Not Karma, Grace

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There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,  “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

(Luke 13:1–5)

This passage is often used to teach the truth that bad things don’t necessarily happen to people because of specific sinful actions on the part of those people. Basically, karma is not biblical. This is, of course, completely true.

But it is interesting to note that Jesus didn’t say, “Do you think these things happened to them because they were bad people?” He took for granted the fact that these Galileans were sinners. His object seems to have been, as it so often was in the parables, to turn the tables on those who were listening with a self-righteous heart. He was saying, in effect: “Don’t sit there feeling smugly self-righteous, thinking that these bad things happened to those who are worse sinners than yourselves. No: Bad things only exist in the world because of human sin. These people were not necessarily worse, but they were sinners—and so are you! The real question is not why these bad things happened to these unfortunate people, but rather why they haven’t happened to people who are equally deserving.”

Romans 2:4 teaches us that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. What function is God’s kindness currently serving in your life?