“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”

Read: Hebrews 12:3-11

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:11-12)

The book of Proverbs is famously big on parental discipline, including discipline that seems unduly harsh to us. Remember “Spare the rod and spoil the child”? That’s based on Proverbs: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die” (Prov. 23:13). Well, maybe he won’t. But there are better corrective alternatives. For many families today, much corporal punishment has been replaced by the “time out,” and that’s a good thing. Don’t use Proverbs as an excuse to beat your child.

But discipline isn’t just for kids. Hebrews quotes this passage in Proverbs to describe God’s fatherly treatment of us. Discipline is teaching; it is not the same as punishment. God does not punish us for our sins; Christ has taken all that upon himself, draining the cup of God’s wrath (John 18:11). Our cup, wrote John Newton, is not penal; it’s medicinal. God disciplines us in order to draw us closer to himself. We all sometimes need God’s tough love to help us turn from the world towards him, the source of all that is good and true and beautiful. So how does God do that? When Hebrews 12 says “discipline,” what it’s referring to is suffering. Experiencing suffering offers us a choice: to turn away from God or run to him in faith and trust. —David Bast

As you pray, ask God to draw you closer to himself.

About the Author

david bast
Rev. David Bast

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.