Does God ever punish us because we deserve it?

If it’s true that God punishes us because we deserve it, then the same principle must apply to parents punishing their children.

That being the case, what should a parent do if his (or her) child breaks a window after being told in no uncertain terms not to bounce a ball off the wall of the house? The child has disobeyed resulting in a cost to repair the window, time spent finding someone to repair it, the mess of broken glass having to be cleaned up, possible injury to someone inside the house from flying glass that has to be attended to immediately, and the fright it gave everyone when the window suddenly smashed. If the parents were also stressed out at the time, and had other pressing needs to attend to, it probably resulted in anger on the parents’ part, expressed in loud yelling, name-calling, reminders of past acts of brainless stupidity, tears of frustration on Mother’s part that her child never listens to her, and growlings from Dad about the need for punishment to wake the kid up to what he’s done.

It’s not a pleasant scene but is it a necessary one for children to learn to obey? The child surely deserves some sort of telling off for his flagrant disobedience, and for not respecting his parents’ wishes or their wisdom. But there’s a huge risk attached, because the child could get the impression he’s not loved whenever he does something wrong. His father’s flushed face and his mother’s wailing, followed by isolation of the offending boy in his room with no supper that night, could easily be interpreted by the child as intense dislike for him personally, and that he deserves to be intensely disliked. And what havoc is that causing in the child’s head, that he’ll never quite deal with for the rest of his life?

It’s risky, then, giving a child the impression that he’s being punished because he deserves it. But what if the parent punishes the child for the same reason God punishes us? God punishes to protect us. He either creates consequences, or lets natural penalties take their course, to put us to rights, not to penalize us for our wrongs. In Acts 17:31 it says there’s a day coming “when the entire human race will be judged,” which some interpret as including deserved punishment in hell forever, but the verse finishes with, “and everything set right” (The Message).

That’s God’s goal, to put everything to rights. So that’s his purpose for punishment. It’s corrective for our good, never because we deserve it.

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