Modern parents think they’ve got it all figured out. They believe they can spare the rod in discipline, and replace it with “time-outs,” “groundings” and other psychological nonsense. Look around people, it’s not working! When I was young, old-fashioned Biblical discipline was still in effect. Schools were orderly, as were households. Today, both realms of authority are total chaos. Instead, of returning to “what works” in education, training and discipline, the masses press ahead constantly trying new approaches. The belief that man is becoming more and more enlightened clouds our thinking on issues such as these. Indeed, man has progressed far in areas such as science and technology. However, we have failed miserably in some of the basic areas of life. I believe we have raised an entire generation without old-fashioned discipline, and the fallout is still raining terror upon our society..

The sad thing is the condition of Christian homes in America. If pastors were doing their job in preaching Biblical doctrine, and parents were doing their job in applying that doctrine to their home life…the landscape of this country would be significantly changed. The Bible has a lot to say about children and parental duties of nurture and admonition, which encompasses education and discipline. The following Bible study was written in 1991. It was the year my son, Nathaniel, was born. I wanted to start his life off as closely to a Biblical upbringing as possible. He is about to turn 23, and has never been in any trouble his entire life. Indeed, the three siblings that follow him have never been in any trouble. In fact, their teachers have stated that my children are the most polite and respectful children they have ever taught. None of the four have ever experienced a “time-out” in their entire life.

What are children?

Let’s start with a Biblical look at what children are. My favorite passage to address that question would be Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

We see here that children are a gift from God. They are an inheritance derived from the Lord. Many parents today view children as a burden, some even as a curse. Godly parents, however, will thankfully receive and acknowledge children as a gift, and blessing, from God.

And a child is no mere gift. It is man made after the image of God. It is a living, breathing soul. God gives these wonderful gifts to us and entrusts them to our care. In a sense they are like the talents that Jesus spoke of. We are entrusted as stewards with the property of another. We must invest much effort and diligence to insure that the Lord receives back what is his, with increase. However, the backlash of disobedience in this area is not merely a loss of interest on the investment of gold and silver. It is to ruin a life. It is to take a precious gift from God and possibly return it to him as a devil.

Now, we must begin this study with the basic presupposition that children belong to God, and are loaned to us, as it were, as a blessing and a gift. We will see that God has given the operating manual for their proper nurture and admonition in a godly upbringing. As faithful Christians, we must use these instructions as they are written. We are not to chunk them in favor of modern opinion or psychological whim.

Why must children be disciplined?

Two brief reasons:
A) Because they are sons of Adam, and are born with the stain of Original Sin in their members.
B) Left to themselves, their wickedness will increase.

Now, let’s support those reasons with two Scriptures:
Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child…”
Proverbs 29:15, “…a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

A) They are sons of Adam – born with the stain of Original Sin in their members.
As the Wise Man said, “Foolishness in bound in the heart of the child.” This foolishness has its root in Original Sin and must be kept in check. No descendant of Adam by ordinary generation is born without Original Sin. The philosopher John Locke was mistaken when he said that children are born tabula rasa, with a clean slate, in pure innocence. This is not biblical, but unfortunately this belief prevails even among professing Christians. It is the foundation of many sorrows.

But righteous King David tells us in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Here he acknowledges the corruption with which he was born. In Psalm 58:3 we read, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” In these and many other Scriptures we see, as Job put it, that man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7).

One central problem in modern thinking is the lack of understanding depravity. People believe man is basically good, and is a victim of his surroundings. They conclude that since man is basically good, he can be reasoned with. If that doesn’t work, just change his surroundings. We are told it would be wrong, even harmful, to chasten or physically discipline a child. They claim this is child abuse, and a return to the Dark Ages!

The Bible clearly teaches us differently. Scriptures teach man is born corrupt, with a stubborn sinful nature. Reasoning just does not cut it. We are all by nature, says Paul, children of wrath. And so, the Bible prescribes a different course of action. The Wise Man tells us in Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” This leads us right into our second point:

B) Left to themselves – their wickedness will increase.
Sin left unchecked never improves, but only worsens. One of the worse mistakes a parent can make is to think their children will outgrow their disobedience with age. We will look in a moment at Eli. He left his children “to themselves,” and they brought great dishonor to both his, and God’s, name.

There is much wisdom in the above-mentioned Proverb. The only predictable product of a child left to himself is shame. Left to himself he becomes the worst curse on a family. This sin of omission will not go away. You may lie to someone, turn around later and confess your deceitfulness, and seek forgiveness. You may steal from someone, and later restore with increase that which was taken. But to leave a child to his own disobedience has far-reaching consequences. If he reaches adulthood, the shame he brings will always come back to haunt. As one old saint put it, “Take this for certain – that as many deserved stripes as you spare from your children, you do but lay upon your own back.”

This foolishness bound up in the heart of the child must be corrected early in life. It must be re-directed. With time-outs? No! In our two verses the remedy described to drive that foolishness away is the rod of correction accompanied by reproof. Proverbs 10:13, “In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.”

Great men are sometimes so wrapped up in the weighty affairs of life their children escape proper discipline. The Bible offers numerous examples of this neglect. Solomon was said to be the wisest of all men. He gave us many great Proverbs. One of life’s great tragedies is the fact that wise men do not always practice what they preach. Solomon may have been wise, but his children (such as Rehoboam) were void of understanding. You need to look no further than his father. King David was a godly man, but he was not wise in the area of discipline. Look at the sins of his children. With Amnon it was incest. With Absalom it was murder and proud rebellion. With Adonijah it was his scheming ambition. Read of Adonijah in 1 Kings 1:5-9, “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?”

J.C. Ryle hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “The foundation of all the mischief of his sons was this – he did not restrain them. He was an over-indulgent father who let his children have their own way – and he reaped according as he had sown. “

If it still has not sunk in, consider the following proverbs: Proverbs 17:21,25 “He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy. A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.” Ah, but God gives the remedy in Proverbs 25:17, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Proverbs 10:1, “…A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”

Our Application here is this: children must be disciplined early in life. Lamentations 3:27, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”

Parents, at whatever cost, you must establish your authority early. For a household to function orderly there must be but one will in the house. It must be the law, but a loving law. Parental rule is a benevolent dictatorship. Your child will, early on, test the fence for weaknesses. Where ever the bounds are open, they will note it to their advantage. Believe me, it does not take a child long to discover whether parents are disposed to yield, or resolved to rule. But no matter what is necessary, whether it is a great matter or not, obedience must be the indispensable point.

Either the child’s will, or the parents heart, will be broken. It happens every time. Without wise, authoritative control, the parents will be miserable and the child will be ruined. He will be yet another statistic in the criminal database, or simply another worthless leech in society’s dung heap. This is why children must be taught obedience at an early age.

Discipline begins in the nursery. We must bend the tender twig before it becomes a knotty oak. Have you ever seen the odd things people do with trees when they are maturing from seedlings? They make them circle around, and grow in all sorts of ways? This can only be done by force along the way. The trees do not grow naturally that way. Obviously, once the tree has matured, you can no longer force it to bend to another shape. It is the same with children. God has made children tender and soft as clay so that we, as parents, can mold them into fine young men and women who respect authority, and respect God.

It is a common mistake made by the world – and even many professing Christians: I don’t want to influence my youngins’. I want them to grow up to be their own individual, not like me. Let me make a strong point here: “If you do not influence them, someone else will.” There are plenty of wicked people in the world just waiting to sway your child to the dark side.

If you are a godly parent, the Lord would have your children emulate you, just as Paul instructed others to be like him. “Follow me,” said the apostle. Why? Because he followed Christ. Remember, early training is a must. It may be too late to begin chastening when the disobedient tree trunk has been formed and hardened.

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