For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Pr 3:12

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Should Children be Punished?

The answer is very straight forward.  The Bible (KJV) never says anything about punishing our children.  However, that does not mean that the scriptures do not teach corrective discipline.  The point of this article is to illustrate that there is a difference between the two.  The Bible teaches us that we are to use the rod of correction to train our children and chasten them but punishment, as it is used in the scriptures, is never directed at children.

When the Bible speaks of God dealing with His elect for their disobedience it is in terms of chastening and even scourging, Heb 12:6, but that is never said to be punishment.  This passage and others are written in terms of God correcting our behavior.  Here is a view of what the Bible says regarding punishment.

Isa 10:12  I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.

Isa 13:11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity;

Jer 9:25 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
9:26 Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.

These three verses illustrate that, in the scriptures, punishment is given by God to unbelievers, which includes both Jew and Gentile.  And when God deals in punishment it is for the destruction of the wicked, whether Jew or Gentile.

However, the relationship of God to believers is put forth differently. 

Pr 3:11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
3:12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Here is the difference between how God deals with one he loves and one he does not.  God corrects the one he loves.  The Hebrew word for correct is yakach yaw-kahh’ which means:
to prove, decide, judge, rebuke, reprove, correct, be right.

Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Therefore the correction and chastening of our children should not be looked at as punishment.  Some people mistakenly see the use of a rod as being a tool of punishment.  But the Bible does not look at it that way.  Rather, the loving use of a rod is for training a child in correct behavior and it is for correcting improper behavior when a child sins in disobedience to his parents.

There is a side of child correction which looks like or has the appearance, to the average person, of being punishment.  Consider the passage from Pr 23:13-14:

13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

This is a very strong passage on the use of the rod.  There are several things to take notice of:

  1. The above verses say this is correction not punishment
  2. The Hebrew word translated as "beatest" means to spank but it means the spanking can be administered exceptionally hard when necessary because;
  3. This type of correction is for the purpose of delivering a child from causing his own death or "going to an early grave."  ("hell" in this passage means "grave" not the lake of fire)

Interestingly, the NIV translates "beatest and beat" as punish.  But this conveys the wrong idea of what the passage is teaching and may indicate one reason why many Christians today have an improper view of spanking.  Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 10th Edition, defines punish as:  1a) to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation.  So far so good but it goes on to say: 1b) to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation.   While punishment doesn't have to mean retribution or retaliation, this is what most people think of when they consider punishment.  And when most people punish their children, retribution and retaliation is what they are handing out.

But, when we look at Prov 23:13-14 again we see that retribution and retaliation are not at all what is being taught.  The beating (i.e spanking) is to correct the child's own self-destructive behavior.  Correction as it is taught in this passage is for the purpose of teaching self-control.  A child must control his desires.  When a child is young and small it is easy enough to control his every action because you are physically bigger and can keep him bottled up well enough to keep him from self-injury.  But that won't last forever.  The day comes when every child will be set free from his parents.  If he has been properly disciplined, then he has learned to control himself because he intrinsically understands that for every improper action there is an equal and opposite chastisement.  But if he has never had Biblical correction, then, depending on his personality type and having little or no appreciable concept of suffering the consequences of one's actions, he "goes off the deep end."

Of my four children, I have one that is particularly hard headed (just like his father).  He always requires more stripes than the other three and from time to time he requires several sessions with the rod in order to get the point across.  And while I have, at times, had to chastise him rather vigorously, it has never, in my view, been punishment.  He and I have a very close relationship and he understands when he has done wrong and he understands that our fellowship is always restored once the rod of correction is used to chastise his behavior.  Having read the scriptures thoroughly, I know that those sessions with the rod are sometimes necessary in order to "deliver his soul from hell."  If I did not do my duty, I would not be the kind of father and spiritual leader in my home that God has called me to be.

While the rod may be looked at as a means of punishment, scripturally that is not it's primary use.  God's word says that it is to be used out of love and concern for the welfare of our children.  Training proper behavior and correcting improper behavior are the hallmark uses of a rod in a Christian home.

Elder James Taylor





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