Proverbs and Spanking – Part 3: Believer’s Behavior

Hello! It’s been a while… I apologize for that. The last couple of months have been a bit difficult and sitting down to write just hasn’t happened. However, things are getting back to normal and here I am! Sitting down and writing out the post I promised well over a month ago. Please enjoy 🙂

In Part 1 of this series I looked at the importance of context, the literary forms of Proverbs, and the fact that the six “rod” verses in Proverbs do not present us with a command or promise from God that our children will be saved from sin by the physical act of hitting them. Most importantly, the issue of spanking is not a salvation issue for either parents who do not spank or for children who are not spanked.

Then, in part 2 I looked at the six Proverbs “rod” verses themselves. I examined Proverbs 13:24, 14:3, 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15. After looking at the various meanings the original Hebrew words could have and also at various English translations, I concluded that there are quite a few different ways to interpret those verses and only one of those possible interpretations involves the physical punishment of children in any way. It is perfectly reasonable to interpret the verses as having nothing to do with the physical punishment of children at all, but rather with disciplining and teaching our children constantly, like the sun beating down on a summer’s day.

So, today I plan to look at what the rest of the Bible says about spanking in the light of what the Bible – in particular, the New Testament – says about how we, as Christians, are to behave.

It is very important to look at the Bible as a whole when attempting to interpret scripture. If a particular interpretation of a passage, especially one that has several potential interpretations, contradicts other passages that are crystal clear, it’s time to reexamine the interpretation of the less-clear passage. I believe this to be the case with the Proverbs “rod” verses.

And so, let us begin!

First of all, what does the Bible say about how we should conduct ourselves as Christians? For consistency’s sake I’m quoting the ESV here, but you can follow the verse links to see what the other translations say as well.

I’m taking verses mainly from instructive letters in the New Testament that were written to various churches within the early church. I encourage you all to read the chapters surrounding the verses or even the entire letters to better understand the context of these verses within the letters as well. Context is very important, as always!

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Philippians 4:5
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Other translations use “gracious attitude,” “gentle spirit,” “considerate,” “moderation,” and “forbearance” instead of “reasonableness.”

Romans 12:14-21
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We are to give our enemies food and water if they are hungry and thirsty – how much more should we make sure our children are fed and watered when they are behaving in a manner that seems to us to be adversarial?

In the context of discussing the way Christians should behave to various people specifically:

Ephesians 6:1-4
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Children are to obey and honor their parents, but parents are not to provoke their children to anger or wrath, exasperate them, make them bitter about life, or irritate them. Obedience is important, but we are not commanded to make our children obey at all costs. They are to obey and we are to treat them in such a way that we don’t upset them.

It’s anecdote time: I don’t know about you, but being spanked made me burn with the fire of a million suns. My anger was all-consuming, and yet my parents had no idea that spanking did that to me until I told my mom when I was 26 years old. We have no way of knowing how our children will react within themselves to the hurt and humiliation of being spanked. It would seem wise, based on this passage, to at least limit the practice of spanking to a very occasional practice, if at all.

In this next passage, James speaks of wisdom in the Christian church – the context is in addressing those who believe themselves to be wise; teachers, but the principle is one that we can all learn from.

James 3:17-18
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

“Peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial, and sincere.” That passage is absolutely beautiful!

These are just a very few passages from the letters in the New Testament that address what the fruit of a Christian life look like and how we should conduct ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ. I would also, before examining how spanking fits into a Christian life, like to take a moment to look at what Jesus commands of Christians:

This next passage is of Jesus addressing the disciples because two disciplines, James and John, had requested to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand which was not a request Jesus could grant.

Mark 10:42-45
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them,“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Christians are not to exercise authority over each other as the gentiles do. Christians are to serve and to be a “slave of all” if we would be first. Now, children are called to obey their parents, but that doesn’t mean that it’s our job to punish them into obedience. We are to be humble peacemakers. Gentle and full of mercy!

Matthew 5:38-42
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

We, Christians are not to hit a person back, we are to turn the other cheek in humility.

Matthew 7:7-12
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

And then Christ goes on to say that we will know a false prophet by his fruit. Going back to the first passage, the fruit of the spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As for the Old Testament, we’ve already examined the “rod” verses in some detail, but the Jews were also commanded to do a great many things in the Torah – the law that most modern Christians do not follow. Surprisingly enough, spanking is not mentioned once in the Jewish law. If spanking is so crucial to the upbringing of young children, surely it would have been mentioned in more than 5-6 verses in a book of, well, proverbs, and at least one verse commanding this type of parenting would have surely been in the actual law of God. Right? But no. If any of you can find a command in the Old Testament law to spank a child, I would love to hear from you, but I have not yet found such a thing.

Spanking

And now, what exactly is “spanking” and how does that fit in with what we have learned so far in our small study? Dictionary.com has several definitions:

to strike
a blow or slap
to slap or smack

Okay. So, it’s basically hitting. Striking, slapping, and smacking someone are all forms of hitting and the phrase “coming to blows with someone” generally indicates a fight which involves hitting. I’m not going to tiptoe around this terminology, I think that would be insulting to the readers of this blog. I want to always be honest with you, even if the truth as I see it is difficult to read.

Just to be thorough, here are the dictionary.com definitions of “hit:”

to deal a blow
to come against with an impact
to strike

I find it interesting to note that neither “hit” nor “spank” are listed in the definitions of each other. It would appear that our culture does not consider spanking to be hitting even though they share many of the same definitions and, from outward appearance alone, would appear to be the exact same act.

Yes, spanking is often done with the best of intentions, but when it comes right down to it, it’s hitting. In fact, it’s hitting someone much smaller than the person doing the hitting – something which we teach our children not to do and, I assure you, the irony is not lost on them even when it may not be recognized by the parent in question.

Jesus is very clear in Matthew 7 that when we ask for help, God gives it to us. When our children ask for help, should we not give them help as well? If they are too young to understand that they need sleep or to eat regularly, should we not help them and give them what they need? Wouldn’t we want the same done for us? Or would it truly help us to be hit by someone with a “rod of discipline” when we lost our tempers or became frustrated with our lot in life? Or would that not make us more frustrated and more likely to lose our tempers?

The Fruit of the Spirit

I’d like to also look once more in some depth at the fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” I’ve heard it argued that one can spank in love and honestly, I just don’t see it. I can understand being well-meaning and spanking because you both believe it to be necessary and because you love your children, but that’s as far as I can see it going.

We have an excellent description of love in the middle of a section about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love is patient and kind. We teach our children that hitting others is not a kind thing to do, nor is it. I’ve heard far too many people say that a spanking has to hurt in order to “work.” Well… hitting someone hard enough for it to hurt is not a kind thing to do, even if you are that person’s parent.

Love is not arrogant or proud and love does not insist upon having its own way. When making a request or demand of your children, do make sure that you are not self-seeking or looking to have your own way. This is not the way of love. Expecting instant obedience to every parental whim and punishing harshly when it doesn’t happen is not a loving thing to do according to this definition.

The next fruit of the spirit is joy. I have yet to hear of anyone claiming to hit their children in joy. Most parents I know who spank, dread the spankings almost as much as their children do. I know that my own father would tell me before hitting me that what he was about to do would hurt him more than it would hurt me. Not joyful. Not at all.

Peace is next. Spanking me never created peace in my heart or between my parents and myself. Spanking instead drove a wedge between me and my parents. I walked on eggshells much of the time because, even though my parents’ rules were reasonable and clearly spelled out, I was a small child, prone to forgetting things and not yet full of the Holy Spirit to help with my limited human self-control.

Patience. Very interesting, given that most of the spankings I endured or witnessed came as a direct result of the parent in question losing patience and deciding to do something about it! Not to say that one couldn’t be patient and still decide to spank, but that has not been my experience.

Goodness and faithfulness are next. The person striking a Christian’s cheek is referred to as evil in Matthew 5:39 which seems to indicate that hitting someone is not, in fact, a good thing to do. Faithfulness is also translated as faith, fidelity, and longanimity. Now, I will again speak frankly to you. Christianity is a religion of faith, not of works. Nothing that we can do will reconcile us with God – we come to God through Christ’s death on the cross. What does it say of our faith in Christ’s death if we also believe that in order for our children to be saved (as many Christian parenting gurus teach) we must hit them? Isn’t Christ alone sufficient? If not… Christianity makes no sense.

This is very important: the doctrine of necessary spanking contradicts the doctrine of Christ crucified. If Christ’s death truly does cover all sin, then how can anyone say that hitting our children is necessary to “save” them from sin? If it is not necessary from a Christian perspective, then it is simply one more tool in the parenting toolbox that should be looked at and evaluated in much the same way the other parenting tools are.

We’re almost finished with the fruit of the spirit with gentleness being next. This one is fairly self-explanatory really… hitting someone is not at all being gentle. “Gently hitting” is not a phrase that makes sense, in my opinion.

The last is self-control. Honestly, I find the idea of controlled spanking to be more abhorrent than the idea of a parent losing it and swatting their child a few times in the heat of a moment. The thought of coldly, calculatingly, and systematically hitting a small child just gives me the shivers. When I’m under control, I can always think of something else to do other than yell at or hit my children. It’s only when I lose perspective or control that either of those thoughts cross my mind.

The other thing that jumps out at me is that self-control is a fruit of the spirit. This is something that parents expect their children to have and that parents hit their children for not having, and yet… it’s not something that comes naturally for humans. It’s something that we can only do in God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Conclusion

My conclusion probably seems obvious at this point. Hitting someone else (without their consent – I’m not here to comment on anything consensual), whether for punishment or otherwise, really doesn’t fit in with the fruit of the spirit or with other clear directives about how we are to lead a Christian life. Christ is our example and, though He was never a human parent, His interactions with children can teach us a lot. Christ blessed the children and welcomed them into His presence. Jesus did not hit the little children, nor did he entreat the parents to do so.

I do not believe that spanking is Biblical. I do not believe that spanking lines up with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. I believe that if one takes the Proverbs “rod” verses separately from the rest of the Bible, the spanking interpretation is a valid one. However, when taken with the Bible as a whole and the New Testament teachings specifically, I do not believe that we can interpret the shebet in Proverbs as meaning a punishment stick.

Please, do take the wisdom of Proverbs to heart – raise your children up in the wisdom and teachings of the Lord! Be diligent to discipline and disciple them! Do not withhold your parental authority from your children! Be wary of parenting methods such as Consensual Living and Taking Children Seriously that advocate giving children the final say in most or all areas of their lives. Do not leave your children to fend for themselves and definitely take your parental responsibilities seriously.

But be wary also of parenting methods and gurus who go too far in the other direction. Too much permissiveness is not beneficial to children, but neither is treating them as adversaries. Dr. Dobson, Ted Tripp, and Michael Pearl – among others – advocate treating your children almost as foes. It’s a battle of wills with your will and God’s against theirs. This is, I believe, incorrect.

Our children are not our adversaries, they are our children. They are equal to us in the sight of God, because there are no distinctions made at the foot of the cross. Our children are equal to us in worth, their feelings and needs are just as valid as an adults’. Where they are not equal is in the areas of knowledge, maturity, and responsibility. It is our job as parents to help them bridge that gap – to help them attain knowledge by facilitating their education from the beginning, to allow them the time needed to gain maturity, and to give them increasing amounts of responsibility as they are ready.

God will take care of our children’s hearts, Christ will take care of their salvation, The Holy Spirit will help them lead good lives full of fruit. We just need to have faith that God can do His part despite our best efforts.

🙂

~B.

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About barefootbetsy

I'm a musician, a mama, a lifelong lover of learning, a seeker of truth, and an avid barefooter.
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52 Responses to Proverbs and Spanking – Part 3: Believer’s Behavior

  1. Megan says:

    I don’t have children yet but I am printing this out and keeping it for when I do and people ask me why I chose not to spank. I love love love that there is so much scriptural support. The more I hear/read about gentle Christian discipline I realize that the scriptural support far out ways the scriptural support for spanking- even if you did interpret the rod verses as supporting spanking, which you have clearly shown that they don’t. When I first came across the ideas of gentle discipline I thought “finally a Christian perspective that will support my choice not to spank,” now i’m realizing, thanks to your blog, gentle discipline isn’t just one option of Christian parenting that fits me the best, it truly is the best, most scripturally supported parenting method. You have convinced me this is how God wants us to raise our children 🙂 Thank you for helping to prepare me to be a better mom one day!

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you found this blog. The ladies who write here with me are amazing! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this post as well. I hope that it serves as inspiration to you as you endeavor to explain to others how grace-based discipline fits within Christianity. I wish you all the best as you continue learning and growing in your knowledge and faith! I am certain that you will be a very thoughtful mother and that your future child(ren) will be blessed to be yours ❤

  2. Pingback: Proverbs and Spanking – Part 3: Believer's Behavior | Dare to Disciple | Christian Parenting

  3. lucy1903 says:

    Wow! That was powerful! This post was very worth the wait. Thank you for taking the time to dig into the Word and to use the entire Word to show why spanking is NOT Biblical. I could never picture Jesus taking one of those children and putting him or her over His knee or instructing the parent to do that.

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you! There’s so much more that I didn’t go into… but really, it’s so important to make sure that interpretations don’t contradict clear scripture. It doesn’t get much clearer than the passages in this post. I also just cannot see Jesus hitting a child 😦 Again, thank you so much for your feedback – I am so grateful ❤

    • Royce Yates says:

      Is it possible that those Jewish parents had taken the Proverbs passages to heart, and therefore that issue never came up when He took them in his arms. The writer of Hebrews certainly brought up a chastening, even scourging, analogy in Hebrews 12, as though it was very well known and accepted in that culture, and was a worthy way to describe God’s dealing with us.

  4. Emily says:

    This thought process is slowly coming around! It’s amazing how many Christians spank and don’t even know WHY they spank except that their Christian parents did it. Yes they can quote that one verse from Proverbs but then can’t explain why it was never brought back up in the N.T. (which is when we are living) and how it goes against so much of Christ teaching and examples. When Christ died on the cross He took on ALL our punishment and wrong doings, KIDS INCLUDED. Why then do we take the grace and mercy but then punishment is given towards children when they do something wrong. EXCELLENT book that is very opposite from Dobson and Tripp is called Loving Our Kids On Purpose By Danny Silk. His book goes along with this blogs thought process and really changed my views on parenting and disciplin!

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you for the book recommendation! I’ll have to check that out 🙂

      Exactly, grace is for children too – not just for adults! Thank you so much for your comment and feedback! I really appreciate it.

      ~B.

  5. Pingback: Spanking and Proverbs – Part 1: Context | Dare to Disciple

  6. Pingback: Spanking and Proverbs – Part 2: Interpretations | Dare to Disciple

  7. Rebecca says:

    Love Betsy – I like how you’ve laid this all out. Nice work.

  8. Pingback: Believer’s Behavior | Why Not Train A Child?

  9. Zooey says:

    Terrific!! Thank you so much for your thoughtful work in going directly to God’s written word.
    God bless you & yours.

  10. Pingback: Myth Busting 2: ‘Pick your battles’ | Dare to Disciple

  11. Jessie says:

    This is great. Thank you so much for encouraging me to be more Christ-like in *all* my relationships, not just the one between me and my daughter.

  12. Rachel says:

    This was absolutely brilliant and wonderful! I have said many times, that when I am filled with the Spirit – when all those things like joy, love, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, self control, etc – are dominating me instead of my flesh, which is prone to impatience and pride and insistence on my own way, then I can ALWAYS figure out something else to do besides spank. Often throughout a day I will be whispering in my heart prayers for wisdom and direction in dealing with my children and I can honestly say that I have NEVER ever “felt led” or prompted to spank. If anything, I felt intuitions about their tiredness level, or the fact that we’d been running errands for a few hours, or that I hadn’t been giving them hardly any attention…those are the things that come to my mind instead. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for increasing my confidence that I am on the right track!!! And I agree about what spanking did for me: I literally hated my mom…I am 27 years old and just got that one right before the Lord 10 months ago. 😦 I don’t want that for my girls!!!

  13. TealRose says:

    That … sums it all up so beautifully, thank you!

    I am a 56 yr old grandmother – and yes I was spanked. I felt my world and beliefs fall around my ears as a tiny child, the first time my parents hit .. spanked me. I lost my love, respect and trust of them. I learned fear, anger, resentment, even hatred. I learned they didn’t love me despite the post spanking pep talk of ‘oh it’s over and we love you!’ – I never could believe it as they had just demonstrated that they didn’t! I was told that ‘people don’t hit’ and learned that adults could and would get away with anything.

    I just cannot for the life of me get past that animals and adults are safe from being hit by rule of law, and yet….. in some places… I am allowed to hit my defenceless child!

    I never spanked my two children – and horribly I was tempted too when they were around 10 – 12 and were particularly … awkward shall we say. I feel so bad about that … but they are now gentle caring adults.

    With love to you barefootbetsy, and all the ladies here … God Bless.

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you so much for commenting! I hated the pre and post-spanking talks 😦 The “this hurts me more than it hurts you” part beforehand and everything being “fine” afterwards and having to hug and be okay right away are mostly what I remember.

      I think that people have to think of it as not-hitting in order to rationalize it. It’s not hitting, it’s spanking and therefore somehow different in people’s minds. Otherwise, how could they tell their children that it’s wrong to hit people (especially people smaller than they are) and be serious? Explaining why not to hit is easy in my house… The first time I asked my oldest (5yo) if we hit her – this was after she’d hit her younger sister – it was like a light bulb went on in her head. We don’t hit in our family – we don’t hit anyone. My children know that being the adults doesn’t give us the right to hit either.

      I’ve been tempted to spank my children before too… I think it’s a very natural fleshly reaction to have. I have friends who have apologized after not being able to control themselves which I think is a reasonable way of handling it. Thankfully I’ve never given in to the temptation… but I can see how it would be so easy to do so in a moment of extreme stress.

      Much love to you as well! I appreciate your comments very much and I always enjoy hearing about grown children who were raised gently ❤ Your children are very fortunate to have you as a mother!

      ~B.

  14. TealRose says:

    Thank you to you too Barefootbetsy!

    Do you know, it was only a few weeks ago when my husband and I were discussing family etc and I remembered my mother saying to him ‘She’ll never apologize you know, she never does!’ – lovely – and a light bulb went on. I remembered suddenly that as a child I was often spanked for what we now call ‘age relational’ behaviour and for things that were because of her utter almost OCD type tidyness, and also for a lot of things that I had nothing to do with – and being a mere child was not believed. When she or my father when he was still at home with us, spanked and asked for an apology – I wouldn’t give one! Not if I was innocent ! I just wasn’t going to do it! So THIS is what she had been talking about ! Neither my husband or I could ever understand her statement till a few weeks ago and we have been married 33 yrs !!

    [I would never willingly go over their knees either – I didn’t believe in hitting anyone even then, and had an inbuilt sense of ‘no-one has the right to hit me’ and ‘how DARE you!’ even as a small child – which of course made things worse, but at least I felt right in myself, if not on my bottom! ]

    By mother’s own admission, I was a ‘book child’ ie if she told me to sit in the corner while she got ready to go out, if she had died upstairs in the bedroom, I would have still been there 3 weeks later when the police would have broken in!! lol!! I was THAT obedient. I honestly don’t remember being rude, doing nasty things, throwing things, running out, etc as a younger child – and even when I was a teen we had some horrible rows over petty things like bedtimes [ my last year in high school she graciously allowed me to stay up an extra half hour on school nights than previously – to 8:30 pm! I was almost 18yrs old – no wonder I had problems handing homework in on time, I just never had the time to do it !!] but that was it. I never stayed out beyond curfews, never used makeup she didn’t like, never had a boyfriend she didn’t approve of etc. My query is, WHY then …did she feel she had to spank me soundly for spilling milk on my dress etc ?? Because she was so … controlling is my own answer.

  15. Jason D. says:

    No doubt people have abused spanking… but that doesn’t mean there is not a correct way of doing it. That is like throwing the baby out with the bath water… no no no, just change the bad bath water. The authority is not our experience…

    I am sure there are many you had bad experience growing up from people who did not spank correctly (with love and did it just to vent) but I can tell you of a lot of people including myself who are thankful that their parents loved them enough to spank them (in the same way God loves us enough to discipline us, even if it is painful… Heb. 12) because we know in the end it was for our good, and that is the same way God uses discipline in a Christians life.

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you for your comment!

      Honestly, you’re wasting your time if you want to try to convince me that there is a “right way” to hit someone half the size of the person doing the hitting. This is a conclusion I have come to after years of research and I’ve honestly heard nearly every single pro-Biblical-spanking argument that people have come up with to justify treating children in this manner.

      You are absolutely right, there *are* many people who were abused by well-meaning parents who spanked. Thankfully, I’m not one of them! My parents spanked me “Biblically” and with love. They truly thought that they were doing the right thing and they always disciplined (taught) me along with spanking me. Their discipline (teaching) was very effective – hitting me was not. I was never hit out of anger and my parents always stressed how much they loved and cared for me before and after every single spanking.

      You’ve presumably read the posts to which you have commented (and I recommend that you read part 1 and my “Regarding Punishments” post as well if you have not already) so you already know how my parents’ loving “Biblical” spankings were received by me as a child.

      I am happy to say that I have a wonderful relationship with my parents as an adult now, in spite of the loving and “Biblical” spankings they meted out to me.

      ~B.

    • Claire says:

      “I am sure there are many you had bad experience growing up from people who did not spank correctly (with love and did it just to vent) but I can tell you of a lot of people including myself who are thankful that their parents loved them enough to spank them…”

      I used to feel exactly this way, Jason. Obviously, since I’m now blogging here, I’ve changed my mind in the last year or two ;). I love and honour my parents and I believe they did their best for me and my sisters. They spanked ‘correctly’ and I looked back and remembered it ‘working’. But the Bible never gives directions on how to spank ‘correctly’ – that’s all the words of humans. When I started to view my parenting with a non-punitive paradigm I was amazed at how much more cohesive my view of Scripture and its application to life/relationships became. I hadn’t even noticed the double standard I was living, trying to be a Godly, gentle person while treating my children with violence. But it was a great relief not trying to subconciously bear that dissonance any more.

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! 🙂

      The website you linked to reads:

      The place that I would go to help a person see that he would, when they can’t imagine that he would, is Matthew 5 where he said, “Not a jot nor a tittle will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.” In other words, all the Law and the Prophets stand until they’re done. And the Law says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” That’s a paraphrase. The book of Proverbs says, “If you withhold the rod, you hate your son.” Jesus believed the Bible, and he would have done it.

      My simple response is that Proverbs is not a book of law. Proverbs is not a book of commandments. To take those verses out of Proverbs and apply them as a command or as part of the Mosaic Law is to ignore the entire context of the book. I do not believe that Jesus would have ignored the context of Proverbs in order to justify hitting a child. You are free, of course, to disagree with me, but given that hitting a child directly contradicts quite a lot of what Jesus exhorts us to do, I will continue to believe that Jesus would not go so blatantly against His own teachings which are not contradictory to the Old Testament law.

      The author also erroneously (IMO) extrapolates “spanking” from the word “discipline” in Hebrews 12:6. The word “spanking” does not appear anywhere in the Bible and discipline for a child does not even need to include punishments, let alone physical pain! That God disciplines us is very true and I discipline my children – somehow God manages to discipline me without whacking me on my backside (or anywhere else, for that matter) and I do the same with my children.

      At the very end of the article:

      I just think spanking is really healthy for children. It is a measured deliverance of a non-damaging act of mild pain that makes the child feel the seriousness of what he’s done. It is not beating. It is not abuse. There is a clear difference. The very word “spank” exists because there is such a thing as a loving way to whop a child on his behind or his chunky thigh

      So, he just “thinks” that spanking is “healthy” for children. Really? Wow. There are no words. Where is his Biblical justification for that belief? Where even is his logical justification for that belief? Children have died from the “measured deliverance” of “Biblical spankings” given by well-meaning Christian parents. Spankings can kill and yet this person believes that they are “healthy” for children?

      Personally, I think the word “spank” exists because it sounds better and more sanitized than “hit” does – not because there is a “right way” to hit someone else without their consent (lovingly or otherwise). Both “spank” and “hit” have almost the exact same definition. They are the same thing… but when one talks about hitting a child it sounds much worse. I say, call a spade a spade. Spanking (in my opinion, of course) is nothing more than the societally-sanctioned hitting of a person who is often less than half the size of the person doing the hitting.

      I do like a fair amount of what John Piper has to say, but even someone who can get so much right, can be mistaken about other things. I stand by my findings: That the Bible only endorses hitting a child if you take the Proverbs verses completely out of context and ignore the vast majority of the New Testament teachings – including the doctrine of Christ crucified.

      ~B.

      • TealRose says:

        I agree totally with you once again. Spanking – is a euphemism for HITTING a child with almost anything.

        Hand, belt, strop, cane, yard stick, ruler, martinet, whip, birch, slipper, paint stick, paddle of wood, rubber, leather or even lexan, wooden spoon, spatula, glue sticks, plumbing line, the list is endless. Now .. I suggest that anyone advocating hitting a child [that feels pain far more acutely than an adult] tries to look for someone about 10 feet tall and at least three times your weight, and ask them to hit you with some of these items. See if you can ‘learn’ anything. See if you fear the next ‘spanking’ HITTING.

        You feel bad ‘spanking’ that child? Yeah .. I know ‘This hurts me more than it hurts you’, well that bad feeling is called conscience – you don’t get that teaching and loving and hugging your child do you ? No ..

        Believe me .. there was NOTHING healthy for me in being hit.

      • Jason D. says:

        To be consistant you have to say that those verses in your post are not dealing with spanking… it is you who are taking them out of context.

        You must also admit that Jesus in Matt 5:18 is not just talking about the 5 books of the Bible,… if you say that then will the rest of the Bible pass away and only the first 5 books of the Law remain? No, that is not what he is saying. His Word will last forever, not just some of it:

        “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

        That is simply saying what other Scripture affirms:

        Matthew 25:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

        2 Timothy 3:15-16 “and how afrom childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”

        If you take it to mean Jesus is just talking about the first 5 books then you are right we wouldn’t see spanking there for child discipline,… so I guess if you are consistent you would have to say Jesus would not spank but rather he would stone:

        [18] “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, [19] then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, [20] and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ [21] Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
        (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 ESV)

        You said:

        “So, he just “thinks” that spanking is “healthy” for children. Really? Wow. There are no words. Where is his Biblical justification for that belief? ”

        Well if we assume God knows what is best for us then … then yes! 🙂

        “I stand by my findings: That the Bible only endorses hitting a child if you take the Proverbs verses completely out of context and ignore the vast majority of the New Testament teachings – including the doctrine of Christ crucified.”

        So we’ve been wrong for thousands of years?

        Are there any respectable scholars or Bible commentaries that agree with you? Honestly, in all the commentaries I have I don’t see anything that denies spanking but rather affirms it.

        Regarding Christ crucified… you do understand that there is a difference in punishing someone for sin and disciplining them
        as children (even painfully like God does)… There is a parallel in how God disciplines His children as Hebrews 12 describes it can even be painful… How does that reconcile with your view of not wanting to cause ANY sort of pain?

        Here is a 7 minute audio that might be more helpful as it explains more: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-do-you-think-of-spanking

      • barefootbetsy says:

        You said:

        To be consistant you have to say that those verses in your post are not dealing with spanking… it is you who are taking them out of context.

        Where do these verses discuss spanking? I have not seen any evidence to prove that spanking is mentioned at all in Proverbs. Even if you decide to ignore the entire context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and decide that these verses are about spanking, it’s not part of the law. Proverbs is a book of Proverbs, not of law. I suggest that you read (or re-read) part 1 in the series because you seem to be confused about this point.

        If you take it to mean Jesus is just talking about the first 5 books then you are right we wouldn’t see spanking there for child discipline,… so I guess if you are consistent you would have to say Jesus would not spank but rather he would stone:

        How do you think that stoning (or spanking, for that matter) would fit in with the covenant of Grace, exactly?

        Well if we assume God knows what is best for us then … then yes!

        I have seen no place where God commands anyone to hit a child. Your mileage may vary.

        Honestly, in all the commentaries I have I don’t see anything that denies spanking but rather affirms it.

        I do not follow the teachings of Biblical commentaries. I believe in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Commentaries are merely men’s interpretations of the Bible. I have seen nothing in the Bible that affirms spanking – commentaries notwithstanding.

        Regarding Christ crucified… you do understand that there is a difference in punishing someone for sin and disciplining them as children (even painfully like God does)… There is a parallel in how God disciplines His children as Hebrews 12 describes it can even be painful… How does that reconcile with your view of not wanting to cause ANY sort of pain?

        Discipline does not have to involve punishments at all. Discipline is teaching. I’ve never been directly punished by God and I’ve never said that I don’t want to ever cause my children pain. I’m sure it causes them mental anguish when I don’t let them do things that aren’t good for them to do – however, I do not believe that God commands us to physically hit our children.

        Certainly the English translations would seem to bear your interpretation out, but context is of the utmost importance and within the context, I don’t see spanking mentioned at all in the Bible. Discipline is mentioned. We, as parents, clearly have authority over our children and are to exercise our authority to help teach them and raise them up in the way they should go, but nowhere does the Bible advocate corporal punishment.

        I appreciate the continued dialog and your respectful responses! I’ll listen to the audio clip as soon as I can. Right now the page isn’t loading for me so I’ll have to come back to that.

        ~B.

      • Jason D. says:

        You keep on dismissing everything I am saying by simply saying “I don’t see spanking in the Bible”, or the “Bible doesn’t use the word spanking”… yes, we understand the word itself is not there, but is the concept?

        This is the same kind of argument JW’s & Mormons use against the Trinity… they say, “I don’t see the word Trinity in the Bible”, or the “Bible doesn’t use the word Trinity”… does that mean they are right in rejecting the Trinity? No, the question is, is the concept there… saying Trinity is just a way to sum up the teaching of the Bible on some doctrines… same thing with the word spanking… it is used to sum up something… there is a reason we distinguish it from merely “hitting a child” which is what you keep trying to bring it back to…. that is simply a straw-man, no proponent of spanking says it is just “hitting a child”.

      • barefootbetsy says:

        Quite the contrary – I see neither the word “spanking” nor the concept of spanking in the Bible unless I make several cultural assumptions about the meanings of 6 verses and maybe 3 words in Proverbs. From what I have studied, in order to interpret the Proverbs “rod” verses as speaking of spanking, one must ignore even clearer passages in the New Testament (some of which I examined in this post) and also in the Old Testament law. All of the English translations certainly reflect our cultural assumption that these verses are speaking of spanking – I’m definitely not denying that.

        Of course proponents of spanking do not refer to “spanking” as “hitting” because that sounds horrible, and yet… in order to spank, one must hit, correct? How does one spank without hitting? I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing!

        ~B.

    • lucy1903 says:

      Would Jesus spank a child? I’m pretty sure your answer is in John 8. (hint: verse 7)

  16. TealRose says:

    Guess… what I found… !
    In the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, it says and I quote :

    Spank: to hit a child with the hand several times on the bottom as a punishment

    to hit an adult on the bottom to get or give sexual pleasure

    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/spank

    I think THAT makes the picture a little clearer for us all doesn’t it ??

  17. greenegem says:

    Jason-
    You asked if we have been wrong for thousands of years. Is it so hard to imagine that Man may have been wrong in understanding the KJV- which was one of the only widely available published scriptures available for Hundreds of years- when the KJV itself is a translation of the Latin (Septuagint) which was itself a translation from the Greek??

    The fact is, that every translation of ANY historical script contains errors- sometimes horrendous ones. Speaking solely from a literary and historic standpoint- if a document is translated through several languages, and across several cultures- would you trust it as much as a translation straight from the original to your own language?

    Speaking from a Biblical standpoint- we know for a fact that We were MISSING significant portions of not only the Hebrew but also of the Greek. We do NOT understand most of the Hebrew idioms (figures of speech)- and guess what? The Greeks didn’t understand them either. THIS is why Paul’s writings are so important- because he was a Hebrew- and wrote in Greek. As a Roman- he would have studied Greek intensely. Paul tells us over and over and over how to be Christlike- and it was CHRIST who bade his Apostle to lay down his sword!

    Everywhere in Christ’s teachings he tells us precisely how to be like him, and if I live with the Fruits of the Spirit in me, how can I strike my child? I have never seen a Gentle spanking, nor a patient one, nor one which has not kept a record of wrong. C.S. Lewis categorised sin as ‘that which violates the Law of Love’; And by that definition spanking, which violates the Law of Love, is a sin.

    When the Holy Spirit compels me to examine my behavior for error- I do so. I ignored the prompting of the Spirit while spanking my child.

    I don’t need a commentary to tell me I am right. What I do need, and do HAVE is the Witness of the Spirit in my heart that I AM in right relationship with my children and my Heavenly Father while NOT spanking my children.

    I ask you again, is it SO difficult to consider that Man might have been wrong in his understanding? We’ve been wrong before. The Hebrews persisted in error for thousands of years in the fundamental understanding of who Messiah was going to be and what He would do on Earth. Jesus’ disciples- while living with His truth every day!- were wrong. They did not understand- even while abiding in his presence.

    Is it SO very hard to believe we might have been wrong?

    gg

    • Jason D. says:

      Ye sayeth…

      “Speaking from a Biblical standpoint- we know for a fact that We were MISSING significant portions of not only the Hebrew but also of the Greek.”

      Whoa, whoa, whoa… now I’ve studied textual criticism (specifically dealing with the Bible) and history and transmission of the text. What are we missing exactly?

      And again, I ask you as kindly and as gently as I can (which is hard to portray in text), where are you getting your information from? You said:

      “…the KJV- which was one of the only widely available published scriptures available for Hundreds of years- when the KJV itself is a translation of the Latin (Septuagint) which was itself a translation from the Greek”

      Again, I’ve read on the KJV origin as I have dealt with KJV-onlyist in the past and what you are saying is simply not true. The KJV translated the Apocrypha books from the Septuagint (but they recognized these as non-Biblical [i.e. no belonging to the canon of Scripture] but only as helpful) But they did not translate the KJV simply from the Septuagint.

      Again, I ask… where are you getting your info from?

      • greenegem says:

        First, Jason, I can ‘hear’ your effort to stay gentle, as I hope you can ‘hear’ mine.

        My information on how the KJV was translated came from the translators’ notes in the inside of my Pastor’s KJV Bible. If I remember correctly- and I do not have my Pastor’s Bible handy to peak at, so I may have the wording wrong- It said that it had been translated primarily from the Septuagint. If you have informationto the contrary, I am eager to see it. I am not one of those who sya that that translation is invalid, but I WOULD like to see where it and the NIV in particular, differ.

        You asked what we were missing. We were missing the sounds of many of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Do not forget that Hebrew basically had to be reinvented as a living language, and that this did not happen until after WWII. It existed soley as the language of the Torah, and was mainly sung. Many words in Hebrew simply did not translate straight into Latin, as many Latin words do not translate straight into English. WE had almost no knowledge of Hebrew idioms or word pictures, and the ones we did have, had come to us through Aramaic, and then into Latin.

        These are my own conclusions. This is my understanding. I am accountable for it. I have not had the priviledge of being able to study in a Seminary, so I study on my own, and I talk with people that I consider trustworthy. No one told me to believe this.

        I don’t really know what else to say.

        gg

      • Jason D. says:

        it is public knowledge, and I wouldn’t normally link to wikipedia, but in this case when I read it, it lines up with the facts and it’s references are legit, so I would recommend the following two links so you can know:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorized_King_James_Version#Translation

        http://vintage.aomin.org/A%20Response%20to%20a%20Brother%20in%20Christ.html

        I’ll drop it from here, it looks like we will have to agree to disagree, again, my main concern is some facts are off, but that doesn’t mean I believe you are not a sister in Christ and I thank God for that and thank you for being considerate and looking into what I asked and pointed out.

        To God be the glory! 🙂

        jason d.

  18. TealRose says:

    gg – great posting. And I believe that spanking/hitting is not ‘kind, gentle, peaceful, etc’.

    I too believe in my heart it is just wrong, and that Christ would not hit a child.

    My father told me a tale of him during WWII, when he was a small child of maybe 8 or 9. His Mum told him to pray to God for victory etc …. and he looked up and asked ‘But Mummy, won’t the German children be praying to God too for a victory because THEY think they are right too ?? ‘ The trouble with …’ believing in our hearts ‘ is that you and I believe with our heart and soul that spanking is wrong after asking God to help us. And then there are other Christians, who are adamant THEY are right, and have ‘asked God’ for an answer about it sometimes too and STILL feel that God told them to spank their children!

    As for the remarks about ‘God punishing US’ [ie adults] as far as I am aware at least to me in this life, God has NOT punished me here … he WILL punish me later once I have died. Children do NOT need punishment. They need clear direction, love and gentleness in their lives.

    Sorry this is a bit .. unclear… my fibro fog is bad today and not doing much for my eloquence !!!

    • greenegem says:

      In the book, ‘For Your Own Good’ the author explores precisely the mechanism by which we perpetuate the belief that manipulative and abusive tactics are ok to use for ‘training’ children. You may find it an interesting Read, TealRose- as the author is a German who wrote not long after WWII.

      I believe there is a HUGE difference in a sincere belief in a human idea and in the Witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. The Witness of the Spirit is promised to us in Scripture to assure us of our relationship with God; a ‘sincere belief’ is a product of the human brain, and therefore liable to error. 🙂

      gg

      • Claire says:

        OTOH, Latter Day Saints base their beliefs on what they believe to be the witness of the HS in their hearts. It is easy to be deceived. *shrug*

  19. TealRose says:

    Jason… in the Bible, Jesus does not tell us how to breathe, or many other things.

    Personally, I do NOT believe Jesus wants us to hit children. I do NOT believe it is morally right, good to do, or teaches anything except loss of trust, love and respect, fear, pain, anger, hatred and resentment. Our loving Father WILL punish us when we arrive at those ‘pearly gates’. He does NOT come down here, and beat us, spank us, hit us, lock us up or anything else.

    AND … leaving the Bible aside for one minute – HITTING a child is wrong. In the same way that hitting you, you hitting your wife, or beating your dog is. And it SHOULD be illegal. Our vulnerable, defenceless children deserve the same amount of respect and safety as we do. If not more.

    Going back to the Bible – in your eyes … if my child is a good child, does little that I find ‘wrong’ – am I STILL to hit that child because you believe it says I should when parenting ?? So .. do I hit that child just because they … took 2 seconds to obey instead of 1 ?? Do I hit them because they get an A instead of an A+? Do I hit them because they took too long doing the dishes, just so I could ‘get that God ordered spanking’ in ??

    I find it incredible that anyone would hit a child, ever, let alone for the things that most ‘spanking parents’ find a ‘crime’.

    The feeling that all spanking parents feel when spanking/hitting their child, the ‘ this hurts me more than it hurts you’ ? THAT is their conscience telling them how wrong it is to hit a child. You don’t get that when you teach and direct your child, you don’t get it when you hug it do you?

    • HI! I am glad that God does not come down to punish us, but I hoping that he will not punish me and the new me, myself and I when I get to those pearly gates. CORDIALLY, Afeni Makebe Nelson! It is wrong to hit a child.

  20. Jen says:

    Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful, nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
    Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives.
    Not every spiritual principal is easy to understand with our modern worldview. God is loving and holy, gentle and just. It is possible to be a parent who encompasses the many facets of the character of God in a small way and by doing so help our children see their need for a Saviour and the opportunity they have to live in communion with a holy God, through the sacrifice Jesus made.

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you for your comment!

      In the following quotations, the parentheticals are my comments.

      Brothers, if anyone (this does not exclude children) is caught in any transgression (this does not exclude childish transgressions), you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted.

      ~Galatians 6:1

      I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

      ~Ephesians 4:1, 2, and 3.

      And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (We are commanded to gently instruct. It’s God’s job, not ours, to bring them to a full knowledge of His truth), and they may escape from the snare of the devil (due to gentle teaching and God changing their heart – not due to being scourged by human hands), after being captured by him to do his will.

      ~2 Timothy 2:24, 25, and 26.

      [but] let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

      ~1 Peter 3:4

      The last passage above is primarily written to wives, but since many (most?) Christian mothers are also wives, I think it’s also applicable to a mother’s role. Gentleness – a gentle, quiet spirit – is precious to God. It seems clear to me that we should be dealing with our children with that same gentle, quiet spirit that God finds so precious. Why would God only find gentleness to be precious when we aren’t teaching our children? God is unchanging… if He values gentleness that highly, then surely He values it whenever we’re possibly able to show it. He values it when confronting sinners – even those who oppose us.

      Gentleness is precious, highly valued, and of great worth in God’s sight – specifically when dealing with people engaging in sin.

      God is amazing in his multi-dimensionality, but we are but fallen human beings. Personally, I’m going to err on the side of caution and heed the wise Biblical words about dealing with sin, sinners, and opponents in gentleness. I’m going to err on the side of praying and striving to show the fruit of the spirit in all of my actions, both with my children and with other people. I’m not going to go against the overwhelming teachings of the New Testament and the grace-filled gospel of Christ’s death simply because God manages to scourge His sons without compromising his love, holiness, gentleness, and justice. I’m not God and I don’t aspire to be God, but I do aspire to show the characteristics which He has clearly stated I should aspire towards.

      Thank you again for commenting!
      ~B.

  21. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for your eloquent and thoughtful posts. I stumbled onto this website today and have been so encouraged. In a few months, we will have three under 37 months. Needless to say, we are having to learn rapidly on the fly. While we started off spanking our oldest (Shepherding Your Child’s Heart), we quickly found that it was not working for any of us and started exploring other options. Dr. Sears and other Christian, attachment parenting authors steered us in a healthier direction. Again, thank you for your careful exploration of the “Biblical mandate” to spank that is so often espoused but so little supported. I especially like your conclusions: “Children are not our adversaries. They are equal to us in the sight of God…” It so true, and humbling to be charged with their care. God bless, Katie

  22. Cyndi says:

    I liked your posts. My dad and grandma were Christians, but the only thing I remember about being spanked was an overwhelming anger and feeling of injustice. I did learn to not get caught and to not be honest. Anytime anyone insists that children must be spanked if you are a Christian, the anger I feel about the subject is still very real. I have two well behaved children who have never been spanked, although they have received lots of discipline. We have a much closer relationship than I did with my folks growing up, and we all know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I thought your article was right on. Most of the folks I know who spank or physically discipline, tend to do it when they are frustrated or mad, and although they do not really hurt the kids much, the main thing I see in those relationships are fear and anger from the kids, not repentance.

  23. David says:

    I must say that I was spanked with a belt as a child when I was really bad. I can’t ever recall being upset with my parents for spanking me or feeling violated, etc. In fact, I generally thought, “well I deserved that.” Looking back, I am thankful that my parents spanked me when necessary.

    I have a niece who is young. She will pull my beard or hair and hit me sometimes. In return, I grab her hair and give it a little tug to remind her that it hurts. Or if she hits me, I will give her a little smack and say, see that hurts, don’t do it to me. If I didn’t give her hair a tug or a little smack in return, she wouldn’t realize that it hurts when she does it to me.

    You can try and circumvent the teachings that are plain and clear in the Bible but the truth remains. Many “Christians” today will explain away why they can eat pork, etc., even though it is perfectly clear from the Scriptures that it is an abomination to eat unclean meats. You do the same here with your commentary on “spanking,” twisting the words around to fit an idea already in your head rather than learning as a babe.

    Of course you are entitled to your own opinion but the fact is there is only one truth. Spanking may not be mandated by the Bible but it is certainly recommended in certain situations. If we look at Israel, they were severely punished for their disobedience to God. I would much rather get spanked than receive some of the punishments given to Israel by YHWH. The law commanded stoning and whipping in certain situations.

    Deuteronomy 25:2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.

    3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.

    If spanking wasn’t a profitable form of correction, it wouldn’t make sense that God would command men to be beaten as a form of punishment.

    Proverbs 23:13-14 clearly uses the words “beatest” and “beat,” both from the Hebrew “nakah” the same word used in Deuteronomy verses above which means to smite, slay, kill, beat, slaughter, etc. I don’t know how anyone can read that verse and think the rod in that situation means “shepherd’s crook” unless it is the “rod” being used to hit with. It is very clear what is being said here. The verse is talking about striking a child in correction using a rod of some form or another.

    Regarding the fruit of the spirit and of love, etc.: God is the spirit and love. When it comes down to it, he will kill when necessary even though killing seems contrary to the idea of love from a human perspective. The fact is, physical punishment is sometimes the best and only means of correction. If it wasn’t, God would not use it himself.

    I don’t believe children should be spanked for every little thing; rather, they should be spanked when they exercise willful disobedience or do something really terrible. When God comes to judge all flesh, he will destroy those who are disobedient. That is a fact. If God being love can kill and destroy, certainly a parent can spank and still love their children.

    It is best to study the Scriptures as a babe. We must leave behind what we think we know already and just let the Spirit teach us as we read. When we approach the Scriptures to prove our own ideas, we miss the truth as it is presented. Perhaps the biggest example is the preconceived idea that humans go to heaven when they die, which isn’t Biblical at all. In fact, the Scriptures reveal the truth that humans will inherit the earth. That has always been the promise, everlasting life on earth. This truth is presented throughout Scripture; yet, most Christians believe they are going to heaven! Where they got this idea from, I do not know!

    • barefootbetsy says:

      Thank you for your comment!

      “You can try and circumvent the teachings that are plain and clear in the Bible but the truth remains.”

      There is no part of the actual law in the Bible that commands spanking. The entire “Biblical” argument for spanking is based on a very few verses in a book of poetry, not on anything from a book of law. Your comparison to justifying away actual Biblical laws doesn’t make any sense in this instance.

      “Of course you are entitled to your own opinion but the fact is there is only one truth. Spanking may not be mandated by the Bible but it is certainly recommended in certain situations. If we look at Israel, they were severely punished for their disobedience to God. I would much rather get spanked than receive some of the punishments given to Israel by YHWH. The law commanded stoning and whipping in certain situations.”

      Spanking is definitely not mandated in the Bible and the act of hitting a child explicitly goes against what the Bible as a whole teaches about how we are to lead our lives as Christians. God can punish as He sees fit, but I am not God. Thankfully, by the grace of Jesus Christ, I do not have to choose between being spanked and being punished by God. Christ took on the punishments that I richly deserve.

      “Deuteronomy 25:2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.”

      I am not a judge and my children are not “wicked men” – they are small girls, barely more than babies. Using that verse to justify hitting a small child just doesn’t make sense to me.

      “If spanking wasn’t a profitable form of correction, it wouldn’t make sense that God would command men to be beaten as a form of punishment.”

      It does not logically follow that if men being beaten is good or prescribed then children being beaten or spanked is therefore also good. It seems a bit like saying that since it is good for adults to get married, it must also be good for children to get married. What is good for adults is not, in fact, always good for children.

      Moreover, in Old Testament times, the Messiah had not yet come. Christ has taken the punishment of believers, as well as the punishment of any children who will be believers. Christ said that the person without sin should cast the first stone and logically that would also go for laying the first lash of a whip. I am not without sin. No parent is without sin. How can any parent then justify hitting their children?

      “Proverbs 23:13-14 clearly uses the words “beatest” and “beat,” both from the Hebrew “nakah” the same word used in Deuteronomy verses above which means to smite, slay, kill, beat, slaughter, etc. I don’t know how anyone can read that verse and think the rod in that situation means “shepherd’s crook” unless it is the “rod” being used to hit with. It is very clear what is being said here. The verse is talking about striking a child in correction using a rod of some form or another.”

      I would refer you again to this excellent article about the possible meanings of Proverbs 23:13-14 (http://aolff.org/spare-the-rod/proverbs2). I have no desire to reinvent the wheel and the deconstruction has already been written. To sum up: The word is not inherently physical – it can be used to denote physical punishment, but it is not always used in such a way. In fact, if the word “nakah” meant to literally beat with a literal rod, the second half of the Proverb would be untrue given that there were strict penalties in the law for someone who literally beat a servant with a rod and caused his death. Literal rod beatings can lead to death, they do not spare someone from death, whereas “reasoning together” and “withholding not correction/teaching” prevents death and cannot possibly lead to death.

      “Regarding the fruit of the spirit and of love, etc.: God is the spirit and love. When it comes down to it, he will kill when necessary even though killing seems contrary to the idea of love from a human perspective. The fact is, physical punishment is sometimes the best and only means of correction. If it wasn’t, God would not use it himself.”

      We are not God. God can do whatever He sees fit and we definitely do not understand His greater plan. We, however, are human and fallible and we are commanded to turn the other cheek. Hitting a small child who has “disobeyed” or “wronged” us does not fit with that command.

      “I don’t believe children should be spanked for every little thing; rather, they should be spanked when they exercise willful disobedience or do something really terrible. When God comes to judge all flesh, he will destroy those who are disobedient. That is a fact. If God being love can kill and destroy, certainly a parent can spank and still love their children.”

      How does a parent *know* when a child is “exercising willful disobedience?” Do parents see into their children’s hearts? I’ve never been able to see into someone’s heart to know their motivations – nor has anyone else I know of. We can “suspect” what someone’s motivations are, but according to scripture (Luke 16:15), only God can see into a person’s heart and know their motivations.

      On many occasions when my parents thought that I was being “willfully disobedient” I was confused about what they wanted and didn’t understand or remember that I should not have done something. To my parents, they had told me, I had done whatever it was anyhow, and therefore I must have willfully disobeyed. Their understanding of my motivations was flawed, because only God can see into people’s hearts and understand their motivations.

      “It is best to study the Scriptures as a babe. We must leave behind what we think we know already and just let the Spirit teach us as we read. When we approach the Scriptures to prove our own ideas, we miss the truth as it is presented”

      We are to come to Christ as a babe, in humility and child-likeness, but we are not to remain babes. We are to grow beyond needing the milk of the gospel and move on to the meat of theology, history, exegesis, and greater understanding of the meanings in the Bible and what they possibly meant to the people and cultures they were originally written to. Paul was not giving the Corinthians a compliment in 1 Cor 3:2. There is nothing superior about taking different types of literature and approaching them in exactly the same way. There is nothing superior about “taking the Bible at face value.” We must also apply common sense and take what God said in historical context, in the context of what type of literature the book is written as, and in context of the entire Bible as a whole.

      I approached the idea of Biblical spanking without any preconceived notions other than the idea that spanking or hitting children must be prescribed or suggested in some very strong way for Christians to hold onto the idea so firmly. What I found, was quite the opposite. I’m not telling you or anyone else what to think or how to interpret these verses – I’m only sharing what I have learned and come to believe.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

      ~B.

  24. Thank you so much for your articles on spanking! (Sorry this is so long, I have a lot to say!)

    In college, I wrote a paper on spanking. I have no idea where it is, or I would send it to you. The assignment was to write a persuasive essay for the teacher. You could pick any subject you wanted and persuade him to your side of the argument. I knew he was a Christian, so I knew it wouldn’t be hard to “persuade” him that spanking was the right thing to do. I wrote about those exact same verses you mentioned. I included references to articles from Christians that were advocates of spanking (including Dr Dobson), as well as articles from sources that opposed spanking. Many people that oppose spanking still say that it’s okay in certain very rare situations. It was perfect. Of course, I got an A. And of course, I knew I was right. I was taught throughout my entire childhood, including my teenage years, from my parents, grandparents, extended relatives, teachers, & pastors that spanking was essential for the proper growth of a child, both mentally and spiritually. And I had the Scriptures to back it up and validate my beliefs. I thought non-spanking parents were bad parents.

    You have helped totally changed my mind on the subject. You gave me the opportunity to really think about it from a new perspective, which I had never done before. It was just a fact, and there was no need to question it. Luckily, I don’t have any children yet!

    Here’s my take on the subject now:

    I was spanked as a child. OFTEN. My Dad still brings up how much of a liar I was when I was young (I’m 35 now, I wish he would give it a rest!). So I know exactly what you mean when you talk about lying to avoid punishment. Of course, as most children are, I was a terrible liar, so it never really worked anyway. In fact, I was “double-punished” many times because of it. First, there would be a spanking, followed by a “loving discussion” about what I had originally done wrong, then another spanking, followed by a discussion about lying. (Discussion means me sitting there crying and nodding my head until he or she was done explaining why what I did was wrong. Then an “I love you, too” ended it.) I probably don’t even need to mention that I always heard “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” before every spanking. (I never ever believed that, by the way.) I do believe those spankings actually helped me get rid of my habits of dishonesty, but I now believe more strongly that the spankings were what caused the lying to begin with!

    I have a brother that is 2 1/2 years older. He was also spanked often. We learned “spare the rod, spoil the child” at very young ages. My brother is, and has been throughout my entire life, a violent person. I’m positive I was “spanked” by my brother even more often than by my parents. That makes sense though, doesn’t it? They taught us that when we did something wrong, they were commanded by God to hit us. (And yes, I agree with you: spanking = hitting, by definition, literally, no question) So, whenever I did something “wrong” in my brother’s eyes, he would hit me. He was helping me. Even to this day, he says it built character. He says he’s proud of who I am today, and he actually believes he had a big part to do with it. He had a much broader definition of “sparing the rod” though. To him, it meant: slapping / punching / pushing / shoving / kicking / kneeing / elbowing / twisting an arm / “Indian burns” / twisting fingers back / poking / pulling hair / pinching / throwing household objects at / throwing rocks at / stabbing with utensils (luckily, never a knife though) / I’m sure I’m missing other things he did to me, but you get the point.

    To me, it seems very obvious that this kind of behavior is directly linked to being spanked. He’s my big brother. Most big brothers take it as their own responsibility to look after their younger siblings, especially sisters, and especially when the parents are not in the same room. He wanted to take on the role of my parent when a parent was not present at the moment. And what did our parents do when we did something wrong? They spanked us with their hands, or a yard stick, or a “switch” from a tree, etc. But they only spanked us on our bottoms. They never hit us in the face or anywhere else. So why did my bother take it so much further? I think it’s because a small child doesn’t see a difference between a bottom, an arm or leg, a back, a face, etc. When something strikes you, and it hurts, it just hurts. When you accidentally slam your forearm in a door, for instance, you don’t say, “Ow, this really hurts, but I wouldn’t mind at all if it happened to my bottom instead of my arm.” No, when you are injured, it just hurts, and we don’t want to feel pain anywhere on our bodies, period. I’m not sure why adults that believe in spanking think that there’s a difference between your bottom than any other part of your body. Even if someone believes that spanking is okay, and even more so, that God wants you to do it to your child, there is nowhere in any of the Scriptures that specifically says to use the “rod” on the backside. When you “spank” your child on the bottom, it is by no means any different than slapping them in the face or anywhere else. Or am I wrong? Is there somewhere in the Bible that states your rear end is a special place for physical punishment? I think not.

    Physical pain is an essential part of life. It is God given. Pain teaches us the limits of our bodies. Pain warns us when something is physically wrong. If we have a tumor, it can push on a part of our body and make it hurt. When we feel pain, we go to the Doctor to get checked out to see what’s causing the pain. Or we just believe God when He says He’s our Healer, and when He says He will give us what we ask when we ask for it, then we ask for it, and we’re healed. Either way, we seek help from God or a doctor to take care of the problem. If we didn’t have pain to alert us of the issue, we wouldn’t seek help, and the tumor would grow and we would most likely die. When we experience pain as an environmental result of something that happens to us, we should try to avoid letting it happen again because our body is telling us it is unsafe. When you burn your hand on the stove, you learn not to touch the stove again. Without pain, our average life-span would be significantly lower! Look at the few people that have the disorder CIP (or CIPA). They have an extremely high risk of dying from infection, disease, or accident because they cannot feel pain. Their bodies do not tell them what their limits are. According to wikipedia, “Overheating kills more than half of all children with CIPA before age 3”.

    When my arm broke when I was 6 because my brother threw his bicycle at me, I didn’t learn a lesson on why to not steal, or why to not lie, or why to not to cheat. I learned the lesson that a bicycle thrown at someone can break their arm. When I got spanked as a child, I learned that a yardstick hurts when someone hits you really hard with one. It seems to make sense to me that physical punishment for the purposes of teaching a lesson is basically exploiting pain, using it for purposes other than was intended by God. Physical pain was not intended to teach us not to lie, or steal, or anything else morally wrong. If so, every time I have lied in my life, I would have gotten blisters on my fingers, or my arm would have suddenly snapped, or my knee would have swollen up, or I would have gone blind or deaf, etc. That is not how God created things. That is not scientifically sound. That is just ridiculous nonsense.

    So, I now believe that spanking children can’t serve any real purpose of teaching children any valuable lessons other than when an object contacts your body with force, it hurts, and could cause damage to your body, such as: bruising, blistering, bone breakage, etc.

    If you believe that not spanking your child will cause your child to sin or go to hell, then you also must believe every child with CIPA is unable to receive proper parenting, unable to live a moral life, unable to be saved by the grace of God, unable to accept Jesus as Healer and Savior. Well, that’s not my God. My God gives every single person on the planet an equal opportunity to believe in Him and not perish but have everlasting life. He would not have made the way to salvation unavailable to some people just because they can’t feel pain. That’s preposterous!

    Thanks for reading!

    • tealrose1 says:

      Well said shortredhead78 !!! I think that your brother hit you – because he could. It’s in his nature – and being spanked is just an added ‘excuse’ that you make for him. And why didn’t your parents stop him in his attacks on you – or did they agree with the fact that he, a child,could hit you and ‘punish’ you ???

      Some pro spankers say they ‘Only use belts, slippers, tree twigs, yard sticks -[ you fill in with your weapon of choice – ] as they keep their hands for being loving/gentle with their child’. As if children are stupid enough to think ‘oh it’s the … belt that is hurting me .. not my dad/mum’.

      I am so glad you have found the truth – Christ NEVER called us to hit / hurt our children – he called us to love one another … and that meant ALL of us .. not just those over the age of majority!!! He died for us all too !

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