(Post 3 of a series of 4)
This will be post #3 in my series on parenting, and this one will answer the question of what the Bible teaches about spanking. Before we look at any scripture, though, I want to say a quick word about child abuse. Sadly, child abuse does occur. And, unfortunately, many people label any form of spanking as child abuse. But I want you to give me credit for not advocating fanatic extremism. When I talk about spanking a child, I’m not talking about breaking a child’s arm, blacking a child’s eye, or bloodying a child’s nose. Instead, I’m talking about spanking in a sane, sensible way, one that makes use of that part of the anatomy that has extra flesh and padding. (Surely it can’t be mere coincidence that God built us all with some extra padding back there.) Anyone with an ounce of common sense and Biblical sense knows that there are limits to how far a parent can go when spanking a child. My point with this post is simply that going to the other extreme and not spanking is also wrong. Putting a ban on spanking might satisfy the politically correct, but it will never satisfy God.
Alright, now let’s look at some scripture. We’ll begin with Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
Obviously, this verse flies directly in the face of the attitude that says, “If you really love your child, you will not spank that child.” God says, “That’s the exact opposite of the truth.” He says, “If you really love your child, you will spank that child.” The term I like is “tough love.” Real love can’t always be mush and gush. Real love must sometimes involve using the rod for the purpose of discipline.
The fact is that God, as each Christian’s heavenly father, simply demands that earthly parents follow the example that He sets in dealing with His children. I say this because Hebrews 12:5-10 tells us in no uncertain terms that God disciplines (chastens, whips) Christians when their unholy behavior demands it. That passage actually goes so far as to say that if God doesn’t chasten a person, that person isn’t a true child of God (a true Christian).
Listen, parents, you aren’t more loving than God! God loves each Christian far more than any earthly parent loves any earthly child, and yet He still disciplines each Christian. You see, He doesn’t ask any parent to do something that He Himself isn’t willing to do. God knows that children must be disciplined (chastened, spanked). He loves His children too much not to spank them when they need it, and He asks each parent to follow His example.
Now let’s look at Proverbs 19:18: “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.”
The scary part of this verse is that phrase “while there is hope.” The teaching is that a parent only has a limited window of time in which to break a child of its stubborn, destructive self-will. Parent, if you wait until the teenage years to start your chastening, you will be too late. You’ve got to do your chastening while your child is still developing those traits and habits that will carry that child through life. Never forget that those traits and habits will go a long way in determining what kind of a life the child will have.
Think about cement. When cement is first mixed and poured, you can put your handprint or your footprint into it. You can even write your name in it. But you can’t do any of that once that cement becomes hardened and settled.
In the same way, the parent who wants to leave an indelible impression upon a child must make that impression while the child is young. Once that child reaches a certain age, the impression won’t take. You can’t do much with a sixteen-year-old smart aleck. You can’t build the proper values and the right kind of character into an eighteen-year-old know-it-all. That’s why we’ve got to mold and shape our children while they are still young. We’ve got to chasten them while there is hope.
Next, let’s look at Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.”
Parents, we’ve got to get away from this idea that children are naturally innocent. Each child comes out bearing the mark of Adam’s fall from righteousness. Maternity wards are filled with little sinners, and don’t you ever forget that. A newborn has daddy’s eyes, mommy’s nose, and Adam’s nature of sin.
Because of that nature of sin, each child is eaten up with foolishness. Children do things they shouldn’t do, foolish things. They run out in front of traffic. They try to climb trees. They throw temper tantrums in the middle of stores. They do the very things they are told not to do.
How do we get this foolishness out of them? Will begging do it? No. Will bargaining do it? No. Will reasoning do it? No. The Bible says that what will do it is the rod of correction.
I’m not against lecturing, revoking privileges, grounding, or putting a child in “time out.” Each of these brands of discipline has its place in the raising of a child. Furthermore, I don’t believe that spanking is always the best way of handling a situation. But let me be clear: I don’t read anything in the Bible about lecturing, revoking privileges, grounding, or using “time out.” I do, however, read a lot about spanking.
Parenting should work in the following way. First, parents should lay the foundation of spanking in a child’s life. Then, once the child has been spanked and knows that spanking is a very real disciplinary option, the parents can build a diverse system of discipline upon that firm foundation of spanking. That diverse system can include things such as lecturing, revoking privileges, grounding, or using “time out.”
But the great mistake so many parents make is they start trying to build the diverse system of discipline without ever laying the foundation for the building. They go straight to the other forms of discipline without first putting down the foundation of “the rod of correction.” So, yes, there will be exceptions to the rule of spanking, but let’s make sure that we don’t throw out the rule and just go with the exceptions. In God’s plan, the rod of correction, used rightly, is to be the initial, foundational means of disciplining in a child’s life.
Now let’s look at Proverbs 23:13-14: “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”
These verses take a little explaining. Let me start by saying that the Hebrew word that is translated here as “hell” is Sheol. There is a lot that I could say about this place called Sheol, but for now let me just say that in Old Testament days people thought of Sheol as the realm of the dead.
In other words, when anybody died that person’s soul went to Sheol. One section of Sheol held the souls of the saved. That section was one of bliss and comfort. The other section held the souls of the unsaved. That section was one of suffering and torment. The New Testament’s Greek word for this place is Hades. The Old Testament’s Sheol and the New Testament’s Hades are the same place.
So, when an Old Testament person says something about going to Sheol, he’s most likely talking in a very general way about dying. He’s simply saying, “I’m going to die.”
And so the teaching of Proverbs 23:13-14 is not that spanking automatically leads to a child’s salvation. The teaching is that, as a basic rule, children who are spanked correctly tend to grow up and live longer lives than children who are never spanked. When a parent refuses to spank a child and break that child of its inborn rebelliousness, that little rebel grows up to become a big rebel, and big rebels tend to live sin-shortened lives.
Big rebels rob banks and get killed in shootouts. Big rebels commit murder and are put to death in gas chambers. Big rebels become alcoholics whose livers and hearts become ravaged with the adverse effects of alcoholism. Big rebels become smokers whose lungs become blackened and damaged. Big rebels become drug addicts whose days are shortened by harming their bodies through drugs. Big rebels become sexually promiscuous and fall victim to sexually transmitted diseases. In all these examples and others we could mention, we see that unbroken rebels stand a very good chance of somehow shortening their days through some kind of sin.
Now let’s move to Proverbs 29:15,17. First look at verse 15: “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” And then comes verse 17: “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.”
Here again we have a contrast presented. A child who is left to himself (who is not spanked when he or she needs it) brings his mother to shame, but a child who is corrected (who is spanked when he or she needs it) gives delight unto a parent’s soul. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but something very important happens when a parent either spanks or refuses to spank. What happens is: One of two categories of “seed” is planted in the child’s life, seed that will produce a harvest the parent will one day have to reap. Rebels tend to make their parents’ last years troubled ones, years filled with regret. Why? It’s because those parents planted the wrong type of “seed” by refusing to spank. On the other hand, obedient children tend to make their parents’ last years good ones, years filled with peace. Why? It’s because those parents planted the right type of “seed” by spanking.
So, to sum all this up, many parents today just don’t realize that a deadly disease is coursing through the veins of their children. That disease is sin. Its symptoms are: disobedience, stubbornness, selfishness, temper-tantrums, back-talking, and rebelliousness. The only true cure for this disease is for the child to put saving belief in Jesus Christ. But until a child is old enough to make a legitimate, soul-saving decision to believe in Christ as Savior, the primary cure for the symptoms of the disease of sin is discipline. And, according to the Bible, the basic foundation for disciple should be spanking.
There was a time in this country when spanking was looked upon as a perfectly acceptable means of discipline, but now much of public opinion has changed. God hasn’t changed, though, and neither has His written word. He spanks His children (Christians) when they get out of line, and He expects earthly parents to do the same with their children.