The Successful Home And Marriage Series
Chasten Children While There Is Hope
Editor’s note: The following is a continuation of the “Successful Home & Marriage” series by Jimmy Swaggart.
There has been a tremendous amount of teaching on the matter of discipline and correction of children. Much of it has been wrong, harmful, and has caused untold problems. A popular child specialist wrote a book about 20 years ago in which he chided young parents for administering even mild corporal punishment to their children.
Young people were told that they should never spank or correct their children. If a child threw a temper tantrum, he was not to be interfered with for fear of warping his personality.
Many children of this generation have been raised under this complete permissiveness, causing the destruction of their lives. After witnessing a generation of children growing up under this system, that child specialist finally admitted (belatedly) that his whole approach had been wrong.
The Bible is never wrong, and God’s ways are always good.
We read in Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” A major part of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord involves correction and chastisement.
Paul declares in Hebrews 12:7, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chaseneth not?”
An even stronger admonition comes in Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
Several other Scriptures deal with chastening and correction:
Unlike a baby animal, which is self-supporting in a few weeks or months, children are dependent upon parents for as long as 20 years. It takes them 10 to 12 months just to learn to walk. It is obvious from this that God intended for a child to remain helpless and dependent so he will stay in the home environment throughout the period when training is effective.
- “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Prov. 19:18).
- “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die” (Prov. 23:13).
- “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15).
- “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Prov. 29:17).
A child is to be trained up in the way he should go. God intended for the home to be the source for developing moral qualities, principles, and habits. It is there that the adjustments should be made that are essential to good character. The reason our nation is having difficulties today is because morality, spirituality, sound principles, and desirable qualities are not being taught and developed in the home. Children need correction and training.
The Inherited Nature
Children have naturally inherited the fallen nature of the human race, an unfortunate legacy from Adam and Eve. Even though they may appear to be attractive, charming, and lovable little angels, they still have a basically sinful nature. Because of this, they need correction. My heart goes out to children, and I love them. There is something heavenly, innocent, and wonderfully sweet about them. You look into their eyes, and there is an innocence there that speaks of God. Children are gifts beyond price from God.
However, even though children are lovable, sweet, and heavenly, they have the taint of inborn sin within them.
The Bible says that we are not to withhold correction from the child, “For if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” It further says that this will deliver his soul from hell. Every little child has a nature that, if not curbed, can lead to serious sin—even murder, adultery, blasphemy, and defiance of God. Ultimately, it can lead to hell. This is because children enter into this world with inborn sin. If allowed to proceed unchecked, the inherently sinful nature will come to fuller and fuller expression, until it ultimately leads to condemnation from God.
Psalm 58:3 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” David, brokenhearted and repentant after his shameful affair with Bath-sheba, said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
David did not mean that he was illegitimate. By saying he was conceived in sin, he was simply documenting the fact that a fallen, sinful nature is the natural legacy of the fall of Adam and Eve. It is passed on to every individual at birth. David knew he was born with this fallen nature and that the terrible sin of adultery was the natural fruit of the fallen, depraved nature he had inherited from birth.
Now, let’s make one thing absolutely clear. We do not for an instant mean to imply that children, or unaccountable infants who cannot consciously sin, are lost if they die. Absolutely not! They are born with a sinful, fallen nature, but if a child should die, he is certainly not lost. He has yet to come to the place of accountability where he sins by choice.
There is an aspect of innocence in the child, despite man’s fallen nature. The Bible teaches that children are kept by God’s grace until they come to the time of accountability, at which point they can go before God to ask His forgiveness. This does not alter the fact, though, that everyone is born in original sin.
Realize this, however: No one goes to hell for his sinful nature. You can’t help that. However, because of this nature, all children need correction so that they may overcome their sinful nature by conscious will. At this point, they become accountable for their actions. Until this point, no one is condemned to hellfire for Adam’s sin—just because they are, through inheritance, unconscious partakers of this nature. I Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Parents must punish sin and reward righteousness in a child. Actually, this is nothing more or less than a duplicate of God’s actions in dealing with all men. Parents must be willing to assume this responsibility because, in a very real sense, they stand in place of God before their children. While both parents share this responsibility, it is the father’s particular duty to administer God’s authority over his children and in the family. He is to serve as God’s deputy in the home.
God said of Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him” (Gen. 18:19). Many times the Bible will use a human father to illustrate God’s attitude toward His children. The father, therefore, stands in a specific and special place in the home.
The book of Psalms says, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Ps. 103:13).
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said in Luke 11:2, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven.” He then went on to say, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” (Mat. 7:11).
Parents, therefore, stand in the presence of their children clothed in the authority of God, whether they know it or not. Parents are thus to command and instruct them in the ways of the Lord.
Colossians 3:20 tells us, “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” It uses the term “all things,” but it refers specifically to the things of God. It is not for parents to demand anything of an ungodly nature of their children. That is not what this refers to. It literally means, “All things decent and right.” This Scripture by no means implies that children are to cooperate willingly with their parents if sinful, immoral, or illegal acts are being promoted.
We are living in terribly sinful and wicked times. There are parents who are demanding things of their children that are so ungodly that they beggar description. No child is required by God, or held accountable, for not obeying his parents if they demand that the child steal, commit acts of lewdness, or any other evil deeds. Of course, the basic teaching is absolutely correct and proper when it states that children are to obey their parents.
In Exodus 20:12, it states, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” So, parents have the authority of God over their children, and this is a most serious responsibility.
When one of God’s children does wrong, there are two ways in which God can handle the matter. He asks first that His children (which means you and me if you’re a Christian) judge themselves. That is, we are to recognize that we have done wrong, and we must then commit ourselves to resolving the matter. In this way God will not have to judge us or chastise us. If we refuse, however, to judge ourselves, then God must administer the chastisement.
God demands the same of us as parents. He wants us, as His representatives, to deal with our children in the same way He deals with us. God has to chastise His children, and the Bible clearly teaches that parents should chastise their children—for the children’s sake. God said, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chaseneth not?” (Heb. 12:7).
It is in the very nature of sonship to receive chastening when it is needed. It is in the very nature of fatherhood to give chastening when called for. When the child needs a spanking (corporal punishment), it is within the will of God that the child receive it. It should be done in love, but the child will be the one who is the loser if it isn’t done.
God’s direction on this matter is very clear. Hebrews 12:6-8 says: “For whom the Lord loveth He chaseneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chaseneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”
This Scripture declares that if a child is not corrected and chastened, he is being treated as one who is not a son, but rather as an illegitimate child. Any father who does not whip his children when they need it is treating them as if they were bastards.
This may seem a very hard statement from two points of view. First of all, the term whip may sound too severe for some in that it can imply extremely severe beatings. We are not, however, talking about child abuse in any sense of the word. It is a sad commentary on the sickness in our society that there is such a crime as child abuse. There are, without question, demon-driven adults who severely beat children. We hear of cases where bodies are bruised and bones broken. This is sheer brutality and is in no way related to loving correction, discipline, or the natural act of moderate spanking or whipping. People who inflict such misery on children are in great need of help, and the involved children are in need of protection.
What we are discussing is the need for positive correction and discipline. Hence, spanking or whipping may well be appropriate. A child, while small, may need to be spanked with a little switch or something on that order, which may grow somewhat in diameter with passage of time, or perhaps a paddle might replace it. It should not be anything to endanger the well-being of the child in any way. Proper, judicious spanking will smart, but not injure. Parents have an inescapable responsibility to chasten their children.
Many people deride corporal punishment, despite the fact that it is clearly taught in the Bible and thoroughly vindicated by practical experience. The only answer to juvenile delinquency—the only answer to a generation grown up without faith in God and lacking in self-control—is to return to the Bible and rediscover God’s methods for raising up young men and women of character. God’s system is prayerful and intelligent discipline in the home, starting from the earliest days of a child’s life. It is an absolute essential for the growth and development of decent and honorable men and women.
Don’t Provoke Wrath
Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
It is interesting to observe that the word nurture used here implies chastisement or chastening. It means, “To direct development by chastising for wrongdoing.”
A parent has to be steadfast and resolute in maintaining authority, but it must always be founded in love. Parents do need to chasten their children—even whip them when necessary—as commanded in the Word of God. When this is done, parents are actually acting for God in punishing sin and rewarding righteousness. They are thus teaching and instilling obedience and discipline in their children.
Once again, I feel I should address and re-emphasize my views on the matter of child abuse because of the large numbers who have been conditioned to equate any form of physical punishment with child abuse. Inevitably, whenever anyone advocates that it can improve a child’s attitude by whipping him for deliberate actions, he opens himself to the indictment of promoting “child battering.”
As we are all well aware, there are mentally ill or demon-possessed individuals who habitually and excessively inflict physical punishment on children. We are by no stretch of the imagination promoting, condoning, or approving this sordid, sick perversion. We are discussing rational and discrete physical punishment of a child who has willfully misbehaved when he knew he was doing wrong. Anyone who would compare, even by inference, the laws of almighty God with child abuse isn’t giving the matter any sensible thought.
Child abuse is a horrible crime. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common day by day. As far as I’m concerned, child abuse may very well be the worst crime ever committed. I don’t know exactly what scale God uses in rating sin, but there is something about a small child that tugs at my heart. They are innocent and helpless.
The mere fact that there is child abuse, however, and that it is reprehensible, in no way negates the plain and direct commands of God regarding corporal punishment. Such punishment needs to be administered but, of course, always in love and understanding and with compassion.