Foolish use of our time will result in being punished. Wise use of our time will result in being rewarded. Being punished and rewarded can be thought of in two time frames. In the short term, they are part of a learning process. They are guides to help us know how to make the right decisions. In the long term, they are part of God's plan for keeping His promises. God promises that certain actions will lead to certain consequences.

God is fair. The same rules that govern eternity govern our everyday lives. But after this life, there are no second chances. When we die, we can't complain, "But nobody told me!" Of course God told us. He gave us a long learning process: life. But some people choose not to listen. (Romans 1:19-20, 2:15)

Which more effectively motivates people to be obedient to God? A threat of punishment for incorrect behavior or the promise of reward for correct behavior? The threat of hell's fire or the promise of God's love?

The Bible has many examples of people being punished for disobedience. But God has usually given them several warnings, or chances, before the punishment. The Bible also has many examples of people being rewarded for obedience to God's will. But people don't seem to be quite good enough to have earned the rewards they received. God is very generous, even extravagant, in His love for us.

Should churches use fire-and-brimstone tactics to scare people into obedience? Does love make a more effective witnessing tool? I really don't know. But the Bible used BOTH strategies, so maybe we should, too. We need to study the Bible more. We need to search for clues for when to discipline and when to love, and in what measure.

We can learn much from God's example. We should not be tolerant of people's willful disobedience of God's will. But we should try to be more patient and less judgmental of people's shortcomings. When possible, we should try to help each other to recognize and understand God's will in each other's lives.

Return to list of articles.