Spare the Rod and Other Misquotes

From my recent involvement on other threads this week let me state at the beginning that I realize how controversial and polarizing this topic has become due to recent new stories regarding the Adrian Peterson Child Abuse investigation. That said I have never been one to shy away from controversy, especially when based upon misinterpretation of Biblical passages.  So here we go.


I am a firm believer that parents who love their children should correct them using appropriate measures that fit the offense and teach a lesson as to why the offense is harmful.  That includes when necessary spanking the buttocks with an open hand and never an object that leaves marks, cuts or bruises. I also believe discipline should NEVER be applied in a reactive moment of anger but in love in the way God corrects us.  God shows great love, mercy, patience and tenderness when He corrects us, and always for our benefit, never to release His revenge.

I’m also a believer, however, that Bible misinterpretation should be a misdemeanor punishable by no less means than that administered to an unruly child!  I am so weary of parents hanging the entirety of their parenting skills on five Proverbs misused to justify the beating and abuse of children.  While I have never supported efforts to relegate the Bible’s relevancy to social and modern times, there are some things that are Biblical that have been done away with due to the work of mercy and grace granted us by the one-time atonement for all sin by our Savior on the cross. For example, how many of us would be here today if the practice of stoning for sexual sin as read about in the Bible was still practiced today?

Here is my problem-either The Bible is wrong or we are guilty of gross negligence in our handling of The Word.  One of the five Proverbs often quoted to support caning a child says “beat the child, he will surely not die”.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Consider the following disturbing statistics:

* 1640 children die each year from abuse or neglect

     * 80% of those deaths were unintentional or from mistreatment

     * 77% of the children were 3 years old or younger

     * 80% of the deaths were at the hands of one of their own parents

But the Bible clearly states they won’t die as a result of corporal discipline.  So how can this be? Either the Bible is in error or we are misapplying a passage in a harmful and negligent manner.  I tend to believe the Bible is inerrant so that only leaves one possibility.

Perhaps now that I’m a grandfather I’ve become too soft, or maybe I’m just now getting it right!  Last evening I attended my grandson’s football game and pulled into a parking spot a few minutes early.  While sitting there another car pulled in beside me-you know the ones-they can’t judge distance and park within a foot of your vehicle. Sure enough I felt and heard the sound of their door opening right into the side of my truck, which I have babied since buying it new.  I wanted badly to jump out and say something but for some reason just sat there a few minutes to see who got out of the back door that had just dented my truck. Mysteriously the door closed but I couldn’t see anyone until the mother took her by the hand and walked away.  The culprit was a little girl, maybe three years old with curly hair and the biggest eyes for her age.  She looked back at me as I sat there and then walked off.  How could I be mad at one so young-I was grateful God caused me to stand down. It just wasn’t that important anymore.

I loved my boys and can count on my two hands the number of times I may have spanked them collectively.  I can’t comprehend the anger directed toward young, still learning, tender-hearted children in the guise of “sparing the rod”.  I can’t buy the over-used argument that says “that’s just the way I was raised”.  If we are to use that as a defense then slavery would still exist, women wouldn’t be able to vote and men would have multiple wives and be protected by laws allowing them to spank them too!  At some point we need to as a society and as a Christian body of believers recognize the harm we are doing our children by the archaic means of punishment we dish out on them, causing them not to love us but to fear us.

Another argument often used says if we don’t discipline them someone else will, implying that harsh beatings save them from criminal behavior. But a study done on the NYC Penal system revealed just the opposite. Of all the adult felons serving time when the study was performed, nearly 70% of them stated they were severely beaten and disciplined as children and yet they are doing time for violent crime.  Something about this argument doesn’t add up either.

Here is a litmus test: if your child returned from a visit or a trip bearing similar marks that are left when you administer your discipline, would these marks be acceptable? If you can answer yes to this question, then you advocate child abuse-if you answer no, then you need to reevaluate the forms of discipline you incorporate on your children. Bruises, cuts, open wounds and any other marks that are still visible two days later are not representative of Proverbs 13:24. We need to lovingly correct our children and teach them and train them in ways that don’t leave permanent physical, emotional or psychological damage. Any other means is unacceptable and shame on us for using God’s word to justify this practice.