About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.” (NLT)
Whenever bad things happen we tend to look for neat explanations or clear answers. People get clobbered by disaster, then it must be their fault. Some people get healed while others stay sick, it must be due to lack of prayer or faith.
Apart from being harsh and unhelpful, this sort of approach is wrong. Jesus here tells us it is wrong. His disciples were perhaps assuming there was a direct connection between a catastrophe and a human failure. Jesus challenges that assumption.
And he does so not by providing some sort of alternative explanation. Rather he focusses on the more important issue. Don’t waste time wondering why some people die through tragedy while others survive. Spend your time getting your own relationship with God right otherwise you will be eternally separated from him.
Look to the bigger picture. If we suffer so-called ‘natural’ disasters, we can’t point the finger at individuals who are getting what they apparently deserve. They may well be no worse than anyone else. The wicked prosper and the good suffer according to the Psalmist. The bigger picture entails recognition of how humans in general have bent our world out of shape and how we all suffer the consequences. Who sinned? We all sinned.