Why Suffering?

Some of my suffering results directly from my own sin.

Proverbs 6:27-35; 11:17b, 29a; 14:32a; 15:18a; 18:6, 28:1a, 10a, 17; 29:6a, 22, 24; 1 Peter 2:20a, Sin has inevitable earthly consequences.
1 Kings 11:1-13, Case Studies: Solomon
1 Kings 12:1-19, Case Studies: Rehoboam
Esther 3:1-11, 6:1-12, 7:1-10, Case Studies: Haman
2 Peter 2:9-19, Sinners are slaves to corruption.
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 45: Luke 22:55-62, Peterís Denial, by Carl H. Bloch

Some of my suffering results directly from someone elseís sin.

Leviticus 19:10; Amos 8:4-6; Luke 16:19-31, Greed and societal injustice case suffering.
Ezekiel 4:1-17, Prophets often suffer for the sins of the people.
Matthew 14:1-11, Prophets often suffer at the hands of the people.
Luke 10:30-37; Matthew 21:33-40, Crime causes suffering.
2 Corinthians 11:23-31, We may be privileged to suffer for Christ.

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My Sin

Proverbs 6:27-35; 11:17b, 29a; 14:32a; 15:18a; 18:6, 28:1a, 10a, 17; 29:6a, 22, 24; 1 Peter 2:20a, Sin has inevitable earthly consequences. (11/24/14)

So far weíve seen that suffering doesnít originate with God, and that much suffering originates from sin and evil. So far Iíve been preachiní, but now Iím going to start meddliní, because this week I want to show that some of my suffering is the direct result of my own sin. You probably know Ė either from experience or from observation Ė that if you drink too much at one sitting, you will inevitably have a hangover the next day. You probably wonít say, ďWhy am I suffering?Ē More likely, youíll say, ďWhy was I so stupid

If I commit a crime, Iíll end up in jail. If Iím spiteful and unkind to my friends, Iíll end up alone. In short, if I commit a sin, Iíll suffer for it. Even if I repent and God forgives me, I will still suffer the inevitable earthly consequences of my sin. We need to learn that sometimes when we are suffering, we should be asking, ďWhy was I so sinful


1 Kings 11:1-13, Case Studies: Solomon (11/25/14)

Do you know the saying, ďIf you canít do the time, donít do the crimeĒ? Certainly many proverbs and the word we saw yesterday from Peter show that this is Godís attitude. God loves you, but part of his love is that he isnít going to save you from the inevitable earthly consequences of your sin. If he did that, how would you ever learn not to sin? Itís just as Jesus said: ďIf you donít believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven?Ē If there are no consequences on earth for your sin, why should you believe that there are consequences in the afterlife? Bottom line: some of my suffering is the direct result of my own sin, and I should use that suffering to learn and change my ways.

King Solomon committed the sin of apostasy. He started worshipping many foreign gods in addition to the one true God. God told Solomon that because he had not followed God, Solomonís people would not follow his own dynasty after his death.


1 Kings 12:1-19, Case Studies: Rehoboam (11/26/14)

Solomon deserted God, and Solomonís people in turn deserted his dynasty. Solomon instituted both military and civilian drafts and high taxes to pay for his building programs. By the time Solomon died and Rehoboam came to the throne, Rehoboam had learned some bad habits from his dad. When the people came to him to ask for some relief, he responded with arrogance and cruelty, not to mention a large dollop of political naÔvetť. The latter might not be a sin, but arrogance and cruelty are, and they cost Rehoboam the greater part of his kingdom. Ten of the twelve tribes rebelled and subsequently made Jeroboam ruler of the new kingdom of Israel.


Esther 3:1-11, 6:1-12, 7:1-10, Case Studies: Haman (11/27/14)

Jesus tells us, ďDo unto others as you would have them do unto you.Ē One excellent reason for following this maxim is that if you sin against someone, it may backfire in such a way that you are the one who suffers from it. Todayís reading is in three parts. So not only is it a good idea to treat others the way you want to be treated, but also it is a good idea not to treat them the way you donít want to be treated!


2 Peter 2:9-19, Sinners are slaves to corruption. (11/28/14)

Peter makes an interesting and powerful argument about the end result of personal sin. We donít commit habitual sins because we are ďfree to do as we please.Ē Instead, habitual sin shows that we are slaves to corruption. The words translated slaves and enslaved in vs. 19 mean just that Ė slavery, not hired service. The word translated corruption means destruction and moral depravity, not taking bribes or embezzlement. Itís no wonder that my sins cause me to suffer, because they mean that Iím selling myself on the auction block, and my price is destruction and death.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 45: Luke 22:55-62, Peterís Denial, by Carl H. Bloch (7/31/15)

At dawn, at the very moment the cock crows, Jesus is led through the courtyard where Peter is warming himself and denying that he has had anything to do with the Jesus crowd. Itís bad enough to know youíre in the wrong; itís worse yet to be caught by the person you admire most in the world. Carl H. Blochís painting, ďPeterís Denial,Ē catches every critical detail of the scene: the fire, the cock, the pointing fingers of the other people around the fire, and the look from Jesus to Peter. Most of all, it captures Peterís bitter shame at what he has done.

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Peterís denial of Jesus. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
"Peterís Denial" by Carl H. Bloch, from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter. Photography by Daryl Lee.

Somebody Else's Sin

Leviticus 19:10; Amos 8:4-6; Luke 16:19-31, Greed and societal injustice case suffering. (12/1/14)

Last week we saw that a good deal of my suffering is the result of my own sin. Well! Enough of that! This week weíre going to look at the case for some of my suffering being the direct result of someone elseís sin.

This is a time of year when even the Grinches are likely to throw a nickel into the Salvation Armyís bucket. Nevertheless, one of the chief causes of suffering is greed on the part of people who either want more or wonít share from the bounty they already have. Acquiring wealth is not, in and of itself, a sin. Both acquiring wealth by unscrupulous means and keeping more than you need when you could use it to alleviate suffering are sins, as we see in todayís reading. In particular, they are sins that cause hunger, illness, homelessness, and other kinds of suffering. As Iíve mentioned before, I know you and I are wealthy, because we wouldnít be sending and reading this email if we werenít. We should be especially careful not to be Grinches at any time of the year.


Ezekiel 4:1-17, Prophets often suffer for the sins of the people. (12/2/14)

Being a prophet is a tough job. When the queen isnít putting a price on your head (1 Kings 19:2) and the king isnít throwing you in jail (1 Kings 22:27), God is asking you to make sacrifices on behalf of a sinful people. God tells Ezekiel to act out a parable of the punishment that Jerusalem will undergo for its long-term and unrepentant apostasy. The city will be besieged; Ezekiel must confine himself behind an iron griddle representing the siege. The people will be starving; Ezekiel is allowed to eat 10 ounces of grain and to drink about two and a half cups of water a day. He is to do this for a little over a year.

The amazing thing about this is the nature of Ezekielís objection. Does he say the people arenít worth the suffering he is to undergo? No. Does he point out that heís Godís man and doesnít deserve this treatment? No. His only objection is that using human dung to cook his food (as the besieged citizens of Jerusalem will have to do) will defile him. God allows him to used cow dung instead.


Matthew 14:1-11, Prophets often suffer at the hands of the people. (12/3/14)

God sends prophets only to sinful people; unfortunately sinful people often arenít very happy about the prophetic message they receive. John the Baptist is one example of prophets who suffer because they take the message of God to the people who need it the most. Pray for missionaries and others who spread Godís word.


Luke 10:30-37; Matthew 21:33-40, Crime causes suffering. (12/4/14)

When youíre reading a parable, itís normally important to think to yourself, ďWhat is the single theological point of this parable?Ē Neither of todayís parables is about crime. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is Jesusí answer to the question, ďWho is my neighbor?Ē The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is about the reception given by evil people to Godís prophets and Godís son.

Even so, Iím using these parables as illustrations of the idea that we may suffer as the result of someone elseís sin. This is especially true for criminal acts. Nearly all crimes cause the victims and the families and friends of the victims to suffer immediately, and often for a long time. Most crimes cause the perpetrator to suffer sooner or later. Nearly all crimes are sins; donít commit them.


2 Corinthians 11:23-31, We may be privileged to suffer for Christ. (12/5/14)

Iíve always been a little amused at Paul. For a person who says, ďFar be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,Ē (Galatians 6:4) he spends a great deal of time telling his congregations why he is the least, the most, the proudest, the humblest, the hardest-working, the simplest, or whatever other Ėest you can imagine, of all the apostles. I think he was probably perfectly sincere in believing that he never boasted; thatís not what Iím talking about today. Paul suffered a great deal because of other peopleís sins: he was lashed, beaten, stoned, robbed, betrayed, and worried nearly to death about the sins of his converts. Thanks be to God, who gave him the victory!


More on Why Suffering?
Suffering does not originate with God.
Most suffering is caused by sin and evil.
Some suffering results from my own sin or someone else's sin.
God punishes sin to instruct us.
Some suffering results from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
God is with us, and God and our Christian family share the burden of our suffering.

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