forces, and have more trials and struggles than most people. And they are, undoubtedly, 'good' people. So, perhaps, in order to temper the goodness, to 'burn away' the dross, here, rather than after death, they are tried harder?

'1. If this man was born blind, what sin could he have done in utero?'

None. Which would negate his having performed the sin that 'caused' his blindness.

'2. Do we pay for others' sins?'

In what sense? Do we carry the guilt of our parents' sins, or our umptyumpt times removed ancestor? No. We can only be responsible for our own sins, and we can't even fully pay for those. Do we have to live with the consequences of others' sins? Yes. The world is fallen in consequence of Adam and Eve's sin. We have to live in the world that their disobedience gave us. But that doesn't mean that we carry the guilt of that sin.

Susanne said...

Amber, thanks! I enjoyed your answers. Good stuff!

Susanne said...

Re: Question 1, I only thought of it when I saw it written in my post. I was like "why would they even think that?" since the man was BORN blind. How could he have sinned? Just was curious why they would ask such a thing.

I agree that we suffer the consequences of others' sins. Just asked any crack-addicted newborn.

Thanks again!

David T said...

It isn't so black and white in the OT. David, an agreeably good young man, was constantly in danger from the jealous King Saul. The evil Nebuchadnezzar was given favor over the Israelites and dragged them off to captivity in Babylon. Canaan was cursed for life just for walking in on his drunk and naked grandfather Noah, while Noah was not punished at all. Jonah and Elijah moved in the will of God but were given over to dreadful times of post-victory worry.

Pharoah agreed several times to allow God's people to leave Egypt, only to have God Himself change Pharoah's heart. Moses led the people through the wilderness to the promised land, but was never forgiven for a small moment of disbelief, and was therefore not allowed to enter the promised land.

SO who can really explain why God did things the way he did?

The word does tell us that the curse is visited on the third and fourth generation of those who hate God, that the rain (metaphor for bad times) falls on both good and evil people, that we will have tribulation in this world (no matter how obedient we are), and that God even created evil people for the day of destruction.

Seems to me that God is trying to show a hurting world that, because of the peace of His Holy Spirit that resides in believers, these believers can still experience peace, joy, and hope even if they are in dire human straights.

And that's a great testimony to be able to have.

Susanne said...

David, thanks for your thorough reply. I really enjoyed the examples and the logic of your comment. I love how you summed it up in the last part.

Hmmm, never thought of God creating evil people though. God said his creation was good and very good so his creating of evil was good as well? *thinking*

Thanks for what you added. I enjoyed it!

Lat said...

There's an Indian saying that without suffering or testing,one cannot make history.

When one is born blind,it's not that he has sinned.Creation comes in any forms.It's us who are tested on how we treat and look after the blind one.Do we give him the space,time and love he needs to live in this world?

My father has this opinion that God will not allow a good person to die a horrible death.Maybe.I've read how young children die terribly in accidents and so I quite agree with him.Our lives and deaths mainly relies on the choices we make that God has put forward for us.

Lat said...

It should be 'I don't quite agree with him' :)

Wafa said...

This is similar to the question of " Do you love God or Fear Him"? , i think :)

Yes, part of doing good and being good- not in the religious part i mean- is because sometimes i think that not doing good will result in being punished and sometimes i can not afford the punishment so...

But-here and in Islam- this is a big notion- and you know that i am trying to have my own thoughts and ideas so far away from all that we have been taught- we are always told that being sick or poor or with problems ..etc. means you are being punished for something you did , and if you were a child then you are being punished for something your parents did and so on. I stopped believeing such things long time ago cuz i can see and notice how those doing great to themselves and to those around them are having tough life full of misery and pain while those selfish and being bad are having great life. It's not our sins, it might be our destiny or a test. And i like to believe it's a test.Plus some of our suffereings are our own work, not God's or people's.
I am a diabetic and it hurts but i don't believe it's a punishment.It's mostly genes and my wrong life style, so ??

(If Job admitted to some secret sin these men could go home "relieved and reassured that calamity would be kept from their door if they only 'lived a good life.'" (pg. 455)), maybe cuz they are men of God and religion in general teach us that, that we suffer because we don't obey God. And what's best to let people obey than scare them, right?, and it's onlt his words not God's so in all religions there are men who tried to scare us to obey God and maybe other agenda !!! who knows?

again, do i make sense ?lol

you know Susanne, my eldest sister has three disbaled children and for a long time it was said with eyes and actions and words that she must of have done something bad to have those precious kids.
You wouldn't know how much this affect her that she even lots of times believe in it and it shows in the way she treated them.

We don't know how much we destroy people beyond destruction when we told them that something is being bad in life cuz they have done something bad. I have been told the two things: if a bad things happen , they would say "oh search in your life and see what bad things have you done". And if something good then "oh , that cuz you are an angel"!! it's bad both ways, things happen for a reason but not cuz we are sinners :)

Susanne said...

Lat, I really enjoyed what you wrote.

"There's an Indian saying that without suffering or testing,one cannot make history."

That seems so true. It's not the ones who have it easy that usually are worth noting, huh?

"When one is born blind,it's not that he has sinned.Creation comes in any forms.It's us who are tested on how we treat and look after the blind one.Do we give him the space,time and love he needs to live in this world?"

Yes - wow!

Great comment! Thanks much!

Susanne said...

Wafa', I love your comments! I'm grateful when you share freely like you did here.

Yes, I agree that bad things just happen sometimes. Often times I believe they are tests and sometimes they are so we will draw closer to our Source of help - God. Maybe God allows us to go through hard times so His love can carry us through them. It's so sad that people have the idea - wrongly! - that the reason some people suffer is because of their sinfulness. True, we bring some things on ourselves. We get addicted to drugs, then we suffer the bad health and mental anguish of that. But not everything can be explained that way. Not at all! I really really hate it for your sister to be treated that way - as if she had something to do with her children being disabled. I truly appreciate your sharing so candidly. I enjoyed hearing your perspective on this!