Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

carrot or stick



In considering human motivation we recognize the two classical approaches- the so called carrot and stick. Those who know Christian theology can identify with both.


In beginning the story of God and the Bible, the church message usually presents the carrot first, the introduction of God's great love and mercy. In fact, many times the so called Gospel message does not explicitly identify the associated stick, namely eternal punsihment. The fact that people within our cultural setting have been long indoctrinated by church theology means that most preachers can simply assume that everyone knows the consequences of rejecting the church's message about God.


Despite the absence of direct reference to Hell in the average sermon, it still hovers over all of Christianity as the ultimate "big stick of God". The carrot is great and all, but the real deal is the stick. This remains true regardless of whether Hell is directly taught or not, as long eternal torment is not explicitly refuted.


Those who study human psychology and behavior know that the stick motivates, but not in a lasting, positive way. If one wants to instill an attitude which becomes self directing in terms of human behavior, only the carrot works. However, self direction cannot exist under the continuing threat of a stick. Does God desire cringing automatons or self directed free moral agents; that is the question.


I think the answer to this is clear. That being the case, why does the church cling to their story of the big stick? I think the answer to the second question should also be clear.