Spare the rod spoil the child
A proverbial compilation
Who remembers the XFL? Anyone…anyone…Well, that’s understandable as it lasted only a single year. It was notable, in relation to this post, for one element.
The XFL allowed players to put any name, word, or phrase they wanted on the back of their jerseys. Thus, it came as no surprise when one player, Rod Smart, chose to have the phrase “He Hate Me” stitched onto the back of his jersey.
According to Rod, the phrase was a reminder that the players opposing him, hated him, if only during the game. It was a motivator and a conversation starter. Rod, like the rest of the XFL is now a memory, but the legend of the name remains.
That phrase, “he hate me”, may not have been accurate, but it brings me to the purpose of this post. Or, more accurately, the dual purposes of this post.
The first is to dispel the myth that the phrase “Spare the rod, spoil the child” can be found in the Bible. It cannot. It is a thought gleaned from other scriptures in Proverbs. So, it is a ‘compilation’ saying rather than actual scripture.
The second purpose of this post, the main purpose, is to discuss discipline and how its lack is both prevalent in America today and dangerous. Namely, does a parent really hate their child if they don’t administer punishment?
Let’s look at Proverbs and the verses that discuss the wisdom of discipline.
Proverbs 10:13, 13:24, 23:13 and 29:15 are a road map to the necessity of discipline. These verses lay out both the need and the means. Why discipline is needed comes first, then the means of discipline.
Your child is precious, precocious and utterly evil. He or she is the precious gift of God that is to be nurtured and raised to a right standing with God. The child is precocious in that he or she needs to understand the great, surrounding world. This leads to exploration that while both completely innocent and childlike, sometimes causes problems. Precociousness may require gentle correction at times. How is your child completely evil? We are all children of Adam. From conception, we are all children of Adam with a heart for disobedience. Thus, the need for correction.
So the need for discipline is clear. To get a better biblical understanding of the subject, let’s look at the above mentioned Proverbs in order:
- 10:13 – In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found; but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding: The words understanding and wisdom derive, essentially, from the same Hebrew noun: hokmah. Hokmah is the “knowledge and ability to make the right choices at an opportune time.” Not acknowledging the ‘opportune time’ to make wise choices is the problem discussed here. The rod of correction advises the person without understanding what that opportune time is.
- 13:24 – He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chaseneth him betimes: Does it seem like a good idea to let junior do whatever he wants? You hate him. What about those times when it is just more convenient to let it go than to exact needed discipline? You hate him. But, what if it’s just a small amount of disobedience? A testing of the boundaries. That would be okay, right? You hate him.
The Bible is clear in this instance and it all goes back to the original sin: pride. People are selfish by nature and would rather choose the easy path than the difficult. Proper discipline is both emotionally depressing and physically trying, but it is best for the child’s future happiness and leads him along the path of righteousness.
Is it hard? Yes. But if you love your child, you will think of that child’s future rather than your momentary comfort or discomfort. Withholding disciplining is not love, it’s hate.
- 23:13 – Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die: Does this mean that child abuse is okay as long as it doesn’t lead to death? Of course not. Some people equate the word ‘beat’ with abuse. This scripture is not telling parents to abuse their children.
As a matter of fact, Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Discipline is not supposed to be abusive according to scripture. Discipline is supposed to be loving and nurturing. Whipping a child for discipline’s sake does not bring about death (no matter how much the child yells), but, the Bible admonishes, be nurturing rather than angry when you discipline.
The phrase ‘he shall not die’ also means that an undisciplined person is headed for destruction. God is always more concerned with spiritual death than physical. He won’t die if you discipline in love and teach him what it means to follow God.
- 29:15 – The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame: It may seem emotionally easier to allow a child to do what he wants. However, what happens when you take that undisciplined child out in public?
I was at a Bible study recently during which a child was acting in an undisciplined manner. He was talking loudly while people were praying, playing a video game with the sound turned up during the study (despite gentle admonition from his mother) and loudly announcing the time when he got bored. Rather than disciplining him, the embarrassed mother meekly allowed him to disrupt the study. He bought his mother to shame with his actions.
But what happens as he grows older? Will he accept the authority of other people or will he continue to bring his mother shame?
Proverbs also says, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (19:18). Again, this has nothing to do with abuse. It does have to do with being too softhearted when discipline is needed.
The overarching point of this post is not that if you do not correct your child, you are setting them up for a troubled life. The point is that people are often weak when it comes to responsibility. It is a parent’s God-given responsibility to discipline.
If you don’t think so, examine how our Father reacts to disobedience. God mirrors the intent of correction in the lives of those whom He has chosen. Discipline is meted out to adults in the Christian sphere just as much as it is to children. The Bible says, “For whom the Lord loveth He chaseneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6) Praise God I feel the rod of correction when I am in need! He loves me enough to bring me back to Himself.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, ”Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous (for the child and the parent): nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (12:11). A disciplined soul, corrected by the Father, is being guided in holiness. You want to be in a right relationship with God? Desire correction when you have sinned…and repent.
Finally, don’t be a hater. Love your children enough to discipline them. That doesn’t necessarily mean a spanking, but a paddling, at the proper time, is very effective.
One word of warning: Do Not let the prevailing opinion of the world (psychology, the media, the nosy person next door) influence you. God says that if you spare the rod you hate your child. As Peter and John asked the Pharisees in Acts 4:19, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”
They will always choose the wrong path – their own way. You choose God’s.