In this blog I discuss what the Bible says about corporal punishment and what that means to Christians in America today when public opinion and maybe soon even the law of the land will say you are an unfit parent if you spank your child.
Adrian Peterson has been indicted by a Texas grand jury on child abuse charges. He was booked and released from jail on a $15,000 bond for abusing his four-year old son. Peterson has been placed on an exempt list by the Minnesota Vikings. This means he is suspended with pay. The fact that Peterson who can bench press 345 pounds and squat 530 pounds would strike a four-year old is appalling to many. As the story broke on Peterson Americans were inundated with all kinds of opinions on corporal punishment. I have read newspaper articles on corporal punishment. I have read blogs on corporal punishment. I have listened to sports call-in shows discuss corporal punishment. I remind you something I say often, no one’s opinion really matters on a subject unless they have the same opinion as God on that subject. Here is one pastor’s take on corporal punishment.
1. The Bible is plain that there is benefit to corporal punishment.
Proverbs 13:24 goes so far to say that the person who spares the rod hates his son and he who loves his son will discipline him. Many parents today will not discipline their children in any way. Their children are free to do as they wish. I submit that such a parent is often guilty of having little to do with their children and attempt to make up for this by allowing them to behave any way they want, even misbehave. To offset not being a real part of their children’s lives they put no parameters in place for their children. Solomon says such a person hates the child.
Proverbs 22:15 describes folly being in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it from the child. Folly is foolish behavior. Our children will develop some foolish ideas and practices. The parent must make the effort to mold the child into a productive citizen. Corporal punishment is a tool that when done correctly can help shape the child for future success.
2. The benefit of corporal punishment is when the child is small.
Proverbs 19:18 teaches to discipline your son while he is young, while there is still hope. When you spank a child at a young age you enforce the notion that actions have consequences. This practice enforces submitting to authority. I have two sons, one is 17 and the other is 13. I do not need to spank them today. When a father whips a 16-year-old son I am afraid much of the time the only thing that comes from it is the father reinforces he is the still the big dog in the family. This truth is applicable to all discipline and not just corporal punishment. Discipline must begin when the child is small to be effective.
3. The Bible does not command that parents practice corporal punishment.
The verses that deal with corporal punishment are found in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is wisdom literature. Solomon, the wisest man who lived, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shared with us wisdom from God. That wisdom included corporal punishment as “a” means for disciplining our children. It is not commanded. You may decide you are not going to spank your children. As a pastor, I support that decision. One is not sinful if they choose not to spank their children. However, such parents must refuse the temptation to impose those convictions on parents who choose to spank based on Biblical principles. I caution you there has to be a clear way of teaching your small children to live within the boundaries that are set. For the rest of your children’s lives they will have to live within certain boundaries. If one does not teach this to their children when they are young they are setting their children up for failure and hard times in life.
4. Some people have misrepresented what the Bible teaches.
This week I heard and read many well intending people completely misrepresent what the Bible teaches. I read one pastor say that corporal punishment is the Law and we are no longer under the Law but under grace. He made this argument against corporal punishment. I thank God we are under grace daily, however, the pastor erred terribly. Corporal punishment is not Law but wisdom literature of the Old Testament. Proverbs gives us wisdom about being lazy, being proud, the perils of drunkenness, having integrity versus lying, etc… To argue I will not live my life according to the wisdom of Proverbs because I am under grace is an extremely foolish statement that demonstrates little understanding of Scripture.
Some have argued the rod of Proverbs is the shepherd’s staff that is used to guide the flock and does not mean a rod to whip with. The Hebrew word for rod in Proverbs transliterates “shebet.” Its scope of meaning is, “a stick for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking or it can mean correction, dart, rod, sceptre, staff or tribe. Anyone who reads the disciplining rod of Proverbs as anything other than a stick to whip with is imposing their views on the Bible. Consider a few verses in Proverbs.
Pr 23:13 Don’t withhold correction from a youth; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. Pr.23:14 Strike him with a rod and you will rescue his life from Sheol. (hell) Pr. 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey and a rod for the backs of fools.
One would have to be pretty imaginative to offer an alternative to these verses meaning anything but physically striking someone with a rod.
5. The key element in discipline will not be a belt or switch or a time out, it has to be love.
Hebrews 12 describes God’s love for Christians. Verse 6 says the Lord disciplines the one He loves. Whatever we do in the area of discipline has to be bathed in love. Because we love our children we want them to have the best chance in life to be successful. As parents our job is to mold them and shape them as best we can into Godly, productive citizens.
Last night I saw two things that cemented for me that I needed to share some thoughts on this matter. One, my family was eating out last night in a nice local restaurant in Jackson, MS. A family with 2 small girls between the ages of 4-8 sat next to us. These girls ran up and down the dinning room, crawled under tables, stood in place and jumped up and down while the parents completely ignored them. I was able to share with my two sons that I loved them too much to let them behave such a way when they were young. I also was able to teach them about being parents and how poor these two parents were. I shared Proverbs 29:15 describes a child left to himself will bring disgrace on the mother. Secondly, I saw a Fox poll that said only 34% of Americans believe corporal punishment is acceptable. I submit that children being completely undisciplined by parents is a greater problem than corporal punishment in America.