2 Disparate Manifestations of God's Love for Us

You can't have one without the other.

Juliane Liebermann

You've probably heard the adage, "God is love," culled both from experience of those with deep relationships with him and from popular Scripture passages such as, "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

The saying is true.

God is the essence the lovea perfect, unconditional, and consuming love. Yet the effects of this quality manifest themselves in diverse ways. This is to be expected since God's love is deep and consuming; it touches all aspects of our lives. Sometimes the implications of this quality are confusing because of our shallow and shortsighted understanding of the term.

Proverbs 3:9-12 highlights two very different ways God shows his love to us:

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

These stanzas are disparate, and seem to be non sequiturrandom thoughts of an ADD-afflicted author.

Maybe such is the case. 

Perhaps verses 9 and 10, which describe God's blessings, is a separate thought from verses 11 and 12, which detail God's discipline.

But what if their pairing is deliberate and purposeful? If so, these two stanzas provide an interesting contrast of the disparate but unified way God demonstrates his love to us.


In the first, Solomon promises full barns and vats overflowing with wine to those who honor God with "wealth and with the firstfruits of all [their] produce" (Pro. 3:9). God loves to bless his children who are faithful and generous with their money.

We should note a couple things about these verses. First, the word "produce" implies work. In order to produce anything, we must work. Whether that's plowing the fields and sowing seeds, teaching school, or sitting at a computer, work is an assumed variable in this equation. Then from our yields we must devote the "firstfruits" to God.

Second, this is one of those passages that people love to pluck and caress without considering it within the greater context of the Scripture as a whole. Yes, these words are true, but the manifestation of full barns and overflowing vats doesn't always come in the way we expect or at the time we expect it. This isn't a promise of mansions or seven-figure bank accounts. Could it happen? Absolutely, but not necessarily. God knows what's best for each of us, and we must trust in his benevolence.


The second stanza then is more difficult to swallow, but no less representative of God's love for us. "Do not despise the Lord's discipline," Solomon instructs us, "for the Lord reproves him whom he loves." Why does God discipline us? The short answer is because he cares about us. When we sin or need to grow in some manner he uses discipline to guide and correct us rather than let us remain in error.

How does he discipline us? One way is through the natural consequences of sin. If you do stupid things, stupid will follow you home. If you cheat on your taxes, don't be surprised when you receive notice you will be audited. And even if you get away with your misdeeds, God has instilled a conscience in humans that intuits basic right from wrong.[1] The Holy Spirit works with the conscience to convict our hearts of wrongdoing.

God can use any trial or test to discipline his children—things like natural disasters, illnesses, and other tragedies. But don't be quick to ascribe said disasters to God. God is not the source of evil. That would be antithetical to his nature. Rather, these things occur as the result of a sin-corrupted world. Nevertheless, God harnesses these ills and uses them for his purposes, to bring about good for his children. As Romans 8:28 reads, "all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Therefore we must trust, once again, in the benevolence of our creator even when life isn't going as planned.

We must also be careful not to equate discipline with punishment. Discipline is about loving correction (even though it's still uncomfortable at the time). Punishment is penalty for an offense. Of course, God will punish wrongdoing sooner or later, but in general he's reserving his wrath so that the maximum amount of people might turn to him.[2]

Both these aspects point to a loving father. One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas because I enjoy giving gifts to my children. Yet I also discipline them in order to correct and guide them in the way they should go. I do both of these things because I love them.

You can't have one without the other.

Imagine parents who only gave their children gifts but never disciplined them. What spoiled brats they would become! (link). Or imagine parents who only discipline, but never take their children out for ice cream or throw them a birthday party. That doesn't seem right either, does it?

God is the perfect embodiment of love. Therefore his children must trust that whether their vats are bursting or they're enduring trials that he knows what's best.

One of the best ways to grow in your faith is to establish or strengthen a habit of quiet time with God. Spending time with someone is the best way to cultivate a relationship, and that axiom applies to our relationship with God too.

If you've ever struggled with consistency in your prayer life or just want to enhance your quiet time, you might be interested in my free guide called, How to Establish a Habit of Daily Quiet Time with God. You'll learn the steps I took to build a strong habit in my life that has lasted well over a decade. When once I struggled with consistency, now my time with God is automatic.

If you're interested, you can get your own copy for free. Just enter your email address below, and I'll send it your way:

1. See Romans 2:15.
2. See 2 Peter 3:9.

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