As an ordained minister I spent 8 years learning the Hebrew and Greek language so as to study the Bible in its original language. Since that time, almost 20 years ago, I have spent many laboring hours preparing sermons and writing Bible studies on topics of marriage, love, money, miracles, gifts of the Spirit, parenting, and most importantly the Grace of God as seen through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was with great respect for the scriptures that I undertook a call to raise the consciousness of parents throughout the world. It is with this same respect and conviction that I offer a look at a Biblical perspective on spanking.
Christian parents frequently seek the Bible in their effort to raise godly children. They believe that there is a biblical mandate to spank and they fear that if they don’t spank, they will commit the sin of losing control of their child. They believe that God has commended them to spank and they take “spare the rod and spoil the child” literally. In doing so they misunderstand the concept of the rod. The following are the biblical verses which have caused the greatest confusion:
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. But the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)
“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to itself disgraces his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
At first glance these verses seem to be in strong support of the use of corporal punishment. But are they really? A closer examination of the Hebrew word for “rod” (shebet), sheds more light on the subject. In the Hebrew dictionary “rod” has various meanings; a stick for walking, writing, fighting, ruling, and punishment. The word “shebet” is most frequently used when referring to shepherds who are tending their flocks. The shepherds used the stick to fight off prey and to gently guide wandering sheep, not strike them for being out of line.
The verses that contain this material were written in poetic form. Writers of poetry typically use familiar words of the day to represent concepts and create imagery of what they are writing about. The “rod” can as easily be interpreted as a gentle guide as it can a stick for hitting children.
The image that I believe we are to extract from these verses in Proverbs is one of creating a culture of accountability in our families. The point that God is making here is that we as parents are to hold our children accountable for their choices and actions. That is His desire.
There are many ways to hold a child accountable and corporal punishment (spanking) does not have to be one of them.
Reread the passages above again and replace the references to punishment and the use of the rod with the word “accountability” and notice what happens.
Proverbs 13:24 would read, “He who spares accountability hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
Proverbs 22:15 would read, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. But holding him accountable will drive it far from him.”
Proverbs 23:13-14 would read, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you create a culture of accountability he will not die. Create accountability and save his soul from death.”
Proverbs 29:15 would read, “The culture of accountability imparts wisdom, but a child left to itself disgraces his mother.”
As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Yet some Christians hold fast to interpreting the “rod” in the Proverbs passages as a mandate to spank. They interpret the passages written many years ago in the language of the time with today’s words and context. They take the passages literally, staunchly claiming that that’s what the Bible says.
But what about these passages?
“Anyone who attacks his father or his mother must be put to death.” (Exodus 21:15)
“If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.” (Leviticus 20:9)
Almost every parent would admit that their child has said, “I hate you,” or “You’re not the boss of me,” at one time or another. But no one argues that their child should be put to death in these cases.
No, children don’t need to be put to death and they don’t need to be spanked either. They do need to be held accountable for their actions and choices however. The Bible simply does not support spanking. It supports holding children accountable. It says, “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) “Training” does not mean spanking, hitting, or any other form of corporal punishment.
Chick and I believe that creating a culture of accountability is the most loving thing you can do for your children. We believe in holding children accountable within a model that Jesus gave us. In the New Testament Jesus modified the Old Testament by providing us with a model of gentleness and love. He changed the eye for an eye approach and called for turning the other cheek and forgiving seven times seventy.
Consider these inspired words of God in your parenting:
“Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
“Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)
“What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love with a gentle spirit?” (Corinthians 4:21).
Become an enlightened parent, one who is moved and inspired by the word of God that calls for grace, gentleness, forgiveness, and love in all that you do. Challenge yourself to create a Christ-like approach to parenting. Seek strategies and techniques that enable you to parent to the soul of your child.
Refrain from using the Bible as an excuse to spank. Use it instead to help you create a higher vision of yourself as a parent and to become the parent you always wanted to be.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: <http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com//refer.php?s=25357295&u=697969>www.personalpowerpress.com.
by Thomas Haller, Respons-able Parenting Newsletter