It happens with every natural disaster. Someone suggests that God ordained it as a consequence or punishment of a certain sinful behavior. It has been going on for millennia. Once, Jesus got involved in the debate.
There were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3)
Jesus continues by adding to Pilate’s atrocity a natural disaster – a tower in Jerusalem that had collapsed and killed eighteen people (Luke 13:4-5). He asked the same question, “Do you suppose . . .?” It seems that people were speculating that the victims of both incidents somehow had it coming to them. They were sinners or debtors, singled out for justice delivered by acts of man and God.
Jesus answers again with an emphatic “No!” and a warning that the same kind of fate will come unless people repent. Then He tells a parable in which a fig tree is given one last chance to bear fruit (Luke 13:6-9). The tree is a picture of the Jewish nation, the very people listening to Jesus.
It is easy to join the crowd speculating as to why bad things happen. It is tempting to take the path that religious Jews often took—assuming that sickness and suffering were a result of sin. But not only does this thinking bring terrible condemnation on unfortunate people; it also helps us compare favorably with them and gives us a sense of assurance that we must be doing fine. Jesus says it is a false sense of assurance. If we think like that we are not aligned with God. Human abuses and natural catastrophes are not orchestrated by God. His heart is to give people (like the fig tree) not just one last chance but another chance, and perhaps another, and so on. Repentance somehow lifts us out of this world in which we are pawns to the powers, subjects of chance, destined to become statistics. Repentance spares us from perishing at random or at the whim of a tyrant. It makes us subjects of God and brings us under His covering. It does not guarantee we will live happily ever after, but it does free us from the anxiety of helplessness and sets us firmly within the main stream of the purposes and timing of a loving Father.