“He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24, NASB).
Many Christians misinterpret this verse to mean that they must spank/hit their children if they truly love them. But, as with all of the “rod” verses in the book of Proverbs, this was never intended to be taken literally. Let’s examine a few key points regarding why this verse means to teach and guide rather than to spank/hit children.
- Shepherds never hit their sheep. Nor did they break their sheep’s legs when the sheep wandered away. Rather, shepherds used their rods to protect their sheep. If you injured a sheep and had to carry it around, that sheep as well as the entire herd, would be more vulnerable to predators. Using the rod against the predator protected the sheep. Therefore, we are to use the rod to protect our children against our number one predator: satan!
- This leads us to the Hebrew word for “rod,” which is Shebet. Yes, it was a big, heavy stick that was used in the Bible to strike people. But, the only people it was used to strike were adults in the Bible. Not once was a child ever hit with the rod in the Bible. It would have killed the child. Shebet is also symbolic of authority. It makes more sense that we are to use our authority to teach and guide children.
- Love doesn’t hurt. Or at least it shouldn’t! God came down as Jesus to take the horrible punishment for all of humanity’s sins! We now live in the age of grace! Not once did Jesus mention using corporal punishment with children. Yes, we are to discipline them as this verse clearly states. But inflicting physical pain does not constitute Biblical discipline.
- This is not a mandate from God to spank children in order to show love to them. Love and this type of pain never go together. What this is saying is that parents who love their children will discipline (teach and guide) children in a manner that will enable the children to thrive and will ultimately lead them to Christ. Spanking and permissive parenting do the exact opposite of what this verse is saying. Being hit or not being disciplined at all does not make children feel loved by their parents. Hurting children intentionally never accurately shows love for them. God does not intentionally hurt us to show His love for us as God is love. The Bible is also quite clear on what love is and is not.
- Interestingly, many use the saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” to try and summarize the above Proverb. However, it is not in the Bible and comes from a seventeenth century poem dealing with sex.
Here is what the Bible tells us love is:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NASB).
It is quite obvious that according to the Bible as a whole, spanking/hitting does not fit into the definition of love. Discipline your children to love them. Use the rod against the enemy, not the children!