Luke 12 records Jesus' sermon to an audience so vast that people were stepping on each other. On this occasion, some told Him about a group of Galileans whom Pilate butchered while they were in the process of offering sacrifices. Perhaps this was reported to divert attention from themselves Jesus had just sternly rebuked the multitude. At any rate, the implication was what terrible sinners these must have been!
Jesus answered, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?" (Lk. 13:2). In other words, can we tell by what befalls a man what kind of man he is?
In one way the answer is yes. Sin has immediate consequences as well as eternal ones. Moses told ancient Israel, "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23). Solomon observed, "the way of transgressors is hard" (Pro. 13:15, KJV).
One who drinks alcohol is far more likely to have a debilitating or fatal traffic accident. A promiscuous man lives in fear of discovery and disease. Lying, cheating, swindling, and stealing invite others' wrath. Divorce is laden with heartache. In this sense, it is absolutely true that the more one sins, the harder his life. This is one reason Paul said godliness holds promise for the present life as well as the life to come (I Tim. 4:8).
Sin and Suffering
We go too far, however, when we always equate one's suffering from his sin. This was the mistake of Job's friends, who argued that only sinners suffer in life, while the righteous always do well. That has never been true.
One may face hardship as the result of another' sin, not his own. Or, hardship may not at all be directly related to anyone's conduct, as in the case of the blind man in John 9(note v. 2). Conversely, since God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mt.5:45), He may allow the wicked to prosper materially. The point is, God's estimate of a man is not necessarily revealed by the man's lot in life.
Worse Sins and Sinners
Jesus' answer built on this truth. Were these greater sinners? "I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). He then cited a similar circumstance and reiterated His conclusion (vv. 4-5). In so doing, the Lord returned the drifting focus of His hearers to where it was needed: on themselves. It is not another's sins but my sins that I need to assess.