Does God punish us?

My phone rang. “Hey, Kris, it’s grandma! Hey, do you think you could give me a ride to the bank today? Our car is in the shop and I need to get this check deposited.”

I drove to my grandma’s house, picked her up, and we headed out to the bank. We were sitting at a red light when, all of a sudden, my grandma starts crying. Now, I’ve been told that my driving is a bit scary, but I’ve never scared someone to tears! What was going on?

Before even having the opportunity to ask, my grandma said, “I don’t know what I’ve done! I just feel like God is punishing me.”

Instantly, I knew what she was referring to. She and her husband recently had to bury their dog, Xena. They can deny it all they want; of their three dogs, Xena was their favorite.

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All I knew to say was: “Grandma, I doubt God is punishing you. You know, sometimes…dogs get sick. That doesn’t mean God is mad at you.”

I’m not sure my words had any effect. However, it did get me to thinking: does God punish us?

Well…

In the Old Testament, it does seem that God punishes people. The first example that comes to mind is the times the Israelites are exiled. Usually, they were being exiled because of their disobedience. How about the fall of man? Could we view that as a punishment on humanity? Plagues of Egypt? The flood? Jonah being swallowed by a whale/fish?

But, that’s the Old Testament. What about now? What about today? Does God punish us? Does God make bad things happen to us when we sin? Is there anything, within Scripture, to suggest that God works within a punishment and rewards system?

We must first understand that the crucifixion was sufficient to forgive all sins. Friends, you are forgiven. You are free. To suggest additional punishment is required to wipe our slates clean is to imply that the death of Jesus’ death wasn’t enough. And that, my dear friends, is what we call heresy. (Just saying.)

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

There is no punishment required for our sins because Jesus paid it all. He paid our debt. He wiped our slate clean.

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However, God will discipline us. While our sins are forgiven, we do often succumb to temptation. Like the loving Father that He is, God wants what is best for us. When He sees sin in our lives of which we are unrepentant, He may discipline us so we reach a place of repentance.

Discipline and punishment aren’t the same thing. Punishment is a penalty given for an offense. Our offense is sin. The penalty is death. Jesus did that. (Yes, there is redundancy in this post. But…this is important.)

Discipline, however, is instruction, training, and a cultivation of the soul. Discipline is constant. Our loving Father won’t give up on us. He will always be there to help us grow in holiness.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” – Hebrews 12:6

But…then why do such horrible things happen? Why do our dogs die? Why do Christian women, who desperately want a baby, have miscarriages? Why do 19-year-olds get cancer? Well, to me, the answer is fairly simple: we live in a sinful and fallen world. Bad things happen because the enemy does still have some power over this world. But, I’ve read the Book, I know his reign won’t last forever.

When we do face hardships, we can learn to find contentment in Christ. The Apostle Paul talks about that in the book of Philippians (4:12-13). Understand, though, when you face hardships, God isn’t punishing you for something bad you did.

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6 thoughts on “Does God punish us?

  1. As I was listening to a sermon over the radio one day, a local church pastor thundered: “The Lord tests you to show you your traitorous ways sometimes.” I blinked in disbelief. http://gph.is/1vLkOMG
    In Luke 13, some guys were hanging around Jesus saying:
    “Can you believe how horrible those sinners must have been to have died that way?”
    And Jesus was like: “No, man, you don’t get it. They weren’t worse than you or you, or anyone else here … and you’re no better than they were. All of us have got to repent – that’s the only way that we won’t perish.”
    you have to figure that a God that would punish Jesus in our place wouldn’t miss a drop of that blood or do so incompletely so that we would have to pay something or other that was missed.
    No, God doesn’t test us or punish us. Bad things do happen – that’s just life.
    Some people say that God’s so sovereign he decides what pattern the dust swirling in a shaft of light dance to, but that would imply that God decided to kill puppy dogs and permits a bad guy to do bad things to their young victims. It’s a hard theology to accept and many don’t agree with it because it’s not in keeping with the nature of a God of love, the God of compassion who mourns with those who mourn and who comforts the afflicted.

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    1. As the song says, “the wrath of God was satisfied”. There is no need to punish us. God’s wrath was 100% satisfied on the cross. His love was so vast, and so deep, and so scandalous that He sent Christ to take our place. That is the Gospel. And we should understand it. Because it is that very message that saves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are absolutely right. Discipline and punishment are two very different things, even though we often confuse the two. Like the perfect Father He is, God teaches and instructs us to help us become all that He desires us to be. All that we can be, by His grace. And that means letting us pursue our own path if we so choose, including sometimes facing the consequences for those choices. We can often be so hard – hearted and stubborn that it’s the only way we learn. But, just as often, God protects us from our own stupidity and ignorance.

    But the loss of a beloved pet and similar tragedies are not a part of that equation. Unless we are putting that pet above God, it has nothing to do with Him. We have an enemy who still has a great deal of power in this world… largely because we let him. And death is still the natural course of life. But our adversary is always looking for ways to hurt us and pin the blame on God. And we let Him.

    Bad things happen. That’s the way things work when sin abounds. But God promises that he will work even those bad things to accomplish good. The trick is, we have to let him. But, most of the time, we end up pushing away His hand when we need Him the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wise words! One additional point, I also believe in natural consequences. Sometimes, we face the consequences of our own sin. I mean just to give a simple example: if you constantly gossip, people may distance themselves from you. It’s not God “punishing you” I believe it’s sin taking it’s natural toll

      Liked by 1 person

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