But if people are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, [God] tells them what they have done—that they have sinned arrogantly. He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge. (Job 36:8-12)
Those are the words of Job’s well-meaning and yet ignorant friend, Elihu. Apparently he subscribed to what theologians call retribution theology – the belief that God unconditionally punishes the wicked and always rewards the righteous. The conclusion of Job’s friends is that Job must have sinned.
This belief carried through even into the NT when a man who was born blind was brought to Jesus. The question was asked, Who sinned that this man was born blind? (see John 9). Jesus’ answer was: no one.
There are consequences that we face when we sin, but there’s no guarantee that the trials we face are as a result of some kind of sin that we committed.
God is not a God of retribution.
The whole point of Jesus coming to die for the sins of the world was that no one was or is righteous on his or her own. We all deserve God’s retribution, but He graciously holds it back.
Father, help me to remember that every good thing I experience in life comes as a gift from you. Keep me from ever believing that I’m good enough to deserve your kindness. Give me a humble spirit, then, when I interact with others – recognizing that I am blessed solely because of your grace.
**For other thoughts on this subject, see this post.