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The Discipline of Children

A Ph.D. led a work-shop in our community where he said many parents believe that the biblical "spare the rod and spoil the child" axiom justifies spanking; the local newspaper reported his role in an effort to outlaw spanking in the United States and the rest of the world. So, what about spanking?

The phrase, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is not found in the Bible, but is an attempt to rephrase Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal our need for a Savior to their children. When a child does not feel the consequence of sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment. Furthermore, correction shows us that we are not without blame, but are accountable for our actions.

Pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, 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, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die”.

In the context of verse 13-14, “die” means the spiritual death of hell. Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved. All children are born sinful (Romans 5:12-19). Their natural self is destructive and unrighteous. That does not mean they aren’t infinitely valuable and worthy of love (Psalm 127:3). It means that they are not born with any natural “goodness” in them. That is why all children need discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Discipline is critical for wisdom (Proverbs 29:15), and a child who obeys his parents will be wise (Proverbs 13:1).

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