We tend to blame people for what happens to them.  We really seem to like to think that people get what they deserve.  It’s a lot like the Eastern idea of “karma.”

We aren’t always blatant about it.  But we tend to think that a smoker with cancer got what’s coming to them.  We tend to think that someone fat who has a heart attack got what’s coming to them.  Rich people must be deserving.  Poor people undeserving.  A rape victim brought it on themselves …

But I think we know this is not necessarily so.  It’s a convenient fiction for those who are doing well.  It lets us feel good about ourselves.  And it lets us off the hook for the well-being of those in need.

I mean, if they got their just deserts, who are we to second guess God’s will for them?

If it’s a tendency for us, it was pretty much the party line in Jesus’ day.  A long life or wealth were signs of righteousness.  The poor were undeserving.  And if you were blind …

But Jesus is different.  I’m even wondering if Jesus is really into only giving people what they deserve.  I think about the guy, lying by the pool, who Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?”  (And, given that he has nothing but excuses for why it hasn’t happened, and that he turns Jesus in to the authorities, I’m thinking he was rather comfortable in his role as victim.  But Jesus heals him anyway.)  And beyond that, I think I heard somewhere that Jesus came to save sinners — not the righteous people (whoever they might be) who deserve salvation …

That’s really the background for the people trying to shush Bartimaeus.  To them, it’s obvious he’s a sinner.  He got what he deserved (whether on his own dime or some ancestor’s dime).  He’s a sinner — conceived in sin — and God has put him in his proper place (just as God has put the rest of us — all more fortunate than he — in our proper places).  We may not be great beacons of light for God.  But at least we know we are better than this blind beggar …

I’ve heard the stories about the poor couple praying for a baby carriage (and receiving exactly enough cash, as a gift, to purchase the carriage of their dreams).   I even believe these stories.  But I hear them more as a gift (to undeserving sinners, like me) than as God’s payment to the righteous.  God likes to give us what we need — even what we simply want.  But that doesn’t make us better than other people.  It doesn’t make us “good” people.  Wasn’t it Jesus who reminded us that only God is good?

And maybe that’s the point of this morning’s story.

It’s not that Bartimaeus deserves to receive his sight.

It’s simply that Jesus wants to give him the blessing of sight.  Frankly, I’m not really clear if this is a need or a want.  But I am clear that Jesus wants to give him this blessing.

It’s a gift.

It’s a grace.

It has nothing to do with what he deserves (just as his blindness had nothing to do with what he deserved).

… And that’s rather hard for us to take, isn’t it?  The idea that bad things can happen to good people — even in a world created by a loving God?  But if we are honest with ourselves, we know it happens — don’t we?  We’ve seen bad things happen to good people.  We’ve seen good things happen to people we probably would want to call bad.  How rich we are, how long we live, how healthy we are …  None of these things seem to depend directly on how faithful or good we are.

That’s certainly my experience.

And I think my first reaction is to rail at God like Job.  The world isn’t always fair.  How could you do this to me — I don’t deserve it!  How could you do this to my friend — they don’t deserve it.

Of course, when you come to it, I don’t deserve the blessings of my life either.

And there are certainly blessings in my life.

I’m betting there are blessings in your life too.

There is (I’m told) an African Catechism which asks, “Why did God make you?”  And the answer is, “Because he thought you’d like it!”

Life is a blessing.

The people who love me are a blessing.

The food on my table is a blessing.

Certainly there is tragedy.

Certainly there are people in need.

Certainly there are people who need my help.

Certainly I need God’s help.

But life is a blessing.

It’s God’s gift.

And I don’t believe there is a single one of us, unless it’s Jesus himself, who deserves this gift.

But God want’s what is good for us.

God wants what will give us joy in life.

God wants to give us fulness of life.

Whatever our own, personal blindness might be — and there are always areas of need and blindness in our lives.

I don’t know why we don’t always get what we want, or even what we (at least, think) we need.

But I am confident that God is for us.  God want’s us to experience good things in life.  God wants us to come home to him (or her) to the place prepared for us from the beginning …

I’m as certain of that as I am of the love of God, as we know it in the life and death of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

And I say this to you in the Name of God:  Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen.

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