Every time a disaster happens anywhere in the world some within the Christian community tell us it’s the judgment of God being poured out on sinful people. It has become increasingly difficult for me to think in those terms.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the equation the entire creation was impacted. All creation fell and “groans and labours with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22). Since fallen humans live in a fallen creation we can expect disasters like the Haïti earthquake to happen from time to time. Hence the term “natural disasters” as they can be expected to occur quite naturally in a fallen world. If one subscribes to a pre-millennial interpretation of end-time prophecy, then an increase in such tragedies would be expected based on Matthew 24:7-8.
There are specific instances in the Old Testament where God used natural disasters to express His judgment on a nation or people. However, this was not the norm in ancient history. They too had their share of disasters occurring naturally in the context of a fallen world.
In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus clearly teaches that tragedy is not necessarily the consequence of greater sin for then none of us would escape. “To begin with, He made it clear that human tragedies are not always divine punishments and that it is wrong for us to ‘play God’ and pass judgment. Job’s friends made this same mistake when they said that Job’s afflictions were evidence that he was a sinner. If we take that approach to tragedy, then we will have a hard time explaining the sufferings of the Prophets and Apostles, and even of our Lord Himself.”