Let’s look at the word. Take off the last too letters, parse the word and you get punish me. Therefore, punishment is something we earn through our action or inaction. Often times I act before I realize I’m asking for punishment. Sometimes I try to soften punishment by calling it consequence.
Putting the word consequence in the same category as the word punishment is a disservice. Consequence is very different than punishment. Punishment always has an element of pain or negativity. Webster defines punishment as:
1 : the act of punishing, 2 a : suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution, b : a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure, or 3: severe, rough, or disastrous treatment
Consequence, is something that happens resulting from an action or set of conditions. It can be positive, negative or neutral. Negative actions or behavior earn negative consequences which could be punishment. On the other hand, positive actions or behavior earn positive consequences.
As a Christian I believe that there are consequences and punishment. Some are in this life and others in the afterlife.
The Bible teaches we reap what we sow. According to Job 4:8 “Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” I will have a consequence of some sort for my actions as I live my life. Some positive and some negative. Some might even result in a punishment.
For example, if I speak in a nasty tone to my husband his response is likely to be negative resulting in a difficult situation. I have reaped a consequence of my speech and probably have to ask him for forgiveness to repair our relationship. In contrast, I will reap a punishment if I am speeding and get into an accident. At a minimum I will get a ticket and have to pay a fine. There is also the possibility of criminal charges and punishment if my actions hurt or kill someone.
Galatians 6:7 teaches, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
What does this mean? The Job passage is actually pretty simple. If I plant what is evil and unfair in my heart, my relationships, or my private actions…somewhere along the way I will receive what is evil or unfair. If I go around causing trouble, eventually I will receive trouble.
You might be thinking, I know many mean people who seem to benefit from every negative and mean thing they do. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Those of us who go about our lives with integrity and honesty get shorted.
I am comforted that this won’t be the case forever. Galatians explains God will not be treated with contempt. He is the very essence of fairness. In Him there can be no deceit or negativity. There will be consequences for those who mock God, a punishment. There will also be a consequence for those who respect God, rewards.
How do I reap the rewards, I believe Jesus paid the penalty for my sin. What is sin? Matthew 22:37-40 defines sin beautifully and simply. “Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”” http://bible.com/114/mat.22.37-40.nkjv
When I don’t love God perfectly, as Christ describes, I sin. When I don’t love other people as I love myself, I sin. For sin, the penalty is death. My sin results in a consequence of punishment. Death not just of this body, but eternal condemnation. God doesn’t delineate a small sin from a big one. To Him, sin is simply that.
My God is amazing, He made provision for me to be reconciled to Him. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17 NKJV. As a consequence of my belief that Christ paid the penalty for my sin through his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection I am reconciled and will live eternally with Jesus.