Proverbs 13:24 ESV
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Being a parent, I am given to understand, is difficult (though I have no personal experience as yet). Whether it’s worry about your kids, frustration with their foibles, fear over your own inadequacies, or any number of other issues great and small, the task is among the more difficult ones given to man. How on earth are a sinful man and a sinful woman supposed to raise a sinful child that he might honor God in life and be preserved by Him through death? Thankfully, the Bible gives us poor earthly fools some instructions, with the two most prominent being ‘teach your kids the Word of God’ and ‘discipline, discipline, discipline’; today, let’s focus on the second one, given as it’s the topic of our verse from Proverbs.
Modernity likes to subscribe to the theory that everybody, deep, deep, deep down is fundamentally good, except possibly Hitler (and the culture’s Emmanuel Goldstein for the week). Sure, he may do bad things, but those evil deeds and ideas are a result of his environment, how he was raised, who he’s listened to. Broken down to his most fundamental part, man is, we assert, at least decent. This position is anti-Biblical in the extreme, at least if we consider the implication that man, being good, might be able to achieve salvation through his own means, without necessity of Christ’s sacrifice.
The truth is, man is desperately wicked, fundamentally broken, and at his root evil (Ps. 53:3). This does not mean that man is entirely evil; he can choose an option besides the worst one. He will never, however, choose the right option for the right reason (when it comes to sin, both are important). Thus he cannot by himself reach God.
What does this mean for raising children?
It means that kids are naturally inclined to do the wrong thing. They, like the rest of us (who were children once), will sin, and when they sin, according to this proverb (as well as other verses, such as Hebrews 12:11), it is the responsibility of the parents to discipline them, to teach them thereby the sure end of an evil course (Rev. 19:20). If a child is not disciplined, he ‘spoils’, an apt image. He won’t learn that he needs to stop himself; he will, eventually, run headfirst into trouble- if God is merciful, he’ll be delivered, disciplined by God instead of damned. If God is just, but not merciful, he’ll be judged, first on this earth and then in the next.
Love, being the practice of acting towards others according to God’s law and character from one’s heart, demands therefore that the parent discipline his children. To let him run riot, after all, is not loving, for all it may seem pleasant in the short term. It will, in the long term, lead the child to suffering (and the parent of a suffering child suffers in turn). To love a child, therefore, requires the application of wise discipline- neither vindictive (Num. 35:21) nor lax.
God loves His children, and therefore He discipline them (Hebrews 12:7-13). We should heed His example, taking care, of course, that our eagerness does not outstrip our wisdom, that we understand before we apply. Discipline can be mishandled. Cruelty can, for us sinful men, easily replace love. In God’s grace, however, discipline is an essential tool in preserving the lives of children, even to the extent of (by God’s will) aiding them towards true righteousness.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.