Sometimes parents can tell their child, “do this and you’ll get that.” This is a way of rewarding a child for good behavior. If the child behaves they might get ice cream as their reward. My son-in-law some times says to his 6 year old son, “if you eat the entire green broccoli on your plate, you’ll get some ice cream for dessert”. This is a way of rewarding my grandson for eating something he dislikes.
On the other hand, years ago a child could be punished by being beaten with a whip. The phrase used in this case was “spare the rod and spoil the child” taken from Proverbs 13:24. It says,
“He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”.
When I was younger a whip wasn’t used but rather a ping-pong paddle. And when I did something wrong and got punished boy that ping pong paddle would hurt a lot on my rear end! So I thought about doing what I did over again a second time!
Today in 2008, they don’t punish children the same way they did 30 years ago. Now punishment is carried out by rewarding or not rewarding children. This is because of what is considered as “child abuse” today. Child abuse today can be defined as suffering neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse or even sexual maltreatment. In many cases it is found that children are sometimes beaten or bruised badly by their parents. (1)
Discipline and Punishment
The word “discipline” and the word “punishment” seem to have two different meanings.
Discipline is defined as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”. (2) It involves the “training or correction” of one’s moral character:
- Job 5:17; Psalm 94:12 – Blessed are those God corrects.
- Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go…”
- Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19 – God disciplines those he loves.
- Job 33:19 – God can use sickness and pain to discipline.
The word “punishment” means “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution: a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure.” (3) It involves suffering loss as a judicial retribution according to ones deeds.
- Jeremiah 17:10; Ezekiel 16:59 – God gives to those their just deserved rewards. Punishment is one.
- Job 34:11; Psalm 62:12; Matthew 16:27 – God repays according to the deed done.
- Matthew 25:46 – Eternal punishment is separation from God forever. It includes torment (Revelation 20:10).
A reward on the other hand is different from “discipline” and “punishment:” The word “reward” is defined as “something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior or in retribution for evil acts” (4)
- Hebrews 10:35 – Confidence is a reward.
- Matthew 6:1-6- What is done well in secret, God will reward.
- Matthew 5:12 – Heaven and all that is there is a reward.
- Colossians 3:24 – Inheritance is a reward.
- Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 4:40 – Long life is a reward.
- Psalm 58:11 – The righteous are rewarded.
There are consequences for everything we do. Galatians 6:7-8 states,
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature,
from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Sin can be defined by what James 4:17 says,
“Whoever knows what is right to do, and fails to do it, sins.”
What we sow (what we decide to do willfully) is what we reap (the consequences of the decision made).
Here is a list of the consequences of sin.
- It is an enslavement to a sinful nature (1 Corinthians 3:3)
- There is no peace (Isaiah 57:21)
- One is separated from God (Ephesians 4:17-19)
- The suffering of shame and disgrace (Genesis 3:7; Proverbs 3:35; 13:5).
- The consequences of sin leads to death both physically and spiritually (Romans 5:12; 6:23; Galatians 6:8)
- The ultimate punishment is being separated from God forever (Revelation 21:8)
Now the issue of fair punishment and rewards has to be carried out justly. The word “just” is defined as “being honorable and fair in one’s dealings and actions; being consistent with what is morally right or what is properly due or merited”. (5) God, being just (Deuteronomy 32:4), is at the same time moral (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 145:17).
There are some examples of good and fair men who tried to be just. Abraham Lincoln is one. In the Proclamation of the Thirteenth Amendment, Abraham Lincoln has come to personify a human rights model of justice as he was against slavery. But the greatest example we have of justice is God. He by his very nature is just (Isaiah 30:18). He loves justice (Psalm 99:4; Isaiah 61:8). He shows no partiality in His justice (Deuteronomy 16:19). He cannot change (Malachi 3:6). He is the same past, present and future (Hebrews 13:8; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6). He is “I am” (Ex. 3:14; John 8:58) so his justice is always the same.
But there is another side to suffering
Job 13:15 says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”. Job was not reaping for what he sowed in the loss of his children, the loss of his livestock, or the loss of his health. He had sowed nothing wrong! Yet he suffered pain from the loss of his children (Job 1:18), the loss of his sheep and shepherds (Job 1:16), the loss of his camels and servants (Job 1:17), his boils (Job 2:7) and other losses yet it wasn’t because he had done anything wrong. He was suffering because God made a deal with Satan. God said to Satan, after Satan had complained that Job was upright because God had put a hedge around him, that Satan could do anything he wanted to Job “except lay a finger on him”.(Job 1:12).
When something happens to us that we believe we are being penalized for we call it “punishment” because we didn’t do anything to deserve this retribution. We usually say, “It is not fair!” But do we say as Job said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him?” Is God unjust in what He does to us or could there be another reason for the pain we experience?
A list of unjust things might be:
- Getting cancer and not doing anything wrong to deserve it.
- Being in constant, terrible pain and not doing anything to deserve it.
- Having a child of yours die and doing nothing to deserve this.
- Going deaf or blind and doing nothing to deserve this.
But in each of these cases and more, God refines us like gold that has impurities in it. Christ is our example in suffering (1 Peter 2:21). He did nothing wrong but rather was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22-23). But we see him being whipped and bleeding (John 19:1). The roman solders mocked him and put a crown of thorns on his head (Matthew 27:29). They spit on him and beat him in the face (Matthew 27:30). They made him carry his own cross to die but Cyrene named Simon carried it for him (Matthew 27:32). They hung him on a wooden cross by nails in his hands and feet and there he was to die on a hill named Calvary which was where robbers and thieves died (Matthew 27:33). In his thirst they gave him vinegar mixed with gall to drink (Matthew 27:33). And he died all alone – not even His father God would look at him (Matthew 27:45). He suffered more physical, emotional and spiritual pain than we can even imagine (1 Peter 3:18; 4:1) and he did nothing to deserve it! (1 John 3:4-5). He died for our sin not for his own (John 10:11, 15; Luke 24:46).
There are reasons why Jesus suffered and died unjustly. It is because there was something even more important going on. It wasn’t the fact that he was dying unjustly. It was rather that he paid the price for our sin with his own blood (Revelation 5:9). He was the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He bought back humanity with his sinless blood (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). But Jesus shed his blood for our sin. He paid our price to be able to have communion again with God (Hebrews 10:19, 22; Colossians 1:14, 20). That is the true reason why he died on the cross. God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (1 Peter 2:24; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4, 5).
And we as Christians can suffer unjustly. We are disciples of Christ and we will suffer what he suffered (1 Peter 2:21). We must share in the sufferings of Christ (Romans 8:17). He suffered and died and we must be willing to do the same (Luke 24:46), knowing that our reward will be heaven (Philippians 1:21; Romans 14:8; Psalm 39:4; Hebrews 13:14).
(Warning. See graphic photos of Christians martyred in Iraq: http://www.catholic.org/news/international/middle_east/story.php?id=56481)
Suffering For Christ. What we, as Christ’s disciples, can look forward to:
- If we suffer we shall also reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).
- Suffering for Christ will not separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35)
- Rejoice in fiery trials and suffering for your faith (Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 4:12-13).
- Our faith will be tried (1 Peter 1:7). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
- We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is like a small mustard seed will grow when it is tested and tried (Psalm 81:7; 1 Peter 1:7; James 1:3, 12).
So try to remember that there is punishment and rewards because God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4), and what we sow we do reap (Galatians 6:7-8). But that does not mean that there does not exist another side to suffering. Jesus suffered death so that we could have eternal life (John 6:47, 50; Titus 1:2; 1 John 5:11).
And we being Jesus’ disciples will suffer just like he did (1 Peter 2:21). But our suffering will purify us (Acts 15:9), give us stronger endurance (Romans 5:3, 4; 2 Timothy 2:3), and we will reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).