Spanking Kids and Your Theology
Question: What does theology have to do with spanking? Answer: A lot!
Now, let’s be clear up front—by the word spanking, I’m referring to legitimate discipline that both hurts and is lovingly instructive. Biblical spanking is commanded of parents, but it has nothing to do with abusive, injurious, or harmful actions of any type. Spanking, according to the Bible, is something God instructs parents to use in their tool box of parenting. Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (NIV). Proverbs 22:15 says it this way, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (NKJV).
To gain a clear perspective on what the Bible teaches, it is necessary to take a look at the word rod in the Hebrew. It is the word šēbeṭ (שָׁ֫בֶט) – kind of pronounced like “shave it”. It occurs dozens of times in the Old Testament. It can simply refer to a stick. The word can also refer to a scepter, such as a king would use. Normally, the Hebrew word typically refers to one of two things: a tool made of metal or wood and was a small instrument used for beating seed, and also at times as an instrument used for hitting (see Exodus 21:20). This rod was something many would carry around as a multi-purpose tool. The word šēbeṭ (שָׁ֫בֶט) could also refer to a weapon of some sort, like a javelin or club. In these instances, it was often still translated as rod. It is what shepherds used. The rod (shebet) was both a comfort (Psalm 23:4) and a tool of correction and discipline.
What’s the point? Just this: God commands parents to lovingly discipline their children in a way that hurts and is also instructive. Obviously, just striking a child in anger is not what God intends, and is actually a sin. Unfortunately, some parents (who were abused as children) simply refuse to spank their own children out of an emotional reaction. The problem is that God commands us to inflict a certain degree of pain on our children (both physical and emotional) when they disobey. This is where theology comes in. This is how God deals with us. Hebrews 12:10-11 puts it this way, “Our fathers disciplined us for a short time as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a peaceful harvest of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.“ (BSB)
Your view of spanking is going to be directly tied into two key theological beliefs: your view of Scripture, and your view of human depravity. If you believe that human beings are essentially good by nature, then your view of parental discipline will certainly be different than if you believe that human beings are cruel, violent and selfish by nature. If God’s Word is truly inerrant and infallible (which it claims to be), then we need to take it seriously; even the parts that make us uncomfortable.
Whether or not we like the idea of spanking a child is not the issue. The question is: What does the Bible teach? Secondly, if human beings are truly sinful and depraved (which the Bible clearly teaches), then children are by nature corrupt, foolish, and wayward. As such, they desperately need loving, biblical correction. They need discipline, which may include spankings. Once again, spankings should always be done in a manner that is calm, clear, and consistent. But they should hurt. The opposite problem is half-way spankings, into which a lot of parents lapse. To half-spank (a common diluted version of spanking) is both ineffective and actually counterproductive.
Our experience is that when spankings are used in a positive and loving way, they are very effective. My father-in-law gave Becky and me this advice early on, “If you spank hard, you won’t have to spank as often.” We certainly found that to be true. Parents who choose not to use loving spankings are missing out on a powerful tool for raising their kids.
SO…what does spanking have to do with theology? Turns out, a lot! Just like all of life, everything goes back to theology. What is your view of God? What is your view of His Word? What is your view of human sin? What will you choose to do?
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor