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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 9, 2019

13 Do not withhold discipline from your children;
  if you punish them, they will not die.
14 Punish him,
  and you will rescue his soul from hell.

In Hebrew, both instances of “punish” in this proverb are followed by “with a rod.” Beating a child or a servant with a switch was commonplace in bygone years. As recently as my own childhood, teachers still used a ruler or a yardstick to spank a child in the classroom, and I knew of moms who did not hesitate to use a wooden spoon on a naughty boy’s behind. But the focus of the proverb isn’t on the method of discipline. The focus is on the ultimate result.

Without any discipline, a child will fail to see any consequences for their bad behavior. Worse than withholding discipline is withholding affection from your child. Give both love and correction. But most important is to rescue the child from hell. Share your faith; let your child know just how important it is to put your trust in Jesus, and you will have given that child a clear view of the path to eternal life.

This includes the habit of going to church, and the practice of regular family prayers. But the point of the proverb is discipline: teaching a child what things are wrong and also what things are right. Punishment is very different for different children. Some children learn nothing at all from a spanking, or from being deprived of privileges, or even of being made to do unappealing chores. Some children need to be shown the value of what is good and right, and that is just about enough for them. Other children need one sharp reminder once, or just a few times, and a mere threat will be enough for many years. Still other children do not learn even from multiple corrections, but respond better to an explanation. I am the father of four sons, but I don’t claim to be an expert on discipline by any means. What I have learned from my experience is that it’s necessary to find out what works for everyone, including myself. This is nearly always done through making mistakes and, hopefully, learning from them. In almost every case, discipline hurts the parent more than it hurts the child. But seeing your children grow in their faith in Jesus is a reward that multiplies the joy of the certainty of salvation.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). What the Holy Spirit is teaching us with our proverb and this verse from the New Testament is that discipline is useful in our lives of sanctification. Correction that keeps us reminded of what is wrong and sinful helps on the path to repentance. We cannot achieve righteousness through discipline or punishment, but we can recognize unrighteousness more clearly. By keeping ourselves from some of our worst habits, we can see more clearly the side of life’s path that is to be avoided. The Lord promises: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:19). And more than that. He loved us so much that he sent his Son Jesus to rescue us from all of our sins. Jesus let himself be disciplined with the supreme punishment that removed the guilt of our sins forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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