Posts Tagged ‘disciple’

2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

I’ve been there. Your child does something so defiant, you honestly don’t know what to do. You try everything you can think of, then find yourself reaching out for tactics you don’t want to use. You think, “I am doing this in love. It is for their own good. After all, doesn’t the Bible say to do this? Why does it feel so awful?! I wish there was another way.”

I’m going to present to you some Biblical evidence that perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way…that perhaps there IS another Biblical way to discipline. You may think you’ve heard it all before. But, don’t you owe it to yourself to closely reexamine what the Bible really says? Don’t you owe it to your child to find out if there is, in fact, a better way? And, don’t you owe it your Creator, the Creator of your child, to make sure you’re “rightly dividing” His Word? I am so thankful someone pointed this out to me! I can’t help but share it with others!

You’ve heard that the Bible says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Can you find that chapter & verse? No. It’s simply not in the Bible. This quote comes from a 17th century poem (see footnote A), not the Bible. The Bible verses refering to a rod of discipline are as follows:

Pr 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Pr 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

The first thing we need to examine is, are we literally obeying the Bible when we spank? No, because the Bible speaks of “beating” a “child” with a “rod”. I’m not suggesting anyone beat their child with a rod to properly obey the Bible! I’m just pointing out that if we really thought these verses should be taken literally, we’d in fact be beating our young children with something like a shepherd’s staff. In which case, they certainly could die, even though Proverbs 23:13 (above) says they would not. Scripture is Truth, and does not lie! Further proof that these beatings are figurative, not literal.

Do we stone adulterers anymore? Do we any longer stone our rebellious adult offspring? No, because we live in the age of GRACE!  Praise Jesus, for He made it quite clear how we are to react in these situations! (John 8:3-11, Luke 15:11-32- The Woman Caught in Adultery, and The Prodigal Son.) So, even if we could conclude that the rod verses should be taken exactly literal, we can clearly see they are no longer valid in this age of grace Jesus has made possible!

If these verses aren’t literal, or in line with grace, what do they mean? How are we to apply them?

The word “rod” is used figuratively many times in the Old Testement as a representation of God’s authority over a nation, or of one nation’s authority over another. A literal rod was usually a shepherd’s staff, (used to beat off the enemy- wolves, bears, lions-, not in hitting the sheep), or a septre (staff) carried by a king or head of household to REPRESENT their authority and guidance.

Try replacing the word “rod” in these verses with it’s figurative meaning, the words “authority”, or even “guidance”. To encompass both meanings, we’ll use, “authoritative guidance”.

Next, do these verses certainly apply to a literal child, who is typically the recipient of spankings? Most likely not. The meaning of the word “child” here is simply “offspring”, or sometimes, “young man”. An elderly lady can say she has five children, but we wouldn’t think she means actual young children. We’d know she means “adult children” or “adult offspring”.

The word “beat” here is the same word used in the account of Jonah when the sun “beat” down upon him. (Jonah 4:8) Did the sun reach down & hit Jonah? No! We understand that “beat” here means, “a constant source”. Therefore, we can also replace the word “beat” in the “rod” verses with “a constant source”.

And, so we have:

Pr 13:24 He that spareth his “authoritative guidance” hateth his [adult] son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a “young man”; but the “authoritative guidance” of correction shall drive it far from him.

Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the “young man”; for if thou “apply a constant source” with “authoritative guidance” he shall not die.

Pr 23:14 Thou shalt “apply a constant source” with “authoritative guidance” and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Pr 29:15 “Authoritative guidance”and reproof give wisdom: but a “young man” left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

And, this is exactly how Jews in Old Testement times took these verses
(see footnotes B). They were commands to guide their adult children. And, isn’t that what Proverbs is all about!

Proverbs 1:8-9, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

It is clear, then, that parents are called to be a constant source of authoritative guidance for their offspring, all throughout their lives!  I am not convinced, however, that God has commanded me to discipline my children by hitting.

Since the Bible does not mean we are to discipline children by hitting, how does the Bible say we, as parents, should discipline?

We can find the answer through further examination of these verses. Some other words used in these verses have become synonymous with punishment over the years, when in fact, their simplest definitions are as follows. They are chastening, correction, and reproof.

Chasten: to restrain or subdue. Restrain: to hold back, or keep in check. Subdue: to hold within limits; to quieten (calm).

Correction: something that is substituted or proposed for what is wrong or inaccurate.

Reproof: the act of expressing disapproval.

In it’s simplest form, discipline means that I express my disapproval, calm my child and help him keep within limits, and teach him to substitute a right
for a wrong.

2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

The word, “discipline” comes from the word, “disciple”. Therefore, discipline of children shouldn’t be much different from discipleship of believers! The New Testament is chock full of instruction for disciples! (And, none of these instructions includes hitting disciples.) This should make our search for Biblical answers much easier! Praise God!


A- “Hudibras”, by Samuel Butler, 17th century

Wikepedia: [In his poem, Butler originated the phrase “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” and although the phrase is often taken to be a Biblical injunction about child-rearing, (probably as a corruption of Book of Proverbs 13:24), ….

“Love is a boy by poets stil’d
Then spare the rod and spoil the child” (Part II, Canto I, ll. 839-44).]

B- “The Rod or Shebet: An Indepth Examination”, by Joan Renae, http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/articles/rodstudy.php :

“She had the Hebrew checked by three rabbis who confirmed this interpretation of ‘shebet’.”


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I love this message! Through the story of Jonah, Andy Stanley illustrates that God’s process of discipline is His persuit to win us back. Beautiful! There is no more punishment! I will hopefully remember this next time I feel the urge to punish my children in their wayward moments.

I hope this link works for you…


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I received another reply from FOF, below. I’ve prayed and thought for several weeks now, and just have no inspiration to write them again at this time. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, which was to be a voice for other families out there like ours, by giving them an honest, unbiased account of our experience with their teachings. To reply to them again would require me to argue points they’re well aware of already; one being that, yes, Dr. Dobson’s books DO most certainly imply that spanking should be our primary discipline tool because, he teaches, it is mandated by God in the Proverbs “rod” verses. They’re really in denial of this point, whether intentionally or not, but no one but the Holy Spirit can convince them otherwise. I pray I’ve at least given the staff members who read my letter reason to toss and turn on their beds at night. Perhaps this small influence can make a small change, which may lead to bigger changes. This is my prayer. 

I assure you, if I am ever inspired to reply again, you will be among the first to know.

Their reply:

Dear [my real first name],

Thanks for responding to Debbie Lynnewood’s e-mail message of January 12. I trust you’ll understand why I’ve been asked to reply on Debbie’s behalf. In an organization the size of Focus on the Family, where mail is received at the rate of several thousand pieces every day, it is not always possible for a given staff member to follow up on every contact he or she has had the privilege of handling in the past. I’m happy to be able to serve you in this capacity.

You are entitled to your opinions, [my first name], and we’re genuinely grateful to you for taking the time to share them with us. But we also feel constrained to point out that you have seriously misinterpreted Focus on the Family’s perspective in several important details. Most importantly, you do us a grave disservice when you represent us as telling parents that they “must spank to obey God.” This is not and never has been our position. On the contrary, we view appropriate corporal punishment as one potentially helpful component within a broad, varied, and comprehensive discipline plan. We consistently tell moms and dads that spankings should be applied only in cases of willful disobedience or defiance of authority, that they are most effective with children under three years of age, and that they should eventually be replaced with other types of consequences, such as taking away privileges. If you go back and re-read Debbie’s e-mail, I believe you’ll find that she states all of this in clear and unmistakable language.

If you feel a need to discuss this subject at greater length with a member of our staff, we’d like to reiterate Debbie’s invitation to call and speak with one of our counselors over the phone. We have a feeling that this would be a much better way of providing you with a detailed overview of our perspective. You may call weekdays from 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. (MT) at 800/A-FAMILY (232-6459). Just ask for our counselors’ assistant, and don’t be discouraged if she requests that you allow a counselor to call you back. One of them will contact you just as soon as possible. Both this service and the return call come at no cost to you; please accept them as a demonstration of our concern for you.

Thanks again for caring enough to write back. We hope this reply has been helpful. Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of any further assistance. God bless you. 

Timothy Masters
Focus on the Family

[Oh, and I have no intention of calling their counselor hotline. If I contact them again, it will continue to be by prayerful, graceful, truthful responses, by email.]

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My Reply

(Note before you read: Although I am very concerned about the results in any family who is spanking, my main concern in communication with FOF is their faulty teaching)

Thank you for your response. You are right, I do care very much about this topic, and about the impact FOF is having on the Christian community and the world at large. I am not a person who enjoys the “Mommy Wars” found so often in online communities. My main concern is not the parents who are carrying out corporal punishment in a “perfect” manner, because they so choose. My concern is for those who’re preaching that parents must spank to obey God, and for the imperfect parents trying to carry out these practices, fearing God’s displeasure if they do not discipline in this specific manner. This is what I find so dangerous, because a) parents are not perfect, and will not carry out this punishment with perfect control everytime, and b) if they fail, or the discipline doesn’t work to correct the behavior, they may continue it anyway, out of fear of disobeying God.

You stated in your response to me that, “a parent who is denied the use of [spanking] during this [early] phase of the confrontation may find that irritation, frustration, and anger increase as the problem continues unresolved”. As a long-time follower of Focus on the Family, I need you to be aware that the same thing occurs (mounting irritation, frustration, and anger), even when a parent starts out early in the confrontation with spanking, in the manner set forth by Dr. Dobson, if it does not resolve the behavior. Then, what has developed is an angry parent, with hand raised, not knowing what to do next. It is a very frightening, and very common, situation! Add to this the fear of disobeying God, and you have a parent repeating this tactic, with the same results, and no end in sight. The household can become a battleground. A family should not be so!

A major turning point in thinking for my husband and I was when we viewed a DVD set by the Rainy’s (which was purchased from Focus on the Family, if I’m not mistaken), entitled “Beginning at the End”. You may be familiar with the principle behind the title, which is, to think in the beginning of parenting, what kind of adult you want your child to become.

Towards the middle to end of the set, Mrs. Rainy related a time in their parenting years when spanking became so frequent, that she was becoming exhausted. (I should mention here that both Dr. Dobson and the Rainys suggest spanking harder, and more frequently, when the spanking doesn’t correct the behavior the first time.) At this point, she’d been spanking harder and more frequently, until, for the peace of their home, and to prevent further exhaustion on her part, they compiled a list of alternative discipline tactics to use instead of spanking, and posted it on the refrigerator, for use on such trying days.

It became quite obvious to us what we needed to do for our son and our household: begin at the end. That’s when we began searching for alternative discipline tactics. It makes me very sad for Mrs. Rainy that they did not do this in the first place. I can’t imagine the hurt a mother must feel at spending days on end in such a battlefield against her own child. It truly breaks my heart for families.

When we started researching other tactics, they were surprisingly difficult to find! Especially on Christian websites! Which is how we happened upon gentlechristianmothers.com. From there, we found GOYB Parenting.com, (which has by far been the most helpful tactic), ways to sooth a tantrum, teach our child (and ourselves) better ways to handle anger and calm down, ways to recognize the underlying need causing the behavior, and ways to model and teach the right way to behave instead. This is the kind of adult we want to see our child become.

I completely agree with you that there must be consequences for misbehavior. We believe the consequence must make sense, and hitting never really made much sense in any circumstance. (We’ve never had a problem with our children hitting other children, either.)

In the history of our country, the Bible has been misused, intentionally and unintentionally. I do not believe it is the intentional purpose of Focus on the Family to misuse Scripture, but that is what I see happening. There are verses in the OT which state that if a slave owner beats his servant to the point of death, they should be punished. People used to think this meant it was okay to own slaves, and beat them, as long as they didn’t die from a beating. If we were to follow the rod Scriptures exactly, we would literally need to beat our children with literal rods. But, we don’t, because we’re willing to admit it should be taken somewhat figuratively. (There is some doubt cast on if the verses refer to actual children, or adult offspring in rebellion.)

As I mentioned before, Christ showed us a different way, other than stoning, for women caught in adultery. We also know that, in the OT, adult children were commanded to be stoned, if caught in rebellion. But, Jesus gave us the parable of the prodigal son. Surely, if you cannot accept a figurative interpretation of the rod verses, you can see that Jesus meant for us to handle things in a different way.

When else in life is it okay to hit people? It’s only “okay” to hit children because they’re smaller than us, and we can get away with it? My children, including my very spirited, strong-willed son, have learned to obey, without us hitting them.

Again, I don’t presume to change the minds of our culture about spanking, but I beg of Christian ministries to stop teaching as though it is, without a doubt, God’s best plan for discipline. As Christians, we ought to be coaching parents on ways to control their anger, and disciple their children to obey, in effective ways. Instead, Christians everywhere are hitting their children in the name of “love”. It may “work” for some families, but we have to accept it may not really be what God meant for us to be doing, and it doesn’t always work, ESPECIALLY for strong-willed children.

Again, I love Focus on the Family ministries. It has been the light on my path for ten wonderful years of marriage. But, I am repeatedly dissappointed and ashamed of Christians telling other Christians that they must hit their children, because God says so. It is, in my opinion, the “gateway drug” to abuse in families. So, I just need you to know, in love, it doesn’t work, and it isn’t right to keep telling parents they must. In a way, I view Dr. Dobson as a loving “grandpa” in my life, with whom I’ve had a disagreement. I pray he’ll do the right thing.

With Sincerity of Heart, and Christian Love,
[My Real Name]

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My Letter to Focus on the Family


I am a long time listener and supporter of Focus on the Family. From the time I was a teenager, I listened to and from school and college, collecting much wisdom for the path ahead of me. A strange thing for a teen to do, I guess. But, I truly love the Lord, and wanted His best for my future. I hold a high respect for Dr. James Dobson and his marriage advice. I’ve been very happily married for almost ten years.

However, when I had my first child, Dr.Dobson’s advice nearly broke my heart. I’d always assumed I’d spank, and followed his advice for my spirited 2 year old. I cannot express to you in words how wrong it felt. The spirit of God was convicting me, and this precious son, whom I’d nursed for 21 months, and had continued a very close, in-synch relationship with, even through the addition o a new baby, when he was 28 mos….become afraid and distrustful of me. Not only that, it wasn’t working to improve his behavior. He fit the bill for “strong-willed”, certainly. But, could he be beyond hope, since the very method tailored to his personality wasn’t working?

With much prayer, my husband and I began to research other discipline methods. I came across gentlechristianmothers.com in my search, and discovered some very eye-opening statements about Biblical discipline.

Out son is now 4 yrs old. We are complimented often, at church, by family and friends, and even by strangers, on how happy and well-behaved our children seem. Life is not perfect, and he’s not a perfect child. But, we are a much more peaceful, loving family since learning to discipline with the Grace of Jesus.

What I see lacking on your website is acknowledgement that these verses in Proverbs may not mean what we think they mean. You can do the research yourself and find that there are many reasons to doubt that these are commands to hit children. More than likely, they are wise principles for being a constant source of authority for our children. The OT has many things to say that are covered under grace. Another good example is the treatment of women caught in adultery. We all know how Jesus chose to react. This should be the ultimate example, among many in the NT, of how to apply grace.

I write this because the advice from Dr. Dobson about strong willed children is at worse, very dangerous advice for new parents. And, at the very least, it is impractical and unecessary. I say dangerous because it’s using God’s Word to convince parents they must hit their children. I believe there are FAR more Biblical principles we can apply to child discipline, besides a few commonly misunderstood proverbs, written by a king who ended his life in such disgrace against God, and was held with such irreverence by his own sons  (Solomon). Let’s instead apply the wisdom of Christ, Himself.  How did He disciple? How did He view children? What principles of love, forgiveness, reproof, and correction can we glean from the NT church?

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind completely about spanking. It is so ingrained in our culture, most people don’t think twice about NOT doing it, as I once thought. However, I hope my letter will at least open the eyes of Focus on the Family and it’s wide-spread influence, to impact the world with Christ’s love.

My husband and I have experienced a total life change, and it has not been easy in the face of criticism. But, thus far, it has been one of the best decisions of our young life. It is my prayer that one day, Dr. Dobson will realize his mistake and change his heart on this subject.

Many Prayers,
(My Real Name)

I’ll keep you posted if I receive a reply.

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