The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the traitor. The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty. Proverbs 22:12-16

Raising kids is a challenge more than ever. We read passages like this one and we immediately start to cringe, especially with statements that talk about “a rod of discipline” because “we all know” spanking our kids doesn’t work. We talk to our kids and help them understand why they are not to do certain things.

There are a lot of assumptions wrapped up in those statements. We assume the “rod of discipline” means spanking. We are not even sure why we need discipline these days because it is not part of our culture. We assume that if we just talk with our kids, they will get it. My kid isn’t a fool! In fact, my kids is brilliant. Our daughter is in the 90 percentiles for her age so she will be an athlete. The list could be endless.

We easily “Christianize” passages like this and start taking them as guarantees about how we are going to raise our kids. The dilemma, however, is when they get older, and they start making their own decisions, we wonder where we failed as parents because this is certainly not the way we raised them.

Foolishness is not being smart or intelligent. Biblical foolishness is a person who does not know or live according to His ways. Certainly, it carries the idea of lacking judgment, being rash or foolish or it even describes those who make stupid decisions. That propensity is quite literally embedded into our kids when they come into the world.

The rod of discipline does not make a child into a Christian. The point of the text is that the rod of discipline deals with the foolish tendencies inbred into all sinful human beings. But what does it actually accomplish? While many would suggest that interpreting a text in Proverbs does not require understanding context, I would respectfully disagree. I believe the Holy Spirit brilliantly juxtaposes concepts that are intimately connected, we are the only ones who do not see the relationship.

The reason for a rod of discipline is to keep our kids from becoming sluggards (22:13). This still does not mean they are a Christian. It simply means they do not become lazy bums. If we do not discipline our kids, they grow up to be lazy and entitled thinking everyone should be doing things for them. The “lion in the streets” is simply that sluggards become fearful in dealing with life and experts at finding excuses not to be productive contributors in society.

The reason for a rod of discipline is to keep our kids from becoming immoral (22:14). The “forbidden women” is typically interpreted as an adulterous woman, looking for love in all the wrong places and exploiting her beauty for immediate pleasures, and money. Disciplining our kids provides moral boundaries that help keep them from selling themselves for instant gratification and exploiting others for temporal things.

The reason for a rod of discipline is to keep our kids from exploiting people. Discipline, for lack of better terms, teaches respect for others and stewardship. We do know the New Testament principle, the love of money leads to all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10). This is the Old Testament version of it. Without discipline our kids will not learn how to respect people but only to exploit them for their own benefit. Money unfortunately is the addiction of our world and learning how to handle it is important. Either way, poverty seems to be the ultimate consequence.

The key is a rod of discipline. To be even more simplistic, without discipline our kids may not only not discover their need for the Lord but they will learn the ways of the world. They will adapt their ways of surviving and learn how to exploit others. Discipline is a context where kids ought to learn about responsibility, love and respect. Discipline is not about sucking the life out of them and discouraging them. It is helping them learn about life.

Pastor Brad