Spanking & Discipline: Proverbs 22:15

Proverbs 22:15 (CSB) Foolishness is bound to the heart of a youth; a rod of discipline will separate it from him.

This kind of discipline is counter-intuitive to human nature, and I think most parents naturally detest the idea of spanking their beloved child – indeed I think we should not naturally like to discipline our children – but there is a reason why parents must discipline their children.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vol. 1, p. 85):

Foolishness”:  אִוֶֶּלֶת– ˒iwwelet –  “foolishness; stupidity.” It can mean “foolishness” in the sense of violating God’s law, or “sin” (Ps. 38:5), and it can describe the activities and life-style of the man who ignores the instructions of wisdom (Prov. 5:23).

The kind of “foolishness” being spoken of in this proverb is the tendency to violate God’s law and ignore the instruction of wisdom that takes root in our hearts from our youth.  Sin takes both spiritually and physiologically root in our beings and shapes who we are to the very core.  But the correction of discipline is the Lord’s instrument that separates this folly from the heart of a youth.

Unfortunately, in our generation, we have mothers who refuse to allow their children to be spanked, and we have fathers who do not wage war against the sin that seeks to hold their children captive to hell.

The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a study that I think tells a lot about our society and the way we see the world.  They say, “parents should not spank their children, [due to] the harmful effects of corporal punishment in the home.”  According to their findings, corporal punishment is to blame for making children violent, rebellious, anti-social, and for causing lower IQ’s.

In our culture we never seem to want to consider whether or not an individual’s lifestyle bears any responsibility for their actions.  Is it possible that children are violent because of the incredibly violent video games they play?  Are children defiant because of the examples they see in movies, TV shows, and their everyday social experiences?  Are children becoming anti-social because they’re spending more time in front of screens and less time in front of people?  And are children’s IQ’s suffering because they’re spending more time at an earlier age playing rather than doing things that develop their brains?  Our culture says “Absolutely not!  All of this is because of spanking”.

But the Bible says “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6:7-8).  We know that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).  When children exercise their senses towards violence, rebellion, and foolishness, they become violent, defiant, and foolish; if they are not taught how to walk in the light of Christ, they will walk in the darkness of this world.

Wisdom commands us not to withhold discipline from children:

Proverbs 23:14-15 (CSB) Don’t withhold discipline from a youth; if you punish him with a rod, he will not die. 14 Punish him with a rod, and you will rescue his life from Sheol.

There have been many times when my flesh did not want to spank my daughter, but I heard the voice of the Spirit whisper, “Don’t withhold discipline from a youth”; even when I am tired and don’t want to deal with my child’s behavior, the Lord says “Punish and you will rescue their life from Sheol”.

What does God say about parents who do not spank their children?

Proverbs 13:24 (CSB) The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.

These are powerful words for parents to consider in a generation that condemns corporal punishment at the highest levels.

Do we love our children or the approval of our peers more? 

Do we believe the wisdom of God or the wisdom of the world? 

Will we entrust our children to God’s way or the world’s way? 

For the parents who have sanctified Christ as Lord over their heart and are determined to follow his way, Scripture provides instruction to us about how we should discipline our children:

Colossians 3:21 (CSB) Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:4 (CSB) Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Parents – especially fathers – must discipline their children using discernment so that they do not work up their children’s anger or discourage them and break their spirit.

The discipline parents exercise towards their children is purposed to bring them up in the training and instructure of the Lord, whatever doesn’t accomplish this goal is unbiblical and should not be used by parents.

Let us consider our heavenly Father’s example:

Hebrews 12:7–11 (CSB) Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but he does it for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Children have to learn how to endure discipline in the trust that their parents are working to shape them into better people just as Christians have to learn how to endure the Lord’s discipline in the trust that he is disciplining us for our benefit so that we can share in his holiness.

In a society that is obsessed with pleasure, we have to understand that discipline is not enjoyable at the time, but it produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness in those who have been trained by it.

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