A Father’s Day Question

To spank or not to spank? It’s a question debated by parents, with many concluding that the practice is unkind, unreasonable, and even unchristian. So it may surprise some to learn how often the Bible advocates spanking. Consider the following wisdom from Proverbs, where corporal punishment is referred to as “the rod”:

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol” (Proverbs 23:13-14).

“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

Obviously, spanking is not the only biblical way to administer discipline. Proverbs refers to both “the rod” and “reproof.” Indeed, taking away privileges, verbal correction, timeouts, and other tactics can all be valid at times. Yet spanking has its place. Proverbs 22:15 gets to the heart of the matter: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” By “folly,” Scripture does not mean childishness (like spilling the milk or accidentally tipping over a lamp). Rather, it means a lack of reverence for God and rebellion against His authority. For a child, rebelling against God takes the form of rejecting parental authority—breaking the rules of the house. If such folly is allowed to grow unchecked for 14 or 15 years, “it will produce a rebellious teenager who will not allow anyone to rule him,” as biblical counselor Tedd Tripp puts it. Spanking is God’s tool to break a child from the type of sinful rebellion that eventually will ruin his life. In Tripp’s words, “It provides an immediate tactile demonstration of the foolishness of rebellion.”

Of course, all discipline must be administered in love, not in anger or with a vindictive spirit (see Ephesians 6:4). Proper discipline is always an expression of love, as with God’s discipline of His children. According to Hebrews 12, discipline is for the good of a child and an expression of fatherly care.

In light of this, Father’s Day is a good time to learn the value of parental discipline. No doubt, it will pain your heart to hear your little one’s cries if he or she receives a spanking. But keep in mind the counsel of Hebrews 12:11: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” What a blessing future Father’s Days will be if your children respect you and honor God because of the discipline they receive at home.

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