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what does God have to say about discipline?

July 29, 2008

Several weeks ago, I began a series on the Biblical family. It is a result of my own study and quest for answers. For the final post in this series, I want to share a little of what I have learned about discipline. The specifics of exactly how discipline is to be carried out are unclear, so I won’t get into methods in this discussion. But what is very clear in the Bible is that discipline IS necessary. Throughout scripture we see evidence that discipline leads to wisdom and life and a lack of it leads to hardship and death.

Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death. Proverbs 19:18

The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. Proverbs 5:22-23

Another truth that is revealed in scripture is that discipline is one of the ways we show love to our children. It isn’t just about punishment and consequences. The word discipline is from the same root as the word disciple, which basically means “student”.  Children should be learning something from discipline, not just enduring it.  If the child isn’t learning, then maybe it is time to reevaluate the discipline. Effective discipline is never solely based on punishment. Instead, it is a process of training and developing children into functioning adults. The following verses give a beautiful picture of the kind of discipline God intends.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. Proverbs 13:24

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7-11

When I’m trying to decide how to handle a particular behavior in my children, it helps to stop and think – is this for their benefit or for mine? Discipline is for the benefit of the child. It isn’t to make the parent feel superior and it isn’t about power and control. Whatever form the discipline may take, if it isn’t helping the child become more responsible and more Christ-like, it isn’t working.

If you’re interested in the rest of this series, you can check out the posts on families, fathers, mothers, and children.

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