What does the Bible teach about punishing yourself?

What does the Bible teach about punishing yourself - Askbible.org

Let’s start off by saying that punishing yourself can be be a form of self-harm, or it may be a way of inflicting some physical or non physical pain on yourself as a punishment for some wrong-doing. Let’s consider these two cases separately.

Self-harm vs. Self-Punishment

Self-harming

Although the Bible does not mention this particular phrase, we know that those who are born again believers bear responsibility before God for how they treat their own bodies. The Bible teaches that our bodies are the temple of God. God paid a high price for us and the Holy Spirit lives in us. Therefore we have to glorify God not only with our spirit but with our bodies too.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Cor 6:19-20

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

1 Cor 3:16-17

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was specifically addressing the issue of fornication. But he also laid down the principle of recognizing and respecting our bodies as the temple of God. Therefore we are not to harm or defile our bodies, because after salvation we no longer represent ourselves but Christ who lives in us. Even our speech and appearance should give glory to Him and not disgrace Him.

Self-punishment: Inflicting pain or suffering on yourself as a punishment

Some world philosophies teach self-inflicted harm as a way of punishing yourself for some wrongdoing or to redeem yourself. It is not hard to see why this teaching is so wildly popular. Every time we do something wrong, we feel guilty about it. Punishing ourselves for it or amending the wrongdoing or doing some good to cover up this sin makes us feel better and seemingly redeems us from the sin. But that is a false assumption and by doing so people just deceive themselves. The Bible does not teach punishing oneself for sins committed. The only consequence and punishment for sin is death:

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

There is no way of avoiding it – all of us have sinned and are worthy of death in hell. Even if you spend all our life crawling on your knees or meditating in a monastery you cannot erase even a single sin from your soul. Because God is Holy and perfect, He cannot allow any (not even one) sin to enter His presence or go unpunished.

That’s why He has sent His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ to pay for the punishment of all past present and future sins of mankind – by dying on the cross. Only the blood of Christ and not our good deeds or attempts to redeem ourselves can wash us and remove our sins from us. Only by repenting for our sins and believing in Him and His sacrifice are we forgiven and accepted into His family (read more on this in the gospel).

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

We have done nothing and can do nothing to save ourselves from sin. It has all been done by Him. Therefore the way to deal with your sins is the path of repentance and not the foolish path of harming yourself.

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Other possible examples of physical afflictions in the Bible

In the Old Testament, we see the practice of people wearing sack-clothes and putting ashes on their heads. Fasting and wearing sack-clothes (instead of beautiful garments) was a traditional way of mourning and/or repentance before the Lord. It showed that people were humbling themselves before God, and its important to understand that this was not a case of self-torture.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians talks about bringing his body into subjection:

26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

1 Cor 9:26-27

Again, he is not talking about physically harming his body, but just emphasizing the fact that as a Christian, he should not give in into desires of the flesh, but live according to the spirit. Because our sinful nature will always desire to do what’s opposite to God’s holy nature:

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Gal 5:17

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught about keeping oneself pure and not giving into lust:

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Mat 5:29-30

Again, He did not mean the literal dismembering of our bodies, otherwise we would all be limbless and blind today. Jesus was teaching that our sin starts within our hearts. Our heart is the source of evil and not the members of our body. So we should bring the passions of the heart under the control of the Spirit of God. A very simple application of those verses could be for a man who has weakness for alcohol keep himself away from bars or companies where he can easily access it, or anyone who cannot resist pornography to avoid unsafe sites where those kind of things just pop up on the screen or restrain himself from freely surfing the net.

We hope this answer has helped you in your walk with God. If so, let us know by leaving a comment below!

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