…at least according to this guy. An appeal to exactly two verses in the New Testament are made to justify the pagan practice of interpreting misfortune as divine punishment for your sin. And, not surprisingly, not one verse or scriptural motif that suggests otherwise is mentioned. The two verses are 1 Cor 11:30 and Rev 2:4. While unconvincing, 1 Cor 11:30 makes a better case for the pagan practice than the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Rev 2:4 is obviously talking about punishment that results from failure to repent, not from sin.
In a previous post, I argued that it is inappropriate—pagan, even—to interpret misfortunes that befall us as God punishing us for some sin. I then argued that the case of Ananias and Sapphira does not negate the point. A much harder passage to square with the point is 1 Cor. 11:30, where Paul seems to attribute the cause of certain afflictions among the Corinthians to God’s judgment for their sinful handling of the Lord’s Supper. The passage reads:
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
Seems clear enough: God judged their sin by punishing many of them with physical afflictions, including death. So is it false one should not view misfortune as divine punishment for one’s sin? Continue reading
One might wonder about how to understand the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) in light of the main point of my earlier post, which was that misfortune should not be interpreted as divine punishment for sin. Because the passage does not say God punished Ananias and Sapphira for their sin, a careful look at the passage—while bearing in mind other truths taught in scripture—will have to be given to see whether that interpretation is justified. I will consider three interpretations of the passage (the interpretations are not meant to be exhaustive, nor incompatible with each other in every respect).
It is established dogma in status quo Christianity that all sins are equal. Stealing a pack of gum from the grocery store is just as sinful as lying to your brother, or lusting after your neighbor’s wife. “It’s all the same in God’s eyes,” one hears. This ridiculous and untenable piece of theological folklore might be tediously based on Matt 5:21-28, where Jesus seems to suggest that that lusting after or being angry with someone is just as bad as actually committing adultery and murder, respectively. But let’s be honest: to suggest that anyone who believes this dogma does so on the basis of Biblical support—even terrible support—is too generous. In fact, I refuse to believe that anyone actually believes this. The life of this idea must be sustained entirely by thoughtless repetition. Why do I refuse to believe this? Two reasons.
I was at a “Bible study” the other night, and the group was doing a little bit of emotional masturbation. One girl shared about a series of unfortunate events that she experienced that week, and so wondered what sin she had committed or how she had been unfaithful to God. Because—as we all know the Bible teaches—all unfortunate things that happen to us are the result of some sin we’ve committed. This can be the only explanation for why this sentiment is nearly ubiquitous in status quo Christianity. Right?
First, let’s get clearer on the question. The question is: As a general rule, is it sometimes appropriate to interpret our suffering and misfortune as divine punishment for some sin(s) we’ve committed?