Thursday, 11 August 2011

Spare the Rod

Someone I really respect recently posted on Facebook
Governments that effectively prohibit a parent using a rod (Proverbs 13:24) on a child, will discover that they are increasingly having police officers needing to use them on adults!
I am certain that there is a level of humour intended, and I certainly agree that a lack of discipline is a problem in our society. I can also see the link between a generation of young people who have little respect for authority and the riots on our streets this last week.

But it reminded me of Phil's excellent post on the subject of smacking which got me thinking.

On that post I commented:

"I am ever more confused by some of the assertions regarding physical discipline using that verse in Proverbs.

Whatever happened to aligning things with the new covenant, looking at the life of Jesus and the example of the early Church?

Seems a bit odd to hinge a whole doctrine on a piece of advice and make it sound like a command.

If Esther is nagging me I don't go and sit on the corner of a roof!

I wonder what the funniest "taking a proverb literally" doctrine could end up being?

I just don't think it is meant like that.

Is there not far more biblical evidence that a child should be swaddled when sleeping: because that after all is the example of Jesus?"

This post is not a judgement on people who smack their kids per se. I know and love many people who do.

It is a question to those who say, or perhaps more subtley imply, that I should.

In England if I use a rod, that is against the law. You are not allowed to use another object. I don't know anyone who quotes this verse in Proverbs and actually uses a rod.

Therefore I would probably use my hand. Which is already changing the command from rod to a hand. I am instantly making a value judgement and using my own chosen method of "force".

Where does that end? If we get to choose? Smacking with a hand? Shaking? All we have done is impose a value judgement onto what "acceptable" force is based on our own worldview, which is not exactly submiting to the Scripture.

I am absolutely 100% committed to the effective discipline of my children. Just as I am 100% commited to their welfare, their physical and emotional needs. I am certain people who smack and people who don't smack are equally determined to get it right.

I guess my question is for people who do believe that Proverbs holds fast as a biblical reasoning to smack your children:
  • Do you go and sit on the corner of your roof when your spouse nags you? (Pr 21:9)
  • Or go and live in the wilderness? (Pr 21:19)
  • When someone mocks you do you flog / hit them? (Pr 19:25)
  • Or if someone is foolish (Pr 19:29)
  • And what is your favourite method of sanctification? (Pr 20:30)
  • And finally, out of Proverbs and with a with a cheeky grin, do you Swaddle your baby? (Luke 2:7)
  • And was your son circumsized?
I think Proverbs is very clear about discipline. The child who is truly loved is disciplined for their overall benefit. No-one doubts that. But I feel am not convinced that Proverbs 13:24 gives Christians a mandate to actually smack our children, not at all.

I can see the line of thinking that it gives us permission, should we choose to. What I am challenging is the notion that it means we ought to.

Proverbs always gives us good advice. Which is why I will finish with Proverbs 21:2.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

I am not judging another person's choice of discipline. I have not fully made my own mind up yet for methods we will use. I am just thinking this stuff through. And as the verse above suggests, I am pretty sure as with most things what really interests God is what is on our hearts.

We may choose non violent methods of discipline but have anger and revenge in our hearts.

So no outward methodology is going to be the simple answer.


Anonymous said...

Dave, Also I think loving our neighbour as ourselves and doing unto others that which we would have done unto ourselves is part of this, I like you don't feel comfortable with the idea of biblically obligatory physical punishment, Mike T

Jongudmund said...

The best discipline I ever heard of was a dad of three boys who, if they were naughty, would eat their desserts at tea time and make them watch. All the while he'd say "Oh, I don't know if I can even eat this many desserts. I really wish you hadn't been so naughty. What am I saying? This is delicious."

His teenage son told me this with something approaching admiration for the tactic.