TOUGH STUFF: Shaping The Will – spanking

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Shaping the Will:  Spanking

Spanking is one of the tools parents use to disciple their children

Tough Stuff 2010

Let’s go for the throat right up front.  What are the fifteen most common mistakes made in parenting?

1 Correcting your failures through the lives of your kids

2 Setting standards for your kids based on what others might think

3 Over-involving your children in anything outside of Christ, His Church or His Word, to the point of idolatry

4 Failure to provide for your kids a Biblical model for marriage

5 An attempt to substitute material things for consistent attention and love

6 Moms pursuing careers outside the home at the expense of your kids

7 Isolating your children, not only from the world, but even from the Church because of fear

8 Using your mouth to deflate your kids

9 Thinking that your children once saved cannot overcome the world or pursue Christ on their own without you

10 Never apologizing to your kids when you err

11 Not making certain your kids are continually exposed to Biblical teaching and a Christian world view

12 Making your children your only responsibility as a Christian, and ignoring your responsibility to the Church in service, and ignoring your responsibility to the lost world as a witness

13 Thinking that the influence of any one person can ever undo the indwelling Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and a strong parental example

14 Holding on to your kids too tightly

15 Thinking if you love your kids enough that will replace proper discipline

Well–that’s enough, let’s close in prayer!

If you’re like me, just listening to that list is convicting, and you’re thinking, how can I do better?

What tools do I need to get this parenting job done right?  Tools are crucial to getting any job done right.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to complete a project at home, but didn’t have the right tools–what a pain.  You try to tighten the nut, but don’t have the right wrench . . . you try to dig the hole, but don’t have a shovel . . . you try to cut the object, but don’t have the right saw.

Yet, this is the very thing many parents try to do–they are called by God to parent their children, they’re given the responsibility of discipling their kids to follow Christ, but they’re trying to do the job without the right tools.  What are the right parenting tools?  Open to Ephesians 6:4–what is the right size wrench that fits those little nuts at home?

God tells us in Ephesians 6:4, “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but,” and here are the two tools God gives us to get the job done with our children, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Review:  never forget, the proper use of these tools must be rooted in the entire letter of Ephesians, and the total verse of Ephesians 6:4.

First Ephesians 1-3  Are you genuinely born again?

Second Ephesians 4  Are you intimately interconnected to a local church?

Third Ephesians 5  Are you filled with the Spirit?

Fourth Ephesians 5  Are you functioning Biblically in your marriage?

Fifth Ephesians 6  Are you dads fulfilling your role as leader in the parenting process?  According to Ephesians 6:4, the parenting responsibility is assigned first to dads, with moms assisting.  Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The Bible says fathers–does it really mean fathers?  Isn’t he just assuming fathers and mothers here?  The answer is no.  Really?  Notice: verse 1, parents—“Children, obey your parents.”

verse 2, father and mother—“Honor your father and mother.”

verse 4, fathers–he has used the words “parents” and “father and mother”–if he meant to say either of those he would have, but he didn’t–he said “fathers” because God has assigned the primary task of parenting to fathers.

Sixth Ephesians 6:4 tells us to avoid creating an atmosphere where we are unnecessarily stirring up anger, or causing our children to lose heart, provoking our children.

Seventh Ephesians 6:4 tells us to bring them up, first by being aware that our children are made in God’s image–designed by God, generally sinful, with particular sinful bents, but moldable.  Then by creating an atmosphere of love, we can encourage them to grow spiritually, socially, practically and physically.  All parenting must be rooted in 1-7.  Now finally,

Eighth How–how do parents accomplish this task?  What tools has God given us to parent/disciple our children?  What kind of sander has God given us to smooth those rough little boards at home?

Here is where a message like this becomes Tough Stuff.  We are speaking about parenting children—that, in itself, is controversial.

Some parents confuse style of education with parenting/training . . .

Some parents think parenting is their only mission on this planet . . .

Some parents forget that parenting is just another word for discipleship . . .

Some parents have made parenting a hands-off topic . . . “Don’t talk about my money, my marriage or my parenting.”

And in our world today, spanking itself is a major controversial issue.  So today is Tough Stuff, but since at FBC we love what God says in His Word, even if it is counter-culture or rattles our pre-conceived parenting notions.  We love hearing God’s Word the way the original authors intended to say it and God meant it.  So here we are today, going to exposit what God says about spanking, one of the key tools to Biblical parenting, on our break from 1 Peter.

#1  God gave two key tools for parents to use to disciple

Ephesians 6:4 says the two main tools are discipline and instruction.  Today our focus is discipline, but we will refer to instruction a little.

First  What is biblical discipline? Turn to Hebrews 12–the exact noun form of discipline that is used in Ephesians 6:4 is used six times total in the New Testament.  After Ephesians 6:4, there’s one usage of how the Word of God disciplines us in 2 Timothy 3:16,  but all five remaining references occur in Hebrews 12, describing God’s discipline of His children.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; it is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

On the basis of that passage, what do you think discipline is describing back in Ephesians 6:4?

As God spanks Christians, parents are to spank their children.  If you’re going to be like Christ, you will spank your kids–He does.

The verb form of the word discipline is translated as correcting, punishing, instructing and educating.  It’s used in Luke 23:16 to describe physical scourging–“I will therefore punish [that’s discipline] Him and release Him.”  Ouch!  The verb form of the word discipline also occurs six times in Hebrews 12, and in verse 6 discipline is again used as if God were physically scourging us.  Hebrews 12:6, “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”

And because our Heavenly Father is our model for parenting, the verb discipline is used by our Lord in Revelation 3:19 when Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.” Clearly the primary emphasis and nuance of this word refers to that which is done to a child in pursuit of their nurture, clearly out of a motivation of love.

Discipline here is punitive corrective measures being employed, not to vent the frustrations of a harried parent, and certainly not to justify some sick, sinful spirit that wants to abuse a weaker creature.  It is spanking, discipline given to nurture our kids to see them brought to their full potential of Christian manhood and womanhood under God’s design.

Second, the other tool mentioned in Ephesians 6:4–instruction, what is said to the child.  The Greek word “instruction” means admonition, instruction, warning and education.  The instruction tool is verbal activity made up of warnings, urgings, and loving instruction–some positive, most of it negative.

Kids, why do parents instruct your baby brother not to chew on the extension cord?  Because they don’t want fried Freddy, and because parents love their children.  Why do parents talk to you about negative issues–they make you listen to talks about dress, driving, submission, manners?  Why?  Because they have no choice–God commands them to, and they talk to you because they love you.  Perhaps the best Old Testament illustration of both these tools is Proverbs 29:15, “The rod [of correction, discipline] and reproof [admonishment, instruction] give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way [a child who does not come to maturity under the constant pressure of these two tools of rod and reproof causes or] brings shame to his mother.”

So the two tools of parenting are discipline, which is done to the child, and instruction, which is said to the child.

Second  Never forget who gave parents the tool of discipline

When it’s a Craftsman tool, we know it came from Sears and comes with Sears’ lifetime guarantee.  It gives you confidence–there is more for your life at Sears.  When you’re convinced that God gave you discipline as a tool, it’ll give you the commitment and courage to use it properly.  Ephesians 6:4 says, “In the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The “of” here in Greek, “of the Lord,” is a genitive of origin.  In other words, it’s a discipline and an instruction that have their origin in the Lord–they came from Jesus Christ Himself.

Parents, are you fully convinced it is the discipline and instruction of the Lord?  If you’re not convinced that the rod of correction is placed in your hand by the nail pierced hand of Christ, you’ll be inconsistent and tentative in its use.  As long as they are under eighteen, or still live in your house, they are to receive your instruction and your discipline.  The authority to use these tools is from our Lord.  And children, regardless of age, if you live at home or are still supported by your parents, circle the phrase ‘of the Lord’ in your Bibles.

This phrase means, when Dad or Mom apply the rod and speak warnings to you, and you buck against it or resent it, you’re fighting against Jesus Himself.  Don’t mess with this.  When they discipline you, or instruct you, or warn you, don’t treat it lightly–even though they’re not perfect parents and have many faults.  Don’t say, “Oh, that’s just my old man–he doesn’t have a clue,” or “Oh, my mom has PMS, she’s crazy, legalistic, or out of it.”

Young people, the source, authority and origin of these tools of discipline and instruction comes directly from God.  Resisting these through your parents is resisting Jesus.  And not only did Jesus give parents these tools, He also showed parents how to use them.  Sometimes you can use a wrench like a hammer, but most of the time you damage both the tool and the object, right?  The rod, given by the Lord, if not regulated by the same Lord, can be an instrument to ruin your children.  Instruction given by the Lord, but administered in ways contrary to the Word of God, can also destroy your children.  God’s tools must be used God’s way.  So . . .

#2  How do parents use the discipline tool?

How do we finish those rare pieces of priceless furniture at home?  Answer:  by speaking and spanking.  By using the rod.

First  Embrace the reason for the rod

The world says children are neutral–blank tablets who only need a safe environment and a good education to turn out right.  But the Bible says that children are sinful to the core–wicked, with fallen inner natures that need correction to turn out right.  Look at what the Bible says.

Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  From our very conception we are sinful to the core.

Ephesians 2:2-3, “Without Jesus we are . . . the sons of disobedience . . .3 by nature children of wrath.”  From birth we’re disobedient and headed toward wrath.

Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”  Why shouldn’t we wait until the teen years, when we can talk more intelligently?  Because foolishness is bound tightly into your child’s nature (they’re fallen).  “Foolishness” is not mischievous or impish, it’s not lighthearted or fun-loving.  Biblically, to be foolish is deadly.

Compare the Batman TV show of the 60’s to the Batman movies today–we think of foolishness like the Batman TV show, but in reality, true foolishness is like the Batman movies–evil, deadly, scary, not fun.  The “foolish” possess a God-mocking, instruction-hating nature.  Fools despise discipline, and hate being corrected.  Fools don’t listen to authority, and fools do their own thing.  And all this “is bound up in the heart of a child,”–your child.  Therefore, start early to shape that foolish will.  A child given to foolish ways only accelerates in defiance as time passes.  Therefore, use the tool early and repeatedly.

Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  The term “diligently” originally meant “dawn, early in the day,” but it came to mean pursuing something early on, or early in life.  An honest translation could be stated this way—“he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him seeks him early in life with discipline.”  We should discipline our children early in life, because this verse tells us true love demands discipline–and diligent means a lot . . . early and a lot.

Proverbs 23:13-14, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from Sheol.”  Kids are headed toward spiritual death, so correction delivers them from hell, encouraging dependence upon Christ.

Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”  The world’s wisdom says self-expression is the answer, the Bible says self-denial is the answer.  Worldly wisdom says permissiveness is the answer, the Bible says self-control is the answer.  Who will you believe?

Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.”  Our children are a gift, but with every privilege comes responsibility.  Part of the responsibility parents have is to discipline their children.  Listen to what God said to Eli, who didn’t correct his boys who were disobedient.  Why did God judge Eli’s house?  First Samuel 3:13 says his sons brought a curse on themselves, and Eli did not rebuke them.

• In I Samuel 2:29, by not disciplining his sons, God said, Eli you’re honoring “your sons above Me”

• Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” While we have a measure of control, while there is hope, we are to discipline our children.

Why use the rod of correction?  Our children are fallen, foolish, disobedient and headed for hell.  If we are responsible, loving parents, we will use the rod God’s way to help them.  But we must find the balance.

Second  Avoid extremes in using the rod

Some parents are not convinced they should use the rod, because some parents have abused it.  But just because a few have misused spanking, doesn’t mean we should not use it.  That logic is faulty.  That would be like saying because there are some reckless drivers on our roads, no one should be allowed to drive.  Or because there are unhappy marriages, no one should be allowed to get married.

Just because there have been some brutal extremes of corporal punishment, that does not mean we should not discipline.  That’s an extreme position that defies common sense and denies the teaching of the perfect Word of God, which is God’s will.

Now listen to me carefully, the Bible, FBC, our elders, myself and this message abhor, deplore and detest any form of abuse, especially child abuse.  No teaching of Scripture, no sermon on discipline, or this message in particular ever, ever, ever justifies the physical harming of a child by parents or anyone.  Is that clear?

Yet even though a few have misapplied and taken Biblical discipline to a sad extreme, Christians must be convinced that God honors those who follow His Word, which means when we use this tool the way God intended for it to be used, it will bless our homes.  In fact the Bible tells us so in Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  Or as Jesus said in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”

The Bible links love with discipline.  Those parents who truly love their children realize the importance of consistent discipline.  A child senses that parents care when they stand their ground.  Consistent Biblical discipline does not cause a child to question your love, but Godly discipline confirms your love.  Once a teen said to his youth pastor, “My parents love their dog more than they love me.”  “What do you mean?”  “When my dog goes in the street, they spank it and tell it, ‘No,’ because they don’t want it to get hurt.  But when I stay out till 2 AM, they don’t do or say anything at all–they love their dog more than me,” . . . and he was right.

Numerous tests have proven that well-loved, yet justly disciplined children are healthier, and they mature to be more productive, secure adults than those raised in ultra-permissive environments.  But since we live in an unbalanced society that is filled with extreme approaches to childrearing, in order to use the discipline tool, we need to . . .

1 Know the difference between abuse and discipline

The only way you will ever know how to spank and use the rod is to understand how discipline is different from abuse.

Abuse: Unfair and unexpected, Degrading and demoralizing, Extreme–too harsh or brutal, Torturous–leaves scars, Results from hatred and resentment,

creates terror, emotional damage, and resentment of authority, destroys self-esteem; leads to horrifying, permanent damage and the inability, later in life, to maintain responsibilities

Discipline: Fair and expected, upholds dignity, balanced–within limits, painful, but leaves no scars, prompted by love and concern, leads to a healthy respect for authority, strengthens self-esteem; leads to the individual’s ability to later discipline himself

Some homes are houses of horror.  Sick and sinful parents (who themselves were often victims of child abuse) lack sufficient inner strength to control themselves when they administer discipline . . . some because of pride in their parenting approach . . . some because of drugs or alcohol don’t even realize when they’re operating out of control.  That is not Biblical discipline–that’s abuse.

2 Know the difference between normal childishness and willful defiance

Every growing child needs space in which to discover, make mistakes and experience all that’s involved in growing toward maturity.  Kids naturally forget to do a task every now and then.  They spill their milk, water, juice and Coke and cereal–everything.  They stumble and fall.  They break things.  They leave stuff in their pockets.  They slip in the bathtub and crack their heads.  They get clean clothes soiled seconds after they go outside.  That’s all part of being a child.  They’re not trying to be malicious or defiant–they’re just learning the ropes.  To come down hard on a little one for such actions is unfair.  Discipline is inappropriate on those occasions.

Willful defiance is another matter.  That is a child’s deliberate disobedience to a clear parental command.  Teachers see it in today’s classrooms.  Merchants face it in their shops.  Police encounter it on a daily basis.  Youth workers are forced to deal with it.  Why? . . . because parents won’t.

Third  Deal with the excuses about the rod

Parents are full of excuses about the rod–they say . . .

• I love my child too much to spank them

• I’m afraid I will hurt them if I spank them

• I’m afraid it will make them rebellious or angry

• I’m afraid of being arrested

Yet the Bible says in Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul.” God says in Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  And Proverbs 23:13-14 says, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from Sheol.”

Biblically balanced discipline never physically endangers or damages a child.  Rather than anger, a corrected child will bring comfort, peace and delight to a parent and to himself.  Parents should exercise care in making discipline a private matter, primarily done in the home, not in public.  And parents do need to protect their child’s fragile spirit while attempting to shape a stubborn fallen will.  But ultimately this issue is a question of faith.  Will I obey God, even when there are risks attached to obeying God?  While the risks can be limited, they can’t be eliminated.  Therefore parents must be wise, but also obedient to God.  So what should parents do?

Fourth  Practice using the rod the way God designed

Parents are called to follow God’s Word as it relates to spanking.  How should they?  By . . .

1 Pursuing only Biblical discipline with the rod

The rod is a parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured and controlled use of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying God, thus rescuing the child from continuing in his foolishness until death.  Biblical discipline is between a parent and child, not between adults and all children.  It is an act of faith in obedience to God, expressing confidence in God’s Word as true.

It’s an expression of love and commitment to a child, and fulfilling a God-given responsibility of parents.  It’s careful, timely, measured and always controlled.  It’s never venting of parental anger, frustration, retribution, or an excuse to hit a child.  But it is the means God has given parents to rescue their children from foolishness and sin, pointing them to the importance of obeying God their entire lives.  The key purpose of the rod is to teach our children to subject their wills to God’s will, and to show them that God punishes disobedience in all its forms.

2 Use a rod, not your hand

Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  The Bible calls us to use a rod, a device of punishment.  The Hebrew word for “rod”, yah-saar, is a general word that’s surprisingly also translated club.  (I am really grateful my dad didn’t know Hebrew.)  It’s also translated scepter, staff and tribe.  But here is the important point, and don’t overlook this–yah-saar calls for an implement when disciplining our children.

The Bible calls for a rod–not your hand, or your foot.  Your hand is to be the touch of gentleness.  A rod is an instrument to administer some physical pain, like a wooden spoon, a paddle, a small piece of belt, never to physically damage a child, but to communicate God’s Word, to give some pain in order to teach the consequences of willful disobedience.

3 The rod is used to associate pain for disobedience, not damage

Look again at Proverbs 22:15—“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”  Discipline here is the idea of inflicting pain in order to associate pain with disobedience.  But it’s not a slap on the face.  Neither the face nor upper body are designed to handle such a blow.  Common sense, basic wisdom and physiology tell us God has provided a perfect place on the body for pain.  He’s even supplied that area with some extra padding.  And when the rod of discipline is administered God’s way with the right motive, firmly and briefly, no permanent damage will remain.  According to God’s promise, it will drive foolishness from him.

4 Use the rod often–when does a child need a spanking?

When you, as a parent, have given a directive that he has heard, and is within his capacity to understand–and he has not obeyed without challenge, without excuse or without delay–he needs a spanking.  Willful, deliberate, rebellious disobedience is the only reason for discipline–not mistakes or clumsiness.  So what kind of disobedience deserves a spanking?

If they don’t say hello, when told to

If they neglect or forget your clear command

If they delay, excuse or challenge a clear command

If they lie to you, hit their sister, or steal anything

If they argue with you, accuse you, or are rude to anyone

If you fail to spank, you’re saying you don’t believe what the Bible teaches on this issue.  You’re saying you do not love your child enough to do the painful thing God has called you to do, so . . .

5 Take the time to discipline Biblically–it takes time

Step 1 Be certain he understands what he did that was wrong.

Make him figure it out.  Ask, “What did you do?”  Have him be specific, just like a Christian in confession to God.  If he doesn’t know specifically what he is being corrected for, you can count on him doing it again.

Step 2 Bring the authority of God to bear on him directly.  Ask, “What does God say about this?”  Let him answer–if he can’t, then you need to share what God’s Word says about what he did.  Show him how he’s offended God, and that it is God he’s sinned against.

Step 3 Help him evaluate his own actions in light of the Bible.  Ask, “Was this right or wrong, and why?”

Step 4 Help him to see when he sins he needs to be corrected.  Ask, “What happens when you disobey?”

Step 5 Show him your obligation to be God’s agent in correction.  Ask, “As your parent, what must I do under God’s authority?”  Remind him you are only doing what God has commanded you to do as a parent.

Step 6 After you’ve spanked and loved, ask what he ought to do in the future to avoid having to be corrected over this issue?

Along with these crucial questions, the use of the rod should be reflective of God’s discipline procedure with His children.  It should be . . .

• Done in private to preserve a child’s dignity

• Don’t make a habit of delaying discipline–don’t wait for dad to come home unless necessary.  Make sure both mom and dad administer discipline.

• Make sure the number of swats is in proportion to the disobedience.  God always spanks us in degrees–so should we.  Defiance and lying are more severe than delaying to come to the table.

• Make sure their heart is your priority, not conformity to your demands. You’re not shaping their behavior, you’re cultivating inner character–therefore attitudes are more important than actions.

• Make sure the spanking is effective, not through pants or diapers.  Control the situation by holding the child over your lap or having them hold their ankles so you don’t miss. God doesn’t miss, neither should we. Make sure you’re controlled–if you are not, wait until you are so you can demonstrate God’s character.

• Most importantly, after you have spanked, hold or hug your child telling them how much you love them, how much it grieves you to spank them, and how much you hope that it will not be necessary again.  And make certain it is a finished and forgotten event, and move on.

God has given you parents tools to disciple your children, and lest you forget, instruction is not merely said, Biblical instruction must also be shown to a child–you must model God’s Word for instruction and discipline to work.  To instruct them and discipline them without modeling Christ, and without loving them, is like telling them to go to heaven while taking them by the hand and leading them to hell.  You must turn to Christ and depend on His Spirit to disciple your children properly–so let’s ask Him today to make us better models, instructors and disciplinarians.

All true Christians are disciplined by a loving father.  And parents, your job is to follow your heavenly Father’s example.  Never lose sight of your purpose–parenting is discipleship.  You are making your children into followers and learners of Christ.  You are praying, living, modeling, spanking, instructing so they will glorify God and fulfill their purpose on this planet.

Never follow a system over the Scripture in Spirit-dependence.  Christian parenting is Christian discipleship–you are evangelizing, incorporating them into the Church, finally being baptized and teaching them to obey all that Christ commands them to do.  Your goal is to show them Christ and do everything you can to have them follow Him in spite of you.  Your hope is to transfer the natural authority you have in their lives to Christ.

Never think you can parent without Christ–you don’t have the ability or know how.  You need a Savior for your sins, you need empowerment from the Holy Spirit, you need genuine salvation lived out every day in order for your children to be impacted by you for Christ.  Turn to Jesus Christ.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.