Scripture is pretty clear on a couple of things.
- God doesn't want anyone to die. Both the Hebrew Scriptures (Ezekiel 18:32) and the New Testament (2 Peter 3:9) affirm this.
- Speaking untrue things about God is one of the most significant insults we can offer to the divine.
But many of us are still pretty superstitious. A superstition is an unjustified belief that supernatural causes are bringing about things in the world. We see something extraordinary and chalk it up to God.
Christians aren't exempt from this. We like to draw direct lines between God and whatever happens in the world. Amazingly, these lines always affirm our worldview. Conservatives have said that covid is God's judgment on our nation because of, well, pick your issue. Abortion, gay marriage, Black Lives Matter. On the other hand, upon news that the President had contracted the disease, progressives wondered aloud if their prayers for justice, in the spirit of the imprecatory Psalms, were finally being answered. (Try asking a conservative if covid is because of the church's history of racism; or a a progressive if the death of RBG was God's punishment for her views)
Jesus (the radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of God's being), however, showed us that our old, superstitious ways of looking at God are quite mistaken.
John 9: His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned."
Implication: God doesn't punish people with illness or disability because of sin.
Matthew 5: The Father causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Implication: God doesn't punish people with natural disasters.
Luke 13: "Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!"
Implication: Accidents are simply that—accidents, not signs of God's disfavor.
Matthew 13: "Do you want us to pull the weeds up?" "No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together."
** Implication**: God doesn't pluck evil people from the earth, because the ripple effects could hurt the righteous as well.
We don't need superstitious thinking to explain why bad things happen in the world. A combination of people's decisions, a fallen creation, and systems of oppression are quite enough to explain the darkness in the world, without making God the author of pain and suffering.