A couple of ‘difficult’ guests caused me some problems recently, then ended up themselves in a tragedy. I’m sorely tempted to do what the Samoans did to those who suffered in the Tsunami of 2009 and say, “Well they deserved it!” or “Too bad eh?” or “People get what they deserve!”
But I can’t, and won’t. This is why . . .
One of my guests in particular was to me a nasty piece of work, dishonest and selfish. She paid to get picked up from the airport and I went there, but she was nowhere to be found. She’d caught a taxi to the South Coast in error. She didn’t read my very clear instructions by email; she saw her name (or a similar name) on another resort’s nameboard and she had headed off into the wild blue, then blamed the poor taxi driver!
I got a call from the resort saying that she was in the wrong place, had no money (yeah right!) and was arguing with the taxi driver over the bill. Bottom line was that I ended up paying the taxi driver (who had done nothing wrong) out of my own pocket and the girls chipped in with . . . wait for it . . . zip, tada, nothing. To boot they spent a few days with me, did nothing to help while they were here, teamed up with another guest with an ‘attitude’ and then between them all wrote nasty reviews all over the Internet!
People can say what they like online because I too can respond and highlight the OTHER side of the story in reply and this is all great – it is what makes the Internet such a powerful communications medium. So I just left it all and wished them well, wore the extra expense and got on with life . . . until I bumped into them in town. They were a mess, as they had just been in a bus accident a couple of days before. They’d lost everything they owned including their passports, wallets and backpacks. They’d been bruised up and traumatised clearly pretty badly, enough for them to cancel their holiday in Samoa and take an early flight outta Paradise.
I checked with them that they were OK, and would have been happy to help them out with anything they needed, but as is the case in situations like this, I’m pretty sure that even if they were drowning they would’ve grabbed anyone else’s hand but mine!
I walked away from them sad – for them – and yet there was a side of me that was saying, “Well maybe disaster wouldn’t have befallen you if you’d been more reasonable, or nice and friendly or . . . ”
There is a principle in life that you tend to get what you deserve, and this was one of those moments when I recalled that principle with vim and vigour.
I mentally compared their visit and response with another recent guest at Camp Samoa, actually a girl who followed immediately in their footsteps. Her favourite word was “incredible” which being English was not in her own native tongue. Everything was ‘incredible’ for that guest. Whereas for the small-thinking, self-centered visitors the place was dusty, dirty and unfinished, I was a pain-in-the-*rse and nothing was good enough – my latest guest couldn’t be grateful enough for the efforts that I did and do for my guests. She almost floated through Samoa, looking at people and situations with a positive attitude, asking deep meaningful questions about the people and culture and seeing the bright side no matter what she struck in her travels. Her parting words were touching as she struggled to thank me enough. She clearly had a fantastic time in Paradise.
The contrast between the two visitors was extreme.
I recalled the idea that we get what we deserve, and considered a widely held belief in Samoa that the 2009 Tsunami was the result of God’s anger, or punishment on the people of Aleipata and elsewhere who were either trading on a Sunday, or doing something to incur God’s wrath. I meditated on my own glee at anothers’ misfortune, even entertaining the thoughts that, “YES!! There is a God and justice in this world after all!”
The bible though doesn’t talk of God as a big ogre in the sky, ready to dish out evil upon those that deserve it and a sugar-coated existence for the good people. Good things can still come to bad people, and bad things can still happen to good people too. So our rush to enjoy anothers’ misfortune, or to ascribe divine judgement on a natural accident or event is not wise, certainly not always biblical.
In regards to God and punishment, and getting what we deserve, the biblical world view is this:
- We’ve all messed up. No matter how good we are, we’re still all proud and tend towards self-interest, self-rule, self-everything and generally want to leave the Lord out of things. If we’re really honest, we will admit that none of us are perfect and we probably all deserve to be zapped off the face of the earth for our rebellion.
- God DOES punish people at times, but He is always loving, good, and just when He does do it and He ALWAYS gives us ample opportunity to get our acts together before the so-called axe falls.
- He DOES allow evil to occur to us AT TIMES. The world though is in decay as a result of the fall and much of what happens is natural. A fatal bus accident in Savaii for example is likely not an event engineered by God to punish people who may be lacking a little maturity or understanding towards one Palagi running a small backpackers! The Tsunami of 2009 could have been a natural event (they do actually happen from time to time you know!) or a manmade event (that also happens too!) but it need not be an event sent from God to teach the ‘bad’ girls in my example a lessson! My happy, grateful guest on the other hand, may too have personal adversity at some stage in her life.
The truth derived from scripture is that God knew that these things would happen (as the creator of time, He is of course outside of time), but that is not the same as saying that He is responsible or that He engineered, or that He sent the trauma on anyone.
The truth is that we know the heart of God in such matters, and it is that people turn to Him and listen; then do what it is He is asking them to do. If there is a tragedy, be it a Tsunami or a bus accident, then it may facilitate a little humbling, but we should not think about the Lord as being responsible for evil.
The truth is that he addressed evil once and for all when He sent His son Jesus who then broke the power of evil and opened the door for us all to enjoy a restored relationship. That is the essence of the Christian message – a good God, with a good solution to evil. This is no excuse for us to view or turn adversity or evil to our advantage!