“Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded,
and honor your sons above Me,
to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel My people?”
God, to Israel’s high priest, Eli, in 1Samuel 2:29
The only way to truly honor God is to follow His example and obey His counsel. Merely to agree that God is right about something brings Him no honor. We honor Him by doing things the way He says to do them. And if we are to honor God in all things, that must include the way we rear our children.
We are told by Paul to bring up our children in a caring, godly manner. He said, “You fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” To nurture means “to feed or nourish; to support and bring up to maturity; to rear”. It is to provide a child with a sense of order and goodness. When children are not provided with those things, they are more susceptible to spirits of self-will and lawlessness, as in the case of the two wicked sons of Israel’s high priest, Eli.
Eli failed to set a standard for his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. When they were young, he failed to chasten them, and the results when they were grown men were tragic for everyone in Israel. This same unwillingness to correct disobedient children and teach them how to behave is rampant in our society. On every hand, in public and in private, children, not Jesus, prove themselves to be their parents’ masters. By such ungovernable conduct as we commonly see now, parents everywhere are made to look weak and foolish. And they are. But God has the answer for those who are willing to receive it.
In our time, society has shifted away from the acceptance of spanking as a means of punishment. It is my understanding that children can be legally taken from their homes now if a parent spanks a child. Through Solomon, God said that the blueness of a wound would “cleanse away evil” (Prov. 20:30). But this culture seems to be saying that the blueness of a wound is sufficient grounds to forcibly take your children away from you. Thinking themselves wise, men often become fools (Rom. 1:22), and the tragic results for our society of the present mind set toward punishment of children, especially corporal punishment, has yet to be fully realized.
Solomon’s friend Agur described the spiritual condition of some youngsters of his day: “There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.” But this condition is not the fault of the young people who have not received godly love and guidance. It is almost always the fault of parents who are so self-indulgent that they cannot bring themselves to chasten their children when it needs to be done. Every godly parent feels the pain of a child who is being punished; nevertheless, every godly parent will put himself through that pain if his child demonstrates a need for the punishment. Who wants to see one’s child sad? But better to make them sad now than to deny that correction to the child and let him grow increasingly self-indulgent and rebellious, and then suffer the awful consequences of self-indulgence and rebellion as an adult.
Some people characterize corporal punishment as brutality, and all children who receive such punishment would agree with those fools. I know that, as a child, I certainly would have characterized my spankings as brutality. But that is only because “no chastening for the present seems joyous, but grievous” and because “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”. But as Solomon said, “the rod of correction will drive foolishness far from them” (Prov. 22:15). And once that is done, the chastisement children receive “bears the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” I can only imagine now how lawless and self-consumed a person I would have become without my parents’ discipline. I know they loved me because as long as they had me under their roof, they would not allow me to live in a way that was destructive to myself and others. They set a standard in their home and made certain that we children lived by it – for our good, not just theirs.
Foolish parents love themselves too much to spank their children. In refusing to give their children discipline if they need it, they are loving themselves more than their children, and honoring their children above the God who tells us how to bring up our children. The only hope for such ill-trained young people is that God will call them into His kingdom. If He does, He will certainly chasten them, sometimes severely, and He will do so with no fear whatsoever that any government will come and take His precious sons and daughters out of His hand. “For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).
Here are a few Scriptures that concern the chastening of children by their elders, and the chastening of the saints by God:
God’s Instructions concerning the chastening of children
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him chastens him betimes [that is, early].”
“Withhold not correction from the child, for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod and shall deliver his soul from hell.”
The Way God Deals with His Children
2Samuel 7:14 (concerning David’s young son Solomon, when he would become King):
“I will be his Father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.”
“Understand, you brutish among the people! And you fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see? He who chastises the heathen (see Deut. 11:1-4), shall He not correct? He who teaches man knowledge, shall he not know?
“The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are vain.
“Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of thy Law, that you may give him rest from the days of adversity until the Pit be digged for the wicked. For the Lord will not cast off His people; neither will He forsake His inheritance.”
“The Lord has chastened me sore, but He has not given me over to death.”
Job 34:31-32: “Surely it is fitting to be said to God, ‘I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach me. If I have done iniquity, I will do no more.’”
1 Corinthians 11:30-32:
“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world.”
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”
“My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of His correction, for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Note: Proverbs 8:30 and Hebrews 5:7-9 and 2:9-10.
Leviticus 26:14-45: In these verses, we see God refusing to give up on His people. He loved them too much not to punish them for their sins.
Isaiah 1:1-9: As with any parent, God at times became frustrated with stubborn children. Here in Isaiah, God says there is no use for Him to continue to chasten them, but He continued trying to help them, anyway.
Jeremiah 31:18-21: God’s heart aches for His chastened people. But He loves them more than He loves Himself, and so, He does for them whatever they need Him to do, including punishing them.
Hosea 11:8: When the time came for God to give His people over to the heathen because He could no longer reason with them, it broke His heart. He knew what horrible suffering they would have to endure at their hands. But for their good, He did it. We can feel God’s pain in these words: “How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver you [to your enemies], Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboiim? [These two cities were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah.] My heart is turned within me! My repentings are kindled together.”
Hebrews 12:1-17: This portion of Scripture is an exhortation for us to have faith in God’s love for us, even when He chastens us.