I recently read an article by Elizabeth Ester  about children who have been “chastised” to death after parents followed the “Biblical” child-training methods of Michael & Debi Pearl.

Elizabeth Ester states that she escaped from an abusive fundamentalist church after years of being influenced by its teachings. So she naturally writes from that prospective.

Whenever I read articles like this I am always reminded of the day the Lord taught me and my son a very important lesson about grace. When my son, Sean was very young he became angry with me when I told him it was time to come inside from playing with his friends.

After many warnings and threats from me Sean reluctantly agreed to come inside. Angrily storming inside, Sean swatted at my prized guitar I had leaning against a wall and then watched in horror as it fell to the floor, snapping off its neck. Staring at my mangled guitar on the floor and without looking up, I very slowly and quietly told Sean, “Go to your room; I’m gonna hurt you.”

After allowing myself several minutes to calm down, I went to Sean’s room to find him hysterically crying. (Knowing in his mind, I was about to end his life.) After calming him to an uncontrollable whimper, I asked him, “Sean do you know what judgment is?” He answered in that little kid whimper voice, when they try to stop crying and take short deep breaths between each word, “N-n-n-o.” I explained to him that judgment is getting what you deserve.

He immediately began sobbing uncontrollably all over again. (Now being perfectly convinced in his mind that he was about to die!) After calming him down once again I asked him, “Sean, do you know what grace is?” He again answered, “N-n-n-no.” I immediately picked him up and put him on my lap and hugged him and said, “THIS is grace.”

What does it really mean to “spare the rod, spoil the child”?

Although it’s not written in the Bible exactly that way, the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how we, as parents, should reveal to our children how God expects us to live and our need for a Savior. When children do not realize the consequence of their sin, they will not understand that sin requires punishment. God provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin. Furthermore, correction shows us that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, but discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness. (Revelation 3:17)

Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading them to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verses 13-18, “die” means spiritual death. Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

Some people don’t believe in any type of physical discipline such as spanking. Others, like Michael & Debbi Pearl and their followers allow the pendulum to swing the complete opposite direction and misinterpret Scripture’s definition of a rod.

The word “rod” mentioned in Proverbs indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. It is intended to steer the heart of a child toward Jesus and forgiveness of sin. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns us that we should never abuse the power and authority we have over our children while they are young because it could provoke them to anger. (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Physical discipline should always be done in love and never in a moment of frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used only when the child shows repeated intentional defiance to a clear limit.

God instructs us to discipline our children the same way He disciplines us. Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that if we repent and surrender to Him, we are His beloved children. And we can say with David that the Lord’s rod comforts us in our time of trouble. (Psalm 23:4)

Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich. (Hebrews 12:11) Godly character, fruit of the spirit, and peace are the rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our children who have learned from godly discipline, how to take responsibility for their actions. And they will grow up to be much happier people. (Proverbs 3:11-18)

Resources: Parenting Is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller

Got Questions.org   – http://www.gotquestions.org/

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Comments
  1. singertenor says:

    Excellent application of scripture to culture. Although I am not a parent, to intend to be for quite some time, I was taken into the story about you and your son. The parallel moments that I can recall in my own life are ones from my own childhood, and speak evidence of my own parents’ interpretation on the advice to “spare the rod…” in scripture. To remain focused on the intended purpose of any biblical command or biblical wisdom can be challenging at times. In this case, I can easily see your point that discipline of any kind must point the recipient of said discipline to Christ’s likeness. The truth is that all biblical commands are intended to bring God’s creation “Godward,” a term that one of my seminary professors would frequently coin. This is one of the best blog entries of yours that I have read thus far. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Janet Dubac says:

    Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing this. Disciplining children is one of the most important yet difficult responsibilities of parents. I have read a couple of articles explaining this very same thing, but I have never felt as blessed and enlightened. Thanks again!

    • Thank you for your kind words. I was the single parent of two of my children and was blessed early on to realize that raising my children with godly discipline was one of the most important (and rewarding) responsibilities I had. As a result, I learned more about my relationship with God through my children than I did from all my years of church attendance and Bible study. I will be sharing more about this in later articles. God bless.

  3. […] One of these days, I will try to put out a more detailed post on this subject; but as of the moment, let me point you to this wonderful read: Discipline or abuse: The choice between judgment and grace. […]

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