Why Be Good If There’s No Punishment For Bad?
Question: People say that there is no reason for people not to do bad things, if not for hell fire and damnation; they say they’ll be bad if there is no punishment. What’s your reply?
Response: I say, “But there is a punishment.” Every loving parent punishes their child if they think that child needs it—it’s just that they always do it with a purpose, and no good parent is interested in endlessly torturing their own child. So Hades/Sheol is real (It’s outer darkness—like being grounded). Gehenna is also very real (It’s like facing your Father after He finds out that you stole something from the drugstore—this could hurt!). But even more, sin is its own punishment. Lack of trust is its own punishment. Sin is choosing loneliness and the outer darkness long before anyone sends you to such a place.
Perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY: If a person is only being good to avoid punishment, they’re NOT being good, but only using the Good to get something that’s not good, and that’s the very definition of bad.
Just asking the question, “Why should I be good, if not for fear of punishment?” reveals that a person hates the Good, is using the Good for the bad, and in fact—sorry to be so graphic, but it’s biblical—is raping the Good and crucifying the Good . . . for the Good is not simply a concept, the Good is a person.
Jesus says, “God alone is good.” And Jesus is God in human flesh. He is the Good in flesh. Whenever we sin, we use the Good for our own reasons. And, in this way, we rape the Good, crucify the Good, and then ask, “Why be good?” A person who thinks like this NEEDS to be punished for their own good, for they’re already enslaved to the bad. They need to be punished, such that they’d come to the end of themselves and surrender to the Good, and become a vessel of the Good, what Paul called “a vessel of Mercy.”
If a person asks, “Why should I be good if not for fear of punishment?” They desperately need to spend some time at the foot of the cross. This is the punishment, judgment, redemption, and sanctification that they need. At the cross I come face to face with my “bad,” for I see that I have—time and time again—crucified “the Good.” At the cross, I come to know the bad, and at the cross, I receive the Good.
Although I take the life of the Good (that’s sin), God has forgiven the life of the Good (that’s Grace). At the cross, I fall in love with “The Good,” who is my friend, husband, and Lord. And then I bear fruit that is Good. The Bride of Christ gives birth to the Good.
If someone asks, “Why be good?” it shows that they haven’t spent much time at the foot of the cross.
Hope that helps!