ARE ACCIDENTS DIVINE PUNISHMENTS?
Luke 13:1-5 says, “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “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. Or, those eighteen on whom the tower in 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 likekwise perish.”
A tower, for reasons not stated, fell and crushed to death 18 people. It was an accident. In the last several years we have seen many such calamities which have taken hundreds of lives in airplane crashes, train wrecks and automobile accidents, etc. Sometime ago a ship slammed into a huge suspension bridge, tearing out a large section of the road hundreds of feet above. A bus and other vehicles drove off the bridge and plunged hundreds of feet into the water below, taking many lives. Divers who recovered the bodies told of expressions of horror still on the faces of the dead. The daily accounts in newspapers, on radio and television astound our minds with the fearful amount of sudden death which of late has fallen on the sons of men. In the Los Angeles area there is not only one accident for every day of the week, but two or three and many more in rainy weather
Without question, accidents are phenomena common in all centuries since the fall of the tower in Jerusalem which took the lives of 18 people. Accidents have happened in all ages of the world. There have always been accidents, and there always will be. The people referred Jesus to this accident to verify the common belief of the day that accidents should be interpreted as punishments from God because of people's specific sins. This passage raises the question, “Are accidents Divine judgments? Should we understand accidents to be punishments from God on people because of their sins. If not this, how should we interpret these unfortunate happenings?
The first truth we learn from Jesus about this unfortunate happening that took 18 lives is that their sins had nothilng to do with the falling of that tower. It was a prevalent belief that calamities, like the tower accident, are tokens o f God's displeasure. But Jesus said, “Do you suppose that
these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you no.” All Galileans were sinners to some extent, as all people are today, but those Galileans whose blood was cruelly mingled with their sacrifices by Pilate were not worse sinners than all other Galileans.. Jesus directly stated that accidents are not judgments from God because of people's sins, and that settles the controversy. Let us never draw the superstitious conclusion from terrible accidents that those who suffer from them suffer on account of their sins. Yet that superstitious idea goes back to the earliest time of the human race. When Job was tested by God and allowed Satan to take way his children, wealth and health, this was the conclusion of Job's three wise companions when they saw him in the day of his grief. All three men were men of knowledge, and all said to him, “You have sinned, and you are receiving a just punishment for your sins.”
This was the same interpretation put on the victims of the tower incident in Jerusalem. There was a disposition then, as there still is to this day, to think that God visits special punishments on people for their special sins. Jesus said this is not true. Hse said those people who died when the tower fell on them were not sinners above all others.. They did not die because of their sins. It was an accident, and God did not cause that accident. .Let us never be so unkind or unjust to make such a terrible judgment. It has been affirmed by some that Christians who travel on Sunday and miss church services, and happen to meet with an accident, ought to regard that accident as being a judgment from God for violating the appointed day of worship. Some might make the unkind judgment that the good Lord had a hand in that, and it was just His way of punishing them for their sin.
Now, it is a sin to willfully absent ourselves from the worship of God on the Lord's Day.. If humanly possible we should not miss the Lord's Day assembly to worship and observe the Lord's Supper. Hebews 10: 25 clearly states, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another....” No one should dispsute this Bible fact. I think we would all agree that Sunday is not a good day for Christians to travel because we have a divine appointment with God. There is no command against traveling on Sunday, but there is a command not to forsake the assembly of worship on Sunday. However, even if a Christian does wilfully miss the worship on Sunday by traveling on Sunday, and should happen to have an accident, that does not mean the accident was a punishment from God. Be it known that God is not responsible for our accidents.
But someone might say, “Preacher, you ought not to talk like that, for this idea is very useful and might make people more God-fearing, even if it isn't true. We ought to tell people that when people perish in an accident on the Lord's Day, that they perished because they travelled on Sunday.” No, I would not tell a lie to save a soul, and this would be telling a lie for it is not true. I would do most anything to stop absenteeism on Sunday and the neglect of the worship on the Lord's Day, but I would not forge a falsehood, even to do that. People might perish on a Monday as on a Sunday. God gives no special immunity against accidents on any day of the week, and accidents may occur as well at one time or another. The religion of Christ can take care of itself without our telling falsehoods. People do not perish simply because they travel on Sundays. We are not allowed to to use the superstitions of men for the advancement of the glory of God. Christians have perished on every day of the week, sometimes when even engaged in the service of God. We are not justified in using any religious idea under the pretense that it might do somebody some good.
This kind of thinking is used to justify infant baptism.. Even though babies have no sin, yet the Christening service is such a beautiful ceremony and does no harm. Therefore we should not speak against it. We should indeed dedicate our children to God, but this ceremony will not bring salvation to the child. Children are not commanded to be baptized until they are old enough to know right from wrong. They are then accountrable and in need of forgiveness. The Bible does not teach that we are born in sin. Scripture defines sin as the transgression of God's law. If there is no transgression or violation of God's law, there is no sin.
We should not be concerned whether a religious ceremony does harm or not, but whether it is right, whether it is commanded, whether it is approved of God, and whether it is true. In teaching others about the saving gospel of Christ, it is our responsiblity to speak the truth, even if the heavens should fall. Any advancement of the gospel based on superstition will by and by recoil upon people who use such unapproved methods. We should use only the teachings and practices that are taught in the word of God. The religion of Christ appeals to man's judgment and common sense, and when we cannot reach people by this means, we should not proceed with other means. If I could prevent people from violating the command to worship God on the Lord's Day by putting before them a supersititous hypothesis, I would not do it. The religion of Christ is based on light and truth, and that is the only defence it needs.
Returning to the subject of accidents, how can we be certain that our sufferings in accidents are not jugdments of God? We can be certain because Jesus said so. Those 18 people in Jerusalem who lost their lives by the fall of a tower were not sinners above others in Jerusalem. It was juist an unfortunate accident. Furthermore, our own experience and observation teach that calamity happens both to believers and unbelievers, to Christians and those who are not Christians. It is true that an unnreligious man sometimes falls dead in the street, but has not a preacher fallen dead in the pulpit? It is true that a Christian may lose his life on a fishing trip when he should have been at church, but a preacher friend of mine was killed in an accident while making a move from location to another. No one would go to the widow of that preacher and say, “ I believe this was a punishment from God. If he had not sinned this would not have happened to him.” Often babies lose their lives in these accidents. Not too long ago, a preacher at the Yosemite encampment lost his life in a motorcycle accident. A few years ago, several preachers were attending the Abilene Christian University Bible Lectureshp. In returning to their homes in the.
Ft. Worth-Dallas area, the plane crashed in bad weather, and all in the plane were killed. God is no respecter of persons when it comes to accidents.
The Bible assures us that all things, in the ultimate sense, are working together for good to Christians, and we should believe that. But accidents are not one of things that work together for the good of Christians or unbelievers. Revelation and experiience teach us that the righteous sometimes perish as suddenly as the unrighteous. Disease knows no difference between the sinner and the saint, and the sword of war is alike pitiless to the sons of God and the children of the devil. Regarding accidents it would be advisable to accept the fact that we live in an accident-prone world, and we should use the greatest caution and wisdom to avoid accidents. When traveling by air, I accept the fact that there is the possiblity of a crash. When I drive my car I accept the possibility that I can be involved in an accident. Some think it is safer to travel by air and others by car or train. We must make these decisions for ourselves, and do our very best to make the wisest decisions. Some accidents are avoidable, but when accidents come our way, we will not blame God.
I close with the thought that although accidents are not punishments, yet they serve as warnings and reminders that no one knows what shall be on the morrow. They warn us of the uncertainty of life. Jesus directed His hearers to consider the falling of the tower as a providential warning and call to repentance. .Terrible calamities are allowed in the providence of God to happen.
These things should cause us all to carefully review our lives and ask daily for God's forgivenss and approval lest a calamity suddenly overtake us, causing our untimely death. Accidents, with their conseqent loss of life, should cause us to ask, “Am I prepared to die?” We have no reason to believe we may not also suddenly be cut off while walking or driving the streets. and freeways. The best way to use the accidents and calamities of life was expressed by Jesus in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” We live in a wonderful time; it is between the two comings of Christ. Justice belongs to the future, but today is the day of salvation. As today is the day of salvation, not tomorrow, we extend the invitation today to obey the gospel of Christ. Jesus said he who hears the gospel and believes it, and is baptized shall be saved. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God from heaven, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead on the third day, and are willing to follow Christ the rest of your life, you can come to baptism and have all sins forgiven from the time you were a youth. If you have any questions, call the number on this website.