A rather comical experience happened the other day that, upon reflection helps to illustrate a rather profound truth that some do not seem to comprehend. First allow me to share my experience, then I’ll make the application.
Last Sunday following morning worship, my family and I went to a local restaurant for lunch. We sat at a table next to a young couple from church. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground due to our winter storm, but this couple “lucked out” and found a parking space right next to the entrance. However, while we were eating, the snow on the roof of the restaurant gave way, slid off the roof and onto this couple’s car. The whole restaurant “oohed” and “awed” and had a good laugh. (I had to go out and take the picture you see above). Jokingly my friend said, “You know, maybe that was God’s way of getting me back for taking that parking space right beside the door when I should have let someone else have it.”
Well, he was joking when he made the comment, but many people are not when it comes to things like this. How often do you hear someone assign “divine retribution” to the source of tragedies? Remember the tsunami that devastated Indonesia a few years ago? Remember how many people said this was a “disciplinary act of God” against these people? Just recently, with respect to the earthquake in Haiti, Pat Robertson assigned the earthquake to the retribution of God because the people of Haiti had made a pact with the Devil. However, whether we’re talking about the Earthquake in Haiti, the Tsunami in Indonesia, or the snow slide that landed on my friend’s car, the fact of the matter is we don’t know why those events occurred.
I’m not saying that it is not within God’s disposal to use calamity to teach and discipline. He certainly did so with the Flood (Genesis 6:13). He also did so with Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plains (Genesis 18:20-21; Genesis 19:24-25). But here’s the difference. I know the flood was an act of divine retribution because the Bible tells me so. I know the destruction of Sodom was an act of God because the Bible tells me so. However, I have no such revelation with reference to these present day catastrophes, therefore I should not be so presumptuous to speak without authority, and assign actions to God where no proof exists.
As a preacher, I take seriously the responsibility to accurately represent the words of God. But not only should we desire to accurately represent what God said, but also what He does. Don’t be guilty of assigning to God’s retribution what you do not know is His retribution. I no more know whether the Tsunami in Indonesia or the Earthquake in Haiti were acts of God than I do the snow slide on my friend’s car was an act of God. Could it not also be the unfortunate circumstances of one merely getting in the way of “natural laws?”
Friends, we must give care that when we speak for God, that we represent His words and His actions accurately and avoid presumption.