At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Christians are notorious for saying that people deserve the bad things that happen to the, or that they are punishments for our sins. But throughout the gospels Jesus is explicit that all sins are equally terrible in God’s eyes, and that we are all sinners. Even if he never explicitly said it the way He does here, it should be common sense to us that terrible things do not happen to us because of a specific sin. Everyone is a sinner, and everyone will die. Worse people don’t die in worse ways. BUT, if we change our ways and accept Jesus as our Savior, we can have eternal life after this one ends.
Repentance is a funny thing. Try as we might to change our ways, we will always remain sinners. So to the outsider looking in, it might not be easy to tell you have repented. Like the fig tree, maybe we don’t see the fruit. And who knows, even if someone hasn’t repented yet, they might repent tomorrow. There’s no way to know just by looking at someone. Only God knows what’s in our heart and what will be. THAT is why we can’t judge someone and say “if they died in and earthquake it must be because they were an adulterer.” Let God decide whether a person ever bore Christian fruits. It’s not our business.
The good news for us is that we don’t need to worry about being punished for every sin we’ve ever committed. What a long list it would be! Jesus has already been punished for us. All we have to do is repent. And we don’t even have to be perfect at it.