Some Thoughts on John Piper’s Tweet

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 

Just a few weeks ago we buried my Dad. It was hard. It still is hard. Especially for my mom. We said a lot of things to people in the midst of our grief. And a lot of things were spoken to us in our grief. Now if in those moments after he breathed his last, my mom or my brothers or I had said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the name of the Lord,” that would have been fine. But if someone else had said it to her, while possibly meaning well, it would have been insensitive. That’s the difference, who says it.

The great problem with Piper’s tweet is that he said it and not the ones who were hurting. If someone who lost a child or spouse in the tornado had tweeted out Job 1:19 and 20, fine. But it is not our job do anything that looks like making them see something in the immediate aftermath. That was the mistake of Job’s counselors.

I do not disagree with the theology per se. I am Reformed and I am a Calvinist. But in the immediate wake of a tragedy like that, our desire for “presence with” and prayer for the hurting should overwhelm our desire for them to see – even see “what God is doing.” It is a time to weep. Not a time to teach, preach or fix.

Do I believe that if disaster comes to a city, God has done it? Yes.

Do I believe the penalty for sin is death? Yes.

Do I believe we all deserve death because of our sinful rebellion against God? Yes.

But there is a mystery as to how all those things fit together. And I am unwilling to speak into a tragedy like the tornado in Moore, OK or 9/11 or even a person’s death in old age and piece these truths together. Especially so in the immediate aftermath. And it seems to me that if I had all the theological acumen to piece them together, if I did it in the midst of the rubble, it would not be loving. And then, I would be nothing.

14 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on John Piper’s Tweet

  1. Libby Badon May 23, 2013 / 12:08 pm

    Matt, I love you and respect you so much. First time I cannot agree with you, when you say “Do I believe that if disaster comes to a city, God has done it? Yes.” WHY?
    It hurts my heart to know that is your concept of God. Just saying….

    • mattbredmond May 23, 2013 / 12:12 pm

      Because of Amos 3:6…I do not pretend to understand it, though.

      • Dwayne Forehand (@Forehand) May 23, 2013 / 1:22 pm

        How many hundreds and hundreds of verse references could you of pasted in there where the over arching sovereignty of God is on display.

      • Andrew Barker May 23, 2013 / 1:36 pm

        Matt, the quote from Job is just that, a quote from Job. It’s HIS own godly way of dealing with tragedy but it does not reflect God’s way of dealing with us. The Lord gives life, love and fellowship. He takes away fear, shame and sin. Blessed be his holy name!

  2. Dwayne Forehand (@Forehand) May 23, 2013 / 1:18 pm

    “That was the mistake of Job’s counselors.”

    I have to disagree man. I think their mistake was bad theology straight up. I don’t see any indication in the book that the issue was their timing. It certainly can seem like they have horrible timing, but I’d say that their actual issue was theological error in nature.

    They thought bad things happened to bad people and they spoke from that view. But when you understand that bad things happen to good and bad people you learn that what’s really needed is waiting, listening, comforting. You have to let them morn, wrestle and struggle because if you really want to serve them through it then you have to go through it with them.

    Anyways, I can see why it looks like a timing issue, but we know for a fact that there core statements about Job would have been wrong at any time. Their theology pigeon holed their response and that hole was an incorrect one. It was, plain and simple, a lie that job was being punished for his sins. He was not. Those words would have been “bad timing” no matter what time they were said at.

    Pragmatically though I agree with you. Piper didn’t know them. If he wants to teach about the sovereignty of God through using real life, dust of the earth examples then they need to be his own tragedies, not those of strangers.

    My five cents. 🙂

    • Shannon May 27, 2013 / 9:22 pm

      Love this sentence: “If he wants to teach about the sovereignty of God through using real life, dust of the earth examples then they need to be his own tragedies, not those of strangers.”

      As I responded to a post on Facebook, I don’t think Piper meant harm, but his tweets (in my opinion:) were harmful to the many non-Christians and Christians who heard about them simply because of who he is and the controversy that occasionally surrounds him. Most people (again Christians and non-Christians) are not going to fall down on the ground and worship God if they lose a child. They’re going to question and be filled w/ sadness, disbelief and anger. I think his tweets were hasty and yes, insensitive. And while I don’t agree w/ everything Rachel said, I can definitely see where she was coming from.

      • Shannon May 27, 2013 / 9:24 pm

        Ooops, my reply was a post re: another’s post regarding Rachel Held Evans’ comments.

  3. Ben May 23, 2013 / 11:19 pm

    He was preaching not pastoring. Reminders that “our hearts go out to…” to “pray for Oklahoma” really don’t point us to God in an all-sufficient way. If anything they serve to confuse things more, see Jonah’s sailing partners where, “each cried out to his god.” Most (maybe all) who read his tweet needed to be reminded of our wisp-like, fragile lives, and turn our prayers to God who is maker of wind and sea and who holds those lives in His hands.

  4. Heather Halseth May 24, 2013 / 1:38 am

    I agree with Dwayne on this one. The Lord said that Job’s friends misspoke about His character and they were quoting the Bible. We don’t always understand why tragedies happen and sometimes silence is the best thing , that and love.

    • Dan from Georgia May 24, 2013 / 8:17 pm

      Well said. Sometimes (most of the time?), the less said, the better. And that goes for Twitter too!

    • mattbredmond May 25, 2013 / 3:09 pm

      I don’t see how adding 1:20 makes any difference.

  5. Dan Elifson June 5, 2013 / 9:18 am

    I am wondering if Dr. Piper is missing the significance of the book of Job. We cannot interpret God’s providence on behalf of others or ourselves. Job confessed his ignorance of God’s sovereign ways in Job chapters 40 and 42. We must be careful how we interpret God’s providence especially on behalf of others. We know that God is sovereign. We know that God works all things for good for His children. We know that tragedy is a wake up call to the brevity of life–but beside these things, God is the best interpreter of His ways, I think God-centered people need to be careful when interpreting events.

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