biblical parenting, Parenting

Biblical Parenting – 1 Corinthians 4:21

What do you desire?
Shall I come to you with a rod,
or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
1 Corinthians 4:21

In Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth, he writes the verse above.  He asks them if they would prefer that he comes with a “rod” or with “love and a spirit of gentleness.”  

The rod, as studied before, is obviously not a literal one.  And this question is obviously a rhetorical one.  

Paul was not asking the church if they wanted him to beat them with a literal rod.  The rod was a symbol of his authority as a spiritual father to them.

In Greek, “rod” is the word “rhabdos.”  A “rhabdos” symbolized the harsh and severe rule of a harsh and severe ruler much like the Roman rule of the day.   The Romans would often use rods as a method of corporal punishment for crimes committed.

While the Jewish law prohibited a man from being beat more than 40 times (Deuteronomy 25:3), the Roman law had no such prohibition.  Under Roman law, a person could even be beat to death with rods!  This is why Paul makes a distinction between the Jewish beating with the whip and the Roman beating with rods that he received:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
Three times I was beaten with rods… 

2 Corinthians 11:24-25a

These public beatings were not administered as “spankings for children,” but rather as a punishment for criminal offenses.  They were carried out by order of a judge for breaking the law – either Jewish law or Roman law.

So when Paul asks the church which they would prefer – that he come with the rod or with a spirit of love and gentleness, it is obvious that if given the choice, we all would prefer to be treated with love and gentleness – especially by those with authority over us.

Paul is making the point that we can live under the law (and the punishment that comes from the law) or we can live under grace (and the love and gentleness), and of the two, grace is greater!

By giving the choice between the two, we see that they are mutually exclusive.  We can come with a rod or with love – but not with both.  If we come with a rod, we are not coming with love.  If we come with love, we cannot come with a rod.  Which will you choose?

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. How do I usually come to my children: with a rod (rules and punishment) or with grace (love and gentleness)?
  2. In Paul’s view, was the rod a positive tool that we should use in our parenting?
  3. Would my children say that our relationship is characterized by love and gentleness?  Ask them!
  4. Would my spouse say that our relationship is characterized by love and gentleness?  Ask him/her.
  5. Does God come to us with the rod or with love and gentleness?
  6. The opposite of the word “gentle” is: rude, rough, violent, harsh, severe, unkind, and uncontrolled.  In what ways have I been rude, rough, violent, harsh, severe, unkind, and/or uncontrolled with my children?
  7. How can I repent for my lack of love and gentleness?
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Part 9: Biblical Commands We Don’t Obey

Many people today claim that spanking children is not only recommended in the Bible, but is an explicit command. Nevermind the fact that the only verses that supposedly advocate for spanking are the four from the book of Proverbs, and Proverbs are not commands… Let’s explore together how Jesus responded to the commands of the Old Testament.

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.
But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him,
“Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.”
But He said to them,
“Have you not read what David did when he became hungry,
he and his companions, how he entered the house of God,
and they ate the consecrated bread,
which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?
“Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath
the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?
“But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.
“But if you had known what this means,
‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’
you would not have condemned the innocent.
(Matthew 12:1-7)

The religious leaders (Pharisees) attempted to subject Jesus to their interpretation of the Biblical command to “keep the Sabbath holy” by refraining from work. However, Jesus allowed his disciples to break the law of the day because He knew that the heart of God is for COMPASSION – not strictly following a set of rules.

Jesus was perfect and never sinned.  So while he may have disobeyed the religious law, he was operating in perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father.

It is essential that we can learn, as Jesus did, to obey our Heavenly Father by accurately interpreting His Word.  How do you decide which “commands” in Scripture to obey and how to apply them to our modern life?

 

 

Other “Commands” We Don’t Obey

Just like Jesus, there are plenty of “commands” in the Bible that we do not obey.  We understand that we are not expected to obey these commands for many reasons:

  1. WRONG GENRE.  They are figurative – not literal.
  2. WRONG CONTEXT.  They are intended for a certain people in a certain time at a certain location within certain cultures and certain contexts that are very different than ours.
  3. WRONG COVENANT. They are a part of the Old Covenant under the law of Moses – not under the New Covenant law of grace.
  4. WRONG APPLICATION. They are intended for a specific people at a specific time – not for every individual in all situations.

Just for fun, let’s read some passages of Scripture with the same hermeneutic that is applied to the “spanking passages.”

 

 

Mistake #1: WRONG GENRE
Interpreting Literally What Is Meant To Be Figurative

Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.
Proverbs 23:2

I highly doubt that anyone would attempt to claim that the Bible advocates for a command to commit suicide or to put a literal knife to your throat as an alternative to gluttony.  The same people who want to interpret the spanking verses in Proverbs as literal do not apply that same hermeneutic to this verse that is also in Proverbs.

 

Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none,
and anyone who has food should do the same.
Luke 3:11

I am guilty of this one… I have more than two shirts, and I know there are plenty of people in the world who do not have even one shirt. Is it a sin to have two shirts? No.  We are obviously not supposed to read this verse literally, but we should pay attention to the heart of this verse.  We should care for the poor and not be so obsessed with our own material gain that we neglect the welfare of others around the world who are in need. This verse in particular is a little difficult to wrestle with as an American… Our world would be very different indeed if we obeyed this one verse.

 

Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.
Proverbs 23:20-21

We are “commanded” in Proverbs to not hang out with alcoholics or gluttons.  Should we get rid of all our fat friends because they are going to be poor? Just as our spanking verses found in the book of Proverbs, we can easily see that these Proverbs are not meant to be interpreted as commands or promises or guarantees. There are alcoholics who are extremely wealthy, just as there are people who do not drink who are struggling with poverty.

 

 

 

Mistake #2: WRONG CONTEXT
Neglecting to identify the differences in culture and customs

“When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.” Deuteronomy 25:11-12

I do not know of any Christian who would advocate for cutting off a wife’s hand for grabbing her husband’s attacker by the “private parts.”  This law was a part of the Law of Moses as a part of their legal system and not intended for us to obey today.

Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Leviticus 19:19

Adios, polyester!

 

All that have not fins and scales in the seas,
and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters,
and of any living thing which is in the waters,
they shall be an abomination unto you.
Leviticus 9:10

So sorry, shrimp eaters. “The Bible says…”

Mistake #3: WRONG COVENANT
Obeying what is no longer meant to be obeyed

Animal Sacrifices
Leviticus 4

Under the Old Covenant, the Jews were expected to worship God through regular, ritual sacrifices.  However, under the New Covenant, Jesus was our perfect sacrifice by which He has “perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).  There is no longer any need to obey the rules and rituals surrounding the animal sacrifices as atonement for sin since Jesus is our perfect atonement.

 

The 10 Commandments
Exodus 20:1-17

I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but the 10 Commandments are a part of the Old Covenant.  God has promised that as believers, his New Covenant has been written “not on tablets of stone but on tablets of [our] human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3).  We are no longer held accountable for our obedience to the 10 Commandments, but we now relate to God through the blood of Jesus Christ and the communion of His Holy Spirit.

Tithing
Genesis 14:20

The first time that tithing is mentioned in Scripture is in Genesis 14:20 when Abraham tithed 10% of the spoils of war – not to God, but to Melchizedech.  The Jews were commanded under the Mosaic law to tithe their crops, animals, and even spices!  However, under the New Covenant, we are no longer obligated to live under the law of tithing.  We see no mention of tithing to the believers in the New Testament, but they are encouraged to give generously.  See: Acts 2:43–47; 4:32–37; 11:27–30; Galatians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 16:1–4; 2 Corinthians 8:1–9:15)

 

Mistake #4: WRONG APPLICATION
Personalizing what is not meant to be personal

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4-5

So… which is it?

 

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones,
and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.
Numbers 31:17-18

This was God’s command to His people. But I cannot say that I have heard a sermon preached on this passage in which the pastor tells the congregation that we should also obey this command.  This command is not personal to us, but specific for the Jews at that particular time.

 

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son
who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother,
and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them,
then his father and his mother shall take hold of him
and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives,
and they shall say to the elders of his city,
‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious;
he will not obey our voice;
he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.
So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21

This passage is extremely interesting to examine in light of the spanking controversy. This is another passage which seems to support corporal punishment for rebellion, but there are some interesting points to identify:

  1. The son is mentioned as being stubborn and rebellious because he will not obey the voice of his parents. The parents have not administered any kind of physical punishment to him.
  2. The parents disciplined him, but he would not listen. Here we see again the connection between discipline and listening. He was disciplined (taught and instructed) by his parents’ words, but he would not listen to them. Listening is NOT obeying. Listening is listening.
  3. The parents take him to the elders of the city. When their son does not respond to the verbal teaching and correction of his parents, the parents again do not administer physical punishment, but instead take him before the elders of the city. This scene is a legal confrontation. In Jewish culture, a person could not be found guilty without the presence of two witnesses. By taking the son before the elders of the city, the parents were serving as witnesses, but it was the elders who found him guilty or not guilty.
  4. The son was a glutton and a drunk. The son they are referencing in this passage is not a small child. He is most likely a na’ar.
  5. The elders of the city were the ones to administer the physical punishment. The parents did not stone their child, the elders of the city did. There is no passage of Scripture in which parents are responsible to carry out the physical punishment of their children.

There are tons of other “commands” in the Bible that we do not obey – nor do we expect others to obey. If we can use proper Biblical hermeneutic through analyzing the genre,  context, covenant and application, then why would we not examine just as closely the four passages found in Proverbs that supposedly advocate for hitting a small child as a means of teaching and instruction in godliness?

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Part 8: How did Jesus discipline?

The word “discipline” is the same root word as the word “disciple.”  Let’s explore 12 ways that Jesus disciplined His disciples.

  1. Teaching – Just as God has compassion on His children, Jesus was also known for His compassion on sinners. This verse tells us that when Jesus felt compassion on the crowd, He demonstrated His compassion on them by teaching them.

    When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherdand He began to teach them many things.  (Mark 6:34)

  2. Modeling – Jesus taught His disciples to pray, to live, and to love through modeling.  He was the perfect example for them (and for us) to follow.

    For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. (John 13:15)

  3. Serving – Jesus did not lead His disciples the way the rest of the world’s leaders do. He did not come to be served but to serve others and to give His life for us.  He served His disciples to teach them to serve others.

    So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.  
    But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:42-45)

  4. Forgiving – Jesus taught His disciples to forgive others by forgiving them.  He did not hold their sins against them.  He did not throw their past crimes in their faces.  He gave them the gift of a clean slate.  Relationships are broken through sin, but relationships are restored through forgiveness.

    Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  (Luke 7:48)
  5. Loving – God is love, therefore Jesus is the living representation of love.  Jesus loved His disciples just as God loved Him.  He loved His disciples by giving His life for them – even when they did not deserve it.


    As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  (John 15:9)

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

  6. Being Patient – Jesus was extremely patient with his disciples.  He patiently endured their constant questions (Matthew 17:10), their lack of understanding (Matthew 15:16), their overwhelming needs (Matthew 15:29-31)… sound familiar, parents of toddlers?

    “Love is patient…” (1 Corinthians 13:4a)

  7. Extending Grace – Jesus did not deal with people according to the law or their mistakes or their sins.  He extended grace – over and over and over.  Jesus ultimately extended grace to His disciples when He gave His life in their place.  Instead of giving them the punishment that they deserved, He took their punishment for them (in the same way my own father did for me).

    For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  (John 1:17)

  8. Rebuking – Jesus also rebuked his disciples.  Ironically, the word “rebuke” in Greek is the word “epitimao.”  It means “to reprove, to censure severely, to charge sharply.”  It also means “to honor.”   Jesus was not afraid to tell his disciples sternly when they were wrong.  However, notice that Jesus did not rebuke His disciples for differences in personal preferences, but rather He rebuked them for not concerning themselves with the things that matter to God.

    But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”  (Mark 8:33)

  9. Correcting – Jesus corrected lies with the truth.  He corrected false doctrine and false teaching.  Jesus not only corrected belief, He also corrected behavior.  Once, He even corrected two bickering disciples by giving them the example of a child!

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
      
    But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  (Matthew 5:43-44)


    An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 
     But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”  (Luke 9:46-48)

  10. Instructing – Jesus also took the time to instruct His disciples.  He gave them instructions on prayer (Luke 11:1-13) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).  His instructions were specific (Matthew 21:1-7) and clear (Matthew 10:1-15).

    The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them…  (Matthew 21:6)When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.  (Matthew 11:1)

  11. Training – Jesus trained His disciples for ministry by giving them opportunities to put into practice the things they had seen and heard from Jesus Himself.  A disciple’s training was in stages: (1) listening/observing, (2) practicing while the Master listens/observes and (3) being sent out on your own to make more disciples. In Luke 9:1-27, we see Jesus sending out the disciples to proclaim the Gospel. Scripture teaches that Jesus gave them power and authority.  What a beautiful picture of our role as parents!  From the day our children are born, we are training them to one day be sent out with power and authority to proclaim the Gospel.

    And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.  
    And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing…  (Luke 9:1-2)

  12. Showing Compassion – Jesus was known for being a man of great compassion.  He felt compassion to His followers physical needs like when they were hungry (Matthew 15:32), but He also had compassion for their emotional needs (Luke 7:13).

    And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”  (Matthew 15:32)
    And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  (Luke 7:13)

REFLECTION QUESTIONS
(You may need to ask your children for their help on these)

1. How would our parenting transform if we sought to disciple and discipline our children the way that Jesus did?

2. What am I teaching my children?

3. How am I modeling Christlike attitudes and behaviors for my children?

4. What example do I set for my children in dealing with their attitudes and behaviors?

5. Am I “flaunting my authority” over my children like worldly leaders do?  Or am I seeking to serve my children as Jesus served His disciples?

6. When was the last time that I asked my children for forgiveness?

7. Do my children know and believe that they are completely forgiven by God and by me?  Or are there certain “sins” or “behaviors” that I continually bring up over and over?

8. What motivates forgiveness in our home: fear of punishment or love for the individual I have offended?

9. How can I love my child in the midst of their sadness, anger, frustration, etc.?

10. What does it look like to live out 1 Corinthians 13 as a parent with my child?

11. Would my children consider me to be a patient parent or an impatient parent?  (ASK THEM!)

12. How do my children feel when I am impatient with them?  (ASK THEM!)

13. How do I feel when others are impatient with me?

14. What is a situation in which I am tempted to be impatient with my children?  What changes can I make to my behavior and attitude in order to remain patient and calm?

15. How do I extend grace to my children?

16. Do I rebuke my children for differences of opinion/preference?  Or do I rebuke my children in love because of their sin against God?

17. What beliefs am I correcting in my children?

18. What behaviors am I correcting in my children?

19. How am I correcting sinful beliefs and behaviors?

20. Are my instructions to my children specific and clear?

21. How do I respond when my children do not follow my instructions?

22. How am I training my children to be “sent out”?

23. In what areas do I need to give my children power and authority?

24. How can I respond to my children’s physical needs with compassion?

25. How can I respond to my children’s emotional needs with compassion?

26. In what ways could I represent Jesus more to my children?  (ASK THEM!)

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Parenting, spanking

Part 7: How Does God Discipline?

The first time the word “discipline” is found in the Bible is in Deuteronomy 4:36.

Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.

God disciplined the Jews by letting them HEAR his voice. In English, the word “discipline” connotes physical punishment.  However in Hebrew, the word “yacar” means to teach or instruct.  The emphasis is on verbal teaching or instruction.

God also disciplined (taught/instructed) the Jews by letting them SEE.

Know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and
who have not seen the discipline of the LORD your God
– His greatness,
His mighty hand and His outstretched arm,
and His signs
and His works
which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; (Deuteronomy 11:2-3)

Scripture teaches that they SAW His discipline. What did they see? They saw God’s greatness, His mighty hand, His outstretched arm, His signs and His works throughout Egypt that God did to judge Egypt and to set the Jews free.

Let’s examine another commonly quoted passage replacing the word “discipline” with its true Hebrew meaning of “teaching/instruction.”

Hebrews 12:5-11
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the [teaching or instruction] of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved [convicted] by him. For the Lord [teaches or instructs] the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for [teaching and instruction] that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [teach or instruct]? If you are left without [instruction], in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who [taught and instructed] us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

This passage makes complete sense when reading it in light of the knowledge that we should understand Hebrew discipline as verbal teaching and instruction. Just as God teaches and instructs us, we should also teach and instruct our children.

 

 

 

 

What can we learn from other passages of Scripture about the true nature of God’s discipline?

But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth? “For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you. (Psalm 50:16-17)

Again, notice the connection between DISCIPLINE and God’s Words. The wicked who hated God’s discipline cast aside His words. It would not make any sense to interpret discipline in this passage as physical punishment.

 

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light;
And reproofs [correction] for discipline [teaching] are the way of life.
(Proverbs 6:23)

Again we see that it is through correction that we are taught the right way to live. Commandments and teaching are intimately connected to reproof and discipline.

 

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.
(Proverbs 12:1)

Would this verse make any sense if discipline referred to physical punishment? Not at all. But when we read this scripture in light of its true meaning, it makes perfect sense! Whoever loves teaching and instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

 

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
(Job 5:17)

This verse would also not make any sense if reproof and discipline are simply meant to be physical punishment. We also see a clear instruction to not despise the teaching and instruction of the LORD. The word “despise” is most often translated as “reject.” Do not reject the teaching of the LORD.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
(Proverbs 3:11)

Another instance in which we see a command to not despise [reject] the LORD’s discipline [teaching]. It would not make sense to interpret this passage as a command to not “reject physical punishment.” Instead, we are commanded to heed the teaching and instruction of the LORD.

 

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline,
But he who regards reproof will be honored.
(Proverbs 13:18)

The word “neglects” in this verse means “to ignore.” It makes sense to say that poverty and shame will come to someone who ignores instruction. But the person who regards [listens to] correction will be honored.

 

A fool rejects his father’s discipline,
But he who regards reproof is sensible.
(Proverbs 15:5)

This verse is an example of antithetical parallelism in the book of Proverbs in which the first portion of the verse is meant to serve as the antithesis – or direct contrast – to the second portion of the verse. We can clearly see that this verse not referring to physical punishment. The author is contrasting a fool that rejects his father’s teaching and instruction with one who listens to his father’s correction and is wise.

 

He who neglects discipline despises himself,
But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.
(Proverbs 15:32)

If I neglect spanking, I despise myself? That makes no sense. But the one who neglects teaching and instruction? That would be someone who despises himself. The one who LISTENS to reproof acquires understanding. Again we see the connection between discipline and reproof and WORDS – not actions.

 

Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
But the discipline of fools is folly.
(Proverbs 16:22)

Here we see another example of antithetical parallelism in the book of Proverbs. This is a clear example of a comparison of the wisdom of understanding and the foolishness of the teaching of fools.

 

Discipline your son while there is hope,
And do not desire his death.
(Proverbs 19:18)

Are you getting it yet? Now can you read this verse and clearly see what this Proverb is trying to teach us?

 

Listen to counsel and accept discipline,
That you may be wise the rest of your days.
(Proverbs 19:20)

LISTEN to counsel (words) and accept discipline (physical discipline?) so that you may be WISE. Would it make sense to interpret this verse as accepting physical punishment in order to be wise? The passage is clearly speaking of accepting instruction so that we may be wise.

 

Cease listening, my son, to discipline,
And you will stray from the words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 19:27)

In this verse, we learn that we can stop LISTENING to discipline. Discipline simply cannot be interpreted as physical punishment.

 

Apply your heart to discipline
And your ears to words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 23:12)

Another parallel passage in Proverbs teaching us to apply our HEARTS and our EARS to instruction and to knowledge.

 

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;
therefore be zealous and repent.
(Revelation 3:19)

God teaches and convicts those whom He loves. Something interesting about this verse is that the word “zealous” is the Greek word “zelos” which means “excitement of mind” and the word “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeo” which means “to change one’s mind.” The verse is literally saying that because God teaches and convicts those He loves, we should be excited and change our minds.

 

 

 

God is described as our Father. However, God not only teaches and instructs us. There are almost 100 passages of Scripture that refer to God’s compassion upon us as His children.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
(Psalm 103:13)

This word to “have compassion” means “to love deeply and to have mercy.” God, as our Father, has compassion and mercy on us, and He loves us deeply!

 

You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
(Psalm 40:11)

This is such an amazing verse! We see three attributes of God that “continually preserve us:” His compassion, His lovingkindness and His truth. Likewise, we should parent with compassion, lovingkindness and truth.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
(Isaiah 49:15)

I love the imagery of this verse! God promises that He will not forget us, but will instead have compassion on us.

 

In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,”
Says the LORD your Redeemer.
(Isaiah 54:8)

Notice that it was in ANGER that God HID from us, but His lovingkindness brought us back into fellowship with Him as He had compassion on us.

 

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What is the Hebrew concept of “discipline”?
  2. How does the Hebrew concept of discipline differ from the Western view of discipline?
  3. How does God discipline His children?
  4. How did your parents teach and instruct you?
  5. When was a time when your parents showed you compassion? How did you respond?
  6. How did your parents respond to you when they were angry? What impact did their anger have on your relationship with them?
  7. How have you responded to your children in anger? What was the impact of your anger on your children? What was the impact of your anger on you?
  8. What would it look like to continually and intentionally draw our children back into fellowship with us through lovingkindness and compassion?
  9. When is a time that you would typically respond to your children in anger? How can you plan to show them compassion instead?
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Parenting, spanking

Part 6: What Is Biblical Discipline?

What words are associated with Biblical discipline?

There are a variety of terms used in Scripture in regards to discipline, but are we incorrectly understanding these words through our own cultural lens? I decided to look up each of these words in the dictionary in order to have a better understanding of their true meaning.

Discipline: training to act in accordance with rules; activity that develops or improves a skill; to bring to a state of order and obedience by training

Proverbs 19:18
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.

Reproof: to criticize or correct, especially gently

Proverbs 29:15
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

Train: to develop or form the habits, thoughts or behavior by discipline and instruction; to make proficient by instruction and practice

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Instruct: to impart knowledge; to furnish with knowledge, to teach, to educate

Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Teach: to impart knowledge or skill

Deuteronomy 6:7
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Correct: to point out errors or faults

Proverbs 29:17
Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.

The majority of these terms emphasize verbal correction – NOT physical correction.

It’s interesting to note that Scripture also indicates that the Word of God does ALL of these things!

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable
for teaching,
for reproof,
for correction,
for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Now that we know what Biblical discipline means, let’s explore how we should discipline by looking at the only perfect Father – our Heavenly Father.

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Part 5: Who is “the child” in Proverbs?

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
Proverbs 13:24

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15

Do not hold back discipline from the child,
although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol
Proverbs 23:13-14

 The rod and reproof give wisdom,
But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 29:15

That’s it. An entire parenting philosophy that has lasted hundreds of years has stemmed from these four verses from a book of poetry.

To summarize what we have learned thus far in this series:

  1. “Spanking” is not found anywhere in the Word of God, so we are either not obeying these verses correctly or we are not understanding these verses correctly.
  2. The “rod” in these verses is a figurative rod symbolizing authority.
  3. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom literature written by a King for his son in order to prepare him to take over the throne and is intended to be read as a collection of wise sayings (not commands) that are generally true (not always true).

Now, we will take a deeper look at the object of this discipline – the “child” – in order to see who was intended to be the receiver of the “rod.”

One of the greatest books that I have read on this subject is Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin. (You can read the book for free here!)

Much like in English, Hebrew has nine different words that represent nine different stages of a person’s growth.

If you went to visit a friend who had two sons – a toddler and a teenager – and asked her, “Is your child still in diapers?” She would easily understand that you were referring to her toddler and not her teenager.

Similarly, if you were to say to her, “Your son can move my car from the driveway,” she wouldn’t hand the keys to her toddler.

Likewise, if she were to say, “The toddler can drink juice, but the teenager may have a soda for lunch,” I highly doubt that you would be confused as to which one should drink juice and which one should drink soda.

The reason why we understand these terms easily is because while both of these boys are her children and both of these boys are her sons, the words “toddler” and “teenager” imply totally different stages of growth.

Below is a chart that represents the various terms used in Hebrew to represent the different stages of growth from infancy through adulthood.

Male

Female

Root

Meaning

English

Age

yeled

yaldah

yalad

“To give birth”

newborn

0-1 month

yonek

yanak

“To suck; to nurse”

infant

1-12 months

olel

olal

“To ask bread”

Not yet weaned child that eats solid food

1-3 years

gamul

gamal

“To wean; to complete”

Weaned child

3-4 years

taph

taf

“To cling; to swaddle”

Child close to mother

4-6 years

elem

almah

“To become firm”

Pre-Teen

7-11 years

na’ar

na’arah

“To shake off”

Teenager (unmarried man/woman)

12-18 years

bthulah

“Virgin”

Unmarried woman right before marriage

bachur

bachurah

“Ripened one”

Ready to be married man/woman

ish

isha

Man/Woman

In order to accurately interpret and apply the verses in Proverbs, it is important to understand which stage of development is being referred to in the verses above so we do not end up “giving soda to a toddler.”

Proverbs 13:24 uses the Hebrew word “ben” which is a general term meaning “son.” The other three verses listed above use the more specific Hebrew word, “na’ar” – which as you can see from the chart indicates a young man of the ages 12-18. (The word na’ar is also translated as a “male servant.”) Logic would follow that we would use the most specific term in order to determine who is being referred to in these passages.

So if spanking advocates truly want to hit children “the way the Bible commands,” then according to Scripture, they should not start hitting children with a rod until the child is at least 12 years of age (a legal adult in Jewish culture).

This simple truth utterly destroys the “Biblical” basis for spanking as is done in our “modern” culture which is almost exclusively aimed at children under the age of 12.

Just because I am not the type to “believe whatever you hear or read,” I asked one of my friends who was born and raised in Israel and is now working as a Hebrew teacher at a Jewish school, “What is a na’ar?” I did not provide her any context for the question – just simply wanted to get her instant answer.

She replied, “A na’ar is a boy that is like 17 – not a little boy, but not really mature like a man either.”

Just to be sure, I asked her to clarify, “Is Sophia (my 3 year old daughter) a na’ar?”

To which she laughed and said, “No!”

Again, I asked her, “Is your son (an 8 year old boy) a na’ar?”

And again, she replied, “No. A na’ar is like 15 or 16 or 17. My son is not a na’ar yet.”

If people knew and understood the meaning of this one crucial word in Hebrew as easily as native speakers of Hebrew do, the case for spanking would certainly be closed.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. Who is the “child” mentioned in the verses used to advocate for hitting children?
  2. How does understanding the connotations for the Hebrew word na’ar impact our understanding of these verses?
  3. If there is no biblical basis for hitting a child under the age of 12, on what basis are we advocating for hitting our children as a method of discipline and correction?
  4. How are we being influenced by our traditions and our culture more than by the Word of God?
  5. What is the significance that King Solomon wrote these verses to his son in preparation for becoming King?

Another interesting thing to note about these verses is that they make frequent connection between “the rod” and “discipline.”  Let’s explore what Biblical discipline really means.

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Part 4: How Should We Read The Book of Proverbs?

How should we read/interpret the Books of Poetry in the Bible?

(Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)

If we are going to accurately interpret and apply the four verses from the book of Proverbs used in defense of the practice of spanking, it is important to understand the purpose and intention of the book of Proverbs as a whole.

  1. Who wrote the book of Proverbs? (mostly) King SolomonThe proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: (Proverbs 1:1)
  2. For whom was the book of Proverbs written? King Solomon’s son as preparation for his time as KingHear, my son, your father’s instruction,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching, (Proverbs 1:8)
  3. Why was the book of Proverbs written?To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
    to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
    to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
    Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
    to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:2-6)

Proverbs are WISDOM LITERATURE and are part of the BOOKS OF POETRY in the Bible. As such, they incorporate symbols, metaphors and other figurative literary devices. As “wisdom,” they are NOT commands from the LORD, but rather recorded wise sayings from King Solomon.

Proverbs are:

  • Principles
  • Wise Sayings
  • Memorable
  • Usually figurative
  • Generally true – not necessarily true

Proverbs are NOT:

  • Commands from the LORD
  • Guarantees
  • Promises
  • Usually literal
  • Applicable or true in every circumstance or situation

Other Proverbs Verses We Don’t Read Literally

For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. (Proverbs 4:17)

Are they LITERALLY eating bread of wickedness? Are they LITERALLY drinking wine of violence? No, of course not.

In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them. (Proverbs 14:3)

This Proverbs also includes a reference to a “rod.” It is clear that this “rod” is NOT a literal rod but rather a symbol of pride. Or do you think a fool has a LITERAL rod of pride in his mouth?

From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. (Proverbs 18:20)

If we take this Proverbs literally, there is no reason for us to eat since we should be satisfied by our words. Do our mouths literally produce fruit? Obviously not. These Proverbs were not intended to be read literally.

A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense. (Proverbs 12:11)

Do you know any hard workers who do not have plenty of food? As someone who has worked in third world countries for most of my life, some of the hardest working people I know are often those who struggle daily with hunger and providing basic food necessities for their families. This proverb is not a promise.

Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. (Proverbs 23:2)

If we are going to assume that the verses that supposedly promote spanking are commands from God, than we should also interpret this as a command from God, but I don’t see anyone in church putting a literal knife to their throat for eating too much. Clearly this is verse NOT a command nor is it meant to be read literally.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5)

So… which is it?

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  1. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read literally?
  2. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read as commands?
  3. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read as promises?
  4. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read as guarantees?
  5. If we know the book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon for his son (who would be the future king), how might this knowledge shape our understanding of the four “spanking verses”?
  6. If we know the book of Proverbs is almost always meant to be read figuratively and not literally, how might this knowledge impact our understanding of the four “spanking verses”?

Since we know we are to read the book of Proverbs as a figurative book and we are to read the word “rod” as a figurative rod, let’s dive deeper into the four verses that people use to support spanking in order to understand their true meaning and application.

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