Parenting

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 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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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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