Parenting

Part 10: What Scriptures should inform my parenting?

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.
Colossians 3:21

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

 

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.

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What kinds of attitudes and behaviors make me feel angry?
  2. What kinds of attitudes and behaviors make me feel discouraged?
  3. What kinds of attitudes do we have as parents that make our children feel angry and discouraged?
  4. What kinds of behaviors do we do as parents that make our children feel angry and discouraged?
  5. 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.
  6. What kind of reaction do you think hitting a child will produce?
  7. Who can I share with about the things that God has been teaching me?

 

 

 

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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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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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