I’ve been having a lot of bad things happening lately. My house was infested with bed bugs. It’s a national epidemic, so I didn’t feel like we were unclean, but between bed bug bites (yes, bed bugs DO bite), and the bite the exterminator is putting on us, it’s a very trying time. Later, my wife fell and sprained her ankle. It isn’t that serious, but when someone you depend on is out of commission, it’s an extra burden on everyone else. Just as I was thinking we had our string of bad luck and nothing worse could happen, a pipe burst under our kitchen sink, flooding the kitchen, and making an incredible clean up job. I’m not the kind of person who compares myself to Job every time I get a hangnail, but at the same time, its been an uncomfortable period for us. When things happen to me, I just figure things just happen, and its part of the decaying world we live in.
I started thinking about other people I know who have gone through difficulties. My first thought, was that they just had a series of unfortunate circumstances. Later I began to wonder what they did to deserve what was happening to them. Finally, I came to my senses and realized that when we blame other people’s problems on their behavior, we might be wrong. If someone has unprotected sex and they get a disease, the action has a causal result. If I eat Italian food, I know I am going to have heartburn that night, because that’s what happens when I eat Italian food. But everything doesn’t have a cause-effect relationship. Sometimes water pipes burst because they were improperly made, or they wore out. Sometimes bedbugs happen because people travel and there IS an epidemic. Sometimes people sprain their ankles because things like that happen. Every bad thing that happens in our lives is not a result of divine displeasure with our temporal life choices. We are too quick to blame other people’s misfortunes on the sin in their lives, and too quick to overlook the sins in our own lives.
Yeshua spoke to this issue in Luke 13:1-5 He said, “…”Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” In other words, Yeshua was saying that “stuff” happens. Sometimes its an annoyance, and sometimes it can be catastrophic. Terminal illness, or having a disease for which there is no treatment is truly beyond anything else we deal with. But even then, it isn’t because someone sinned, but just the consequence of living in a world where stuff happens. However, Yeshua turned the question around and challenged his listeners, by saying, things happen, but if you don’t repent, you will perish. We shouldn’t be focusing our attention on the temporal events of our lives and looking for a spiritual reason for them. That’s not far from voodoo.
Pagan Peoples came up with the idea of amulets to protect them from evil. Christianity didn’t go in for that, but they ascribed protective power to religious symbols, such as crosses and holy water. Shrines to the Virgin Mary can still be seen on the streets and on the outskirts of towns in central Europe for protection. Judaism does this as well. A Kamea, or amulet, is a prayer written on parchment for an individual to prosper them or protect them. The Mezuzah is believed to protect the inhabitants of a home. My mother even told me to put up a red ribbon to protect us from the Kinehora, the evil eye. The reality is, that those things don’t really protect against anything. They may give the holder a level of comfort, but a red ribbon or holy water won’t protect against the circumstances of life. Things happen. It rains on the just and the unjust. The difference is how we respond to what happens. When the plumber came to fix the broken pipe, we told him that we heard the water running as it started. He said that almost never happens. People are usually not home and the damage is far worse; so I guess God was with us even though things happened as they did. The Torah teaches that when you follow the Commandments, “it will go well with you.” It never says what the “it” that goes well with you is, but maybe things could be worse. It doesn’t guarantee no problems, but that in whatever happens, God will be with us. Some things I wouldn’t want to face alone.
Yeshua wanted us to focus on attention on spiritual values. Things can happen to us, and we will need to deal with them, but we need to give attention to the spiritual realities of life, no matter how our temporal lives are going. Things happen in life, but how we respond to them is the mark of the person of faith. If we lose it and act like our lives are over, the response is not very good. If we deal with it and continue to live a life of trust, it shows faith. This means, for ourselves, as well as for others, we need to take care of our lives and be comforting, encouraging, and helpful to those in need, without judgment or accusation. At the same time, we need to be encouraging one another towards the higher spiritual values of life.