What Does It Mean To ‘Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child’?

spare the rod spoil the child true meaning

The phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” is a modern-day proverb that means if a parent refuses to discipline an unruly child, that child will grow accustomed to getting his own way. He will become, in the common vernacular, a spoiled brat. The saying comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal the truth of our need for a Savior to their children. When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment. The Lord provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin.

Furthermore, correction shows us that we are not above reproach and that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, and discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness (Revelation 3:17). Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading him to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verses 13–14, die means “experience spiritual death in hell.” Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

All children are born sinful (Romans 5:12–19). Their natural self is destructive and unrighteous. That does not mean they aren’t valuable and worthy of love (Psalm 127:3). It means that they are not born with any natural “goodness” in them. That is why all children need discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Discipline is critical for wisdom (Proverbs 29:15), and a child who obeys his parents will be wise (Proverbs 13:1). And even adults who do not heed correction will feel the consequences of their foolishness (Proverbs 10:13).

What Does The Phrase ‘Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child’ Mean To A Christian?
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).

Many of us have heard the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” based off of Proverbs 13:24. Growing up I believed that this scripture was primarily for spanking children in order to keep them in order. However, this scripture is more than just corporal punishment for bad behavior.

The rod refers to the discipline, protection, authority, and power that God as the Good Shepherd gives to His children. As parents, we are compelled to follow His example in order to raise a godly generation to build up the kingdom of God and complicate the plans of our united enemy, Satan.

In order to fulfill these parental obligations, we need to follow the example of the Lord’s rod which keeps His children in the narrow way of righteousness rather than following the broad road of living destructive lives:

The Rod of Discipline
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away” Proverbs 22:15.

Some people believe in discipline, but not in physical discipline such as spanking.

One definition of rod indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children while they are young because it provokes the children to righteous anger (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Physical discipline is always done in love, never as a vent to the parent’s frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used when the child shows defiance to a clear limit, not in the heat of the moment.

Children are young and immature because they lack experience or wisdom. Physical discipline is not always necessary but should be done when called for. Where physical discipline is not called for, it’s an opportunity for parents to teach their children the fruits of discipline through teaching and training.

The Bible is one of the most effective strategies parents have available to them for disciplining their children. However in order to do so, parents themselves must take the time to be intimately acquainted with the Word of God as well as living what it teaches. The scriptures set deep in a child’s heart at an early age and will still beckon them when they become adults. Speak the scriptures towards specific behavior when disciplining your children in the home.

Read Proverbs 22:6, 1 Corinthians 4:21, and Hebrews 12:7-8.

The Rod of Protection
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

As good stewards of God, parents have the responsibility to protect their children. We protect our children not only by providing the basics necessary for their survival (adequate food, water, clothing, and shelter). We also protect their spirits and minds by taking heed to their friends, their entertainment preferences, and their conversations.

Parents must take this step of protection with wisdom and insightfulness from the Spirit of God. They must not create an environment of fear, but rather welcome the stretching of their children’s faith in preparation for dealing with the flesh and the world. This stewardship can’t be accomplished by locking children up. There needs to be a balanced approach that encourages maturity and the seeking of God’s help with their difficulties.

Read Proverbs 31:27; 1 Corinthians 15:33, and 2 Timothy 1:7.

The Rod of Authority
“Listen! The Lord is calling to the city— and to fear your name is wisdom—“Heed the rod and the One who appointed it” (Micah 6:9)

Many people resist the compelling of the Holy Spirit because they don’t want to submit to the authority of God over their lives. They are driven by a rebellious and stubborn spirit that will only lead to their demise in this life and the one to come.

Children who are raised to respect the authority of their parents are more likely to deal effectively with other authorities in their lives. The proper and balanced authority from godly parents is rooted in love. It’s their unconditional love coupled with a standard of respect and proper behavior that builds a strong foundation that lasts a lifetime. The rod of authority should be established the first time a child attempts to resist following clear instruction from their parents.

Read Luke 4:32, Romans 13:1-6, and Colossians 2:10.

The Rod of Power
I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands 2 Samuel 7:14
God used His rod of power to bring down nations as well as individual people. He will punish the evil doers because He is a good God and not oblivious to their sins. Many people have come to know Jesus Christ because He allowed them to feel the painful consequences of sinful behavior.

Godly parents have to follow the Lord’s example of allowing their children to ‘suffer’ (i.e let them face the consequences of their actions instead of always rescuing them). If they always rescue children from the results of their sinful behavior, then their children are doomed to grow up to become irresponsible adults without regard for their decisions. The Holy Spirit provides discernment for parents to give out the specific punishment for each child. However this takes restraint on a parent to not punish out of anger, impetuously speak without deliberation, or to delay righteous punishment.

Read James 1:19, Philippians 1:10, and Job 4:8.

The Short Season of Parental Stewardship…
Parents who love their children and recognize their role as stewards over them use the rod with wisdom from God. It takes effort to invest the time, money, and energy necessary so that they will be well balanced spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. The difficulty of raising children is offset when parents diligently follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the careful study and application of the Word of God.
The mantle of parenting is a short season of stewardship that requires the discipline, protection, authority, and power of God. When raising godly children, parents experience the awe and understanding of God’s love for His people. Use the rod to follow the example of God the Father in order to raise a godly seed in this earth.

In Conclusion
God instructs parents to parent their children the way He parents His children. Hebrews 12:5–11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that Christians are His beloved children. Notice that David says that the Lord’s rod comforts him in his time of trouble (Psalm 23:4).

Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich (Hebrews 12:11). Godly character, fruit of the Spirit, and peace are rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our human children. Children who have learned how to take responsibility for their actions are much happier people (Proverbs 3:11–18). The importance of the rod of correction is that it steers the heart of a child toward Jesus and the forgiveness of sin He offers. When parents trust God’s methods over their own, they will see the blessings for their children and themselves.

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