I find it an interesting thing to listen to the "child-rearing" experts argue in our day. I include in this those who speak for and against the idea of spanking or corporal punishment for a child. This proverb answers both groups with wisdom. Let me address both groups with what is taught in this passage.
First, let me address those who say that any kind of spanking is wrong. Some even assert that this is child abuse. This runs up against the Scriptures which here teach us that we are to use the rod and reproof with a child to train them up in the way that they should go. Note it says the rod and reproof. The reason I draw your attention to this is because is lists both. There are some who assert that the "rod" is meant to be the rod of one's mouth - or - their words. That doesn't work for two reasons. First of all the rod of our mouth is as least a stretch for how the Scriptures address this instrument that is used for the purpose of punishment and instruction. This rod was usually either a stalk of bamboo that was cut into a two to three foot long rod. There were also small limbs of trees (usually of a flexible type) that were stripped of all other branches and used for the purpose of administering discipline. The other problem is that there are other passages in Proverbs that speak of striking the child with the rod. It is foreign to the Scriptures to have a child-rearing discipline that is without the use of corporal punishment. It was used to administer a controlled amount of pain to be associated with disobedience to deter a child from continuing in a type of behavior. It was not ever meant to be abusive or excessive - it was meant to be instructive. This is where many who "spank" need to be addressed by this passage as well.
Unfortunately there are some who represent "spanking" as the administering of rod - and that alone. I've heard some adults say things like this, "My parents beat me - and that was good enough for me." This gives the impression that all that is done is spanking. That is foreign to the Bible too. Note that the passage says the rod and reproof are used. This means that not only is corporal punishment used - but instruction as well. The child is taught that certain behaviors are not appropriate. They are wrong - and as such are foolish. If we spank "only" and do not take the time to instruct our children - they will grow up wanting to avoid "bad behavior" because of an aversion to the pain it may cause - but they do not understand anything except to avoid the pain. There is a higher purpose behind good parenting under God.
The important thing to note here is that the rod and reproof give wisdom. The purpose here is for a child to learn to be wise. Too often any form of parental discipline is done because children are annoying and interrupting a parent. That is NOT good child-rearing! We want to teach our children to be wise as they learn to view all things from God's perspective (the basic definition of wisdom). They are "spanked" to help turn them from foolish, sinful, wicked behavior. But as they are disciplined - they are pointed to God's way, which is infinitely superior. And even as discipline is applied they need to be taught the gospel. Oh that we would not miss this vital thing in discipling our children.
All things point to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we rear them to be good kids - we must not see this as the end because we can NEVER make them good enough to stand before God. That is why as we are instructing them to obey our commandments, we must teach them that God's commandments and Law are infinitely higher and MUST be obeyed. We must instruct them that their disobedience to us is proof that they are sinful and fallen. This helps them to see that their sinfulness is ultimately against God, Whom they have chosen to disobey. Disobedience to us must be punished, but there is a much higher punishment for disobedience to God's Law. Even in discipline we show them mercy, love, and grace - so that they can see that even greater is God's mercy, love and grace shown in the gospel. Then let them know the most important truth. Tell them that there is One Who came to pay the ultimate price of their disobedience before God. That One is Jesus Christ Who died on the cross to pay the price of their rebellion and make them right with God. Oh, dear parents - even in discipline we need to point to the gospel!
Tomorrow, I'll finish commenting on this particular proverb. The reason for this is that I do not want to casually glance over the shot fired across the bow of motherhood here. God is not beating up on mothers with what He says. Much to the contrary - He is speaking of their importance. More on that tomorrow. It is my hope that what today's proverb has taught you is the importance of fighting the right battle when it comes to corporal punishment of children. Some want to make it all about spanking or not spanking. God does not place the importance of what He is saying here about such things. He is seeking to have godly parents focus on teaching and training their children to be wise. He wants the foolishness of a fallen child to be countered - first by the discipline of parents - and then ultimately by the gospel.
POSTSCRIPT: Recently, individuals have quoted this article and stated that we teach child abuse at Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. To this I feel the need to respond. First, biblically, we are told that if we have a problem with our brother to go to our brother - not the Internet - and confront our brother. To date, these individuals have yet to contact me to discuss these things. That should say volumes in itself.
Second, we do not teach child abuse at our fellowship. This blog is an endeavor to teach what is in the Bible for the edification and up building of God's people. Anyone who has been to our fellowship knows that in our classrooms we administer NO physical discipline. We correct with words and with "time outs" and eventually with a report to parents. From our nursery throughout every age group our people are instructed NEVER to administer physical discipline. We believe this right alone belongs to a parent. Even then we teach the following about any application of physical discipline.
Discipline is about the heart of a child. Physical or corporal punishment is ONLY to be administered in a spirit of love for the child. Teaching and loving verbal correction is key - as is prayer for the child's eventual salvation in Jesus Christ. Any physical punishment administered due to anger or rage is out of line and wrong. The parent is to discipline the child with appropriate discipline - not abuse. In the end the child should be taught - and in every circumstance hugged, loved, and prayed with after any physical punishment to assure them of our love. The idea of a "beating" is completely out of step with what the Scriptures are teaching. Instead the idea of loving discipline is intended.