Some time ago on the WND forums, I saw a comment that read exactly as follows: “A good and just god does not punish.”
Needless to say the person who wrote this was an avowed atheist (notice the small “g” in “god”) trying to justify his unbelief by implying that a celestial being would never stoop so low as to punish anyone, no matter what. This, in his mind, is what goodness and justice is all about – a lack of punishment.
So let’s do something. Let’s substitute “father” for “god” and see where it takes us. So now the statement reads, “A good and just father does not punish.”
If a father has established guidelines that the child violates, what happens if the “good and just” father doesn’t punish his child for disobeying? The child realizes that the rule won’t be enforced, and he’ll be emboldened to break another rule. And another. And another. The child will come to view his father as weak, useless and emasculated.
It’s all downhill from there. The child will grow cocky and disrespectful and will flout all parental authority. He will come to believe that he can behave however he wants while still under his father’s roof, yet his father must still provide him with the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, medicine, etc.).
We see this time and time again when a parent refuses to punish his children for misbehavior. Though the father is forced by law to support his kid, the child grows into a monstrously ungrateful brat.
And often, when the father reaches the end of his rope and finally doles out punishment, the kid whines to Child Protective Services, who then informs the father that if he ever lays a hand on Junior again, he’ll go to jail. Now think what happens to Junior’s attitude.
Now let’s go back and reexamine this scenario again, only with a father who does punish his child.
From an exceptionally young age – certainly by one year – children begin to understand rules and can start to control their behavior. I clearly remember my husband reprimanding our 18-month-old daughter from climbing on a friend’s bookshelf, and she obeyed him.
Adherence to Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”) can save both father and child a world of hurt. A good and just father wants what is best for his children, and in his wisdom he knows that a kid has to obey the rules of the house and the rules of the parents to learn discipline and self-control. Punishment doesn’t necessarily mean a spank on the bottom. It can also mean withholding parental blessings (use of the family car, electronics, etc.).
This learning is essential for adulthood, when the now-grown child is launched into the world. There are rules in the world, as well – and adults must obey those if they want to lead a productive life. If an adult willfully refuses to obey the rules of society, he will be – wait for it – punished.
Without obedient children, a home becomes a place of anarchy and chaos. It may seem counterintuitive to some people to realize that children want and need boundaries. Children thrive in a home with loving structure and strict parameters, enforced by a good and just father. Fathers who don’t punish their children for transgressions raise horrible brats, who are eventually released into society, where they wreak havoc.
Boundaries for children are good. Boundaries are needed. Punishment for flaunting those boundaries is necessary to teach children how to be competent, mature and responsible. Boundaries are equally important for adults. It is adult rules and regulations that define civilized behavior.
So why should it be any different for God and His children?
The ground rules originally laid down for the Israelites set those people apart and elevated their behavior to reflect high standards for the times. Jesus strengthened and fulfilled the boundaries set up by God and guided people toward a remarkably civilized way of thinking and behaving. In obedience to his Father’s will, Jesus then became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and showed us what was needed to reach God.
Right now in modern America, we are witnessing what happens when people flout the rules God set up. We are acting like rebellious children who think rules are unnecessary and stifling. We are free to mock, sneer and taunt the Almighty, yet we still feel entitled to receive His blessings.
No longer do we thank God for His bounty. Instead, we take it for granted. No longer do we work hard, live frugally and save up to acquire things. Now we go into debt or steal or expect others to provide for us.
Someone who claims that “a good and just god does not punish” simply doesn’t want to believe in a God who justly restrains His children in any manner. He just wants a god who lets him do whatever the heck he pleases. Anything goes. There are no consequences. There is no punishment.
We’ve seen how well this works in raising children. How much larger are the implications for all of mankind?
It is because God is good and just that He gives us rules to live by. Adults need boundaries just as children do. And punishment from God doesn’t necessarily mean a lightning bolt from on high. It can also mean withholding godly blessings. God wants what is best for us. He doesn’t want us wallowing in poor choices, sinful ways and bratty behavior. If we live by the “anything goes” rule, how long can our culture sustain itself? (Stand by for a few more years and you may get your answer.)
Mankind is “being trained up” under the tutelage of God. We are imperfect and always striving. It’s a sad person who never outgrows childhood and stays in perpetual self-indulgent juvenile limbo, unable to reason or think logically. God is pleased with mature, self-controlled adults who are humble enough to realize the rules will always apply to them. We ignore these rules at our peril.
I, for one, am very glad to have a good and just God who metes out punishment when necessary. And thanks to the sacrifice of His Son, which we celebrate this weekend, we can be glad for a chance to redeem ourselves as well.