While many Christians mistakenly apply the four passages from Proverbs believed to support spanking, there are explicit commands for parents in the New Testament.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
The first thing that we observe from these passages is that they are both addressed to fathers. This is not to say that mothers are excluded or exempt from this command, but it is interesting to note that God directs this command to fathers specifically. As the head of the family, fathers are held accountable and responsible for the way that they lead and shepherd the hearts of their children. Beginning with Adam, God has given specific commands to men that they are expected to obey as an example for others.
Not only is this command given to fathers, but it is the Greek word “pater,” which not only applies to biological fathers, but also is used to refer to anyone who stands in the place of a father and cares for someone in a paternal way. So whether you are a single mom or a step-father or simply someone who mentors and cares for the youth that God places in your life, this command is also for you!
The second thing we observe from this command is that it is a negative command. I do not mean “negative” in the sense that it is a bad command, but rather it is a command to NOT do something as opposed to a positive command with an instruction to do something. Of all the things that God could command parents to do, He chose instead to command us to NOT do something.
It is clear that we need this gentle reminder to not provoke our children.
While the command in both verses is “do not provoke,” it is actually two different Greek words. In Colossians 3:21, the word is “erethizo” which means to exasperate, to stimulate or to stir up to anger. In Ephesians 6:4, the word is “parorgizo” which means to provoke, to rouse to wrath, to exasperate or to anger.
The dictionary defines the word “provoke” as: to anger, enrage, exasperate, vex, stir up, arouse, call forth, incite.
These verses teaches us that provoking our children will result in two things: ANGER and DISCOURAGEMENT.
Another interesting thing to note about these verses is the word “discouraged” in Colossians 3:21 is the Greek word “athumeo” which means to be disheartened, dispirited or broken in spirit. It’s ironic because many spanking proponents teach that this is exactly what we should do – break their spirit/will.
For example, Michael and Debi Pearl wrote in their book To Train Up A Child and wrote this regarding disciplining a 3-year-old: “She then administers about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water.”
This is clearly the exact opposite of the commands we have received in Scripture.
Ephesians 6:4 not only gives us the initial negative command “Do not provoke your children to anger,” but it also gives us a positive command: “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the LORD.”
We have already explored the true Biblical meaning of “discipline” and “instruction.” We have also already shown extensively why there is NO Biblical basis for hitting a young child with a rod. We know now what we should NOT do, but we still haven’t fully answered the question of what we should do. Let’s continue to explore other passages of Scripture that would revolutionize our families and our lives if we applied them to our parenting.
- What kinds of attitudes and behaviors make me feel angry?
- What kinds of attitudes and behaviors make me feel discouraged?
- What kinds of attitudes do we have as parents that make our children feel angry and discouraged?
- What kinds of behaviors do we do as parents that make our children feel angry and discouraged?
- How can I repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors that I have had with my children? Parents, take time today to have a conversation with your children ask them for forgiveness.
- What kind of reaction do you think hitting a child will produce?
- Who can I share with about the things that God has been teaching me?