A Brief Apology for Divine Retribution
Many scholars and homilists say so, but they have not looked closely at the logic. They rightly want to stress, with the book of Job, that you cannot assume that someone in pain is getting their just desserts for some sin. As true as that is, it does not mean there is no such thing as divine retribution and that Deuteronomy, which emphasizes retribution, had got it wrong. Consider the following computer slide (click to greatly enlarge):
Deuteronomy's concern with divine retribution (covenant curses) would fall in the overlap of the two circles that I have drawn. This overlap zone represents the cases where the suffering we see around us is the result of sin. I hope that it is clear from the diagram that the existence of this overlap zone does not at all mean that suffering is necessarily punishment. Absolutely, much suffering that we see around us is innocent, unjust suffering. The entire portion of the left-hand circle that does not overlap with the circle on the right represents suffering that has nothing to do with divine punishment for sin.
Both OT and NT know well that there is a deed-consequence pattern in life, and that God intervenes to punish sin, but neither testament calls us to be illogical and to apply this pattern to our experience superficially or rigidly!