Summary: Do you ever picture God as a vindictive judge who can’t wait to throw judgment at sinners? This and other misconceptions about God are addressed in Luke 13.
God - The Patient Gardener - Luke 13:1-35
What are some common misconceptions about God?
1. That God rises above all religions and a piece of God is found in each
2. God is "the big man upstairs" who is not really involved in affairs here on earth
3. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people
4. There is a perfect will of God - one choice in every situation that is right and the rest are wrong
5. If you live a good life, or are born into a Christian household you will go to heaven
6. Christianity is all about rules and regulations
7. Religion is a crutch to get through hard times
8. If I don’t feel God’s presence in my life or if I suffer then I must be failing or God doesn’t love me
These are all false. Today we are going to look at 7 false assumptions about God and our relationship with Him. Not these necessarily, but those found in Luke 13
1. Suffering is in direct proportion to your sin
Verses 1 - 3 Although there is no historical record of this happening - it is quite in concert with Pilate’s character. He was Governor of Judea from AD 26-36. It was a Jewish theology that individual sin led to individual suffering. It would have been disgraceful to have had this done to you. Why would God allow it unless you were a worse sinner?
But Jesus has a much more important thing to consider - everyone is going to perish unless they repent and are rescued. There is no "squeaking" into heaven when your good deeds outweigh the bad, but just barely. We are all destined to be rejected by God because we are all evil by nature. It takes only one sin to separate you from God forever.
We think sin is like catching a virus. If we had only not done that thing we did, we wouldn’t have caught it. But sin is more like a genetic disorder. You were born with it and can’t do anything to stop it. You aren’t a sinner because you sin, you sin because you are a sinner.
2. If you suffer tragedy it is judgment from God
Verses 4 & 5 Likewise it was a common belief that if you suffered tragedy then you must have sinned. This is actually kind of a Greek idea too. Remember when Paul got bitten by a snake on the island of Malta? The islanders thought that Justice (with a capital "J") had found him out. (Acts 28)
Up until 1920 the only mention of the Tower of Siloam was in the Bible. But archeologists discovered the foundations of the tower, which apparently fell in an accident and killed 18 people. It was "news of the day."
More recent examples for us might be the Katrina, or the tsunami in Southeast Asia. I’ve even heard some Christian ministers say that Katrina is God’s judgment on a sinful city. No doubt New Orleans contains sinners - just like our city and yours. But does God cause suffering here on earth as a judgment according to how much we’ve sinned? I think Jesus is saying otherwise.
The point is that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. And that "the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23. What is death? Eternal separation from the presence of God in a place that is not pleasant.
3. God takes pleasure in judging sinners
Verses 6 - 9 Some people picture God as always angry - with lightning bolts at the ready, just waiting for us to step out of line so He can zap us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just because sin separates us from God doesn’t mean He likes it that way. In fact, the picture of God Jesus paints here is of a gardener who patiently tries everything he can to bring back fruit to an unfruitful tree before cutting it down.
Now, there are obvious parallels to Judaism here and I don’t want those lost because they come back several times. Judaism’s purpose was to point the way to the Messiah, not keep people away from God. The system in place when Jesus walked the earth was not what God intended. It had devolved into a political system that kept people in line, not pointing them to a relationship with God.
In coming to earth, Jesus is the fertilizer and the digging of the ground that might bring about repentance in the hearts of men. I for one am very glad God was patient with me - and is patient with me still.
And perhaps there is someone in your life that you have talked to and prayed for, and they just don’t seem to be coming around. Keep digging and fertilizing and being patient.