1 When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.
4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.
5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies;
7 for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.
9 Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.
10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.
12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
14 Punish them with the rod and save them from death.
15 My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed;
16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.
17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path:
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
24 The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
25 May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!
26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait and multiplies the unfaithful among men.
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”
Lately I have been struggling with discipline when it comes to my children. Now my daughter isn’t much of an issue at 3 months, my son on the other hand, I am struggling with him.
My son is 4 months shy of 2 years old and has been pushing his boundaries for the last couple of months. It started around 18 months, and I have been struggling with this ever since.
In my attempt to establish a discipline style, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. There is a huge movement toward a gentler style of parenting, and a mass exodus away from corporal punishment style discipline. Being a Christian dad, I try to balance what I read in parenting books, blogs, and other resources with what I read in the Bible. Now with as many different interpretations of scriptural passages as there are believers, this can be tough.
In today’s chapter, there is a saying that really speaks to this issue, but rather than clearing the waters, I find it muddies it further. I’m prone to looking for deeper meanings in scripture instead of just taking them at face value and reading them literally. Proverbs is a book of poetry, of wisdom. It was written by Solomon, one of the wisest men in Christian history, but it was also written thousands of years ago, so context needs to be taken into account.
Proverbs 23: 13-14 reads:
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.”
Read literally, it says that to punish your child with the rod is to save them from death. What if you move past a basic literal interpretation, what does it mean? Is it talking about a spiritual death? A literal death? And what kind of rod is it talking about? A physical rod, like a wooden stick? Or does it refer to a more figurative interpretation where the rod is authority?
“Do no withhold discipline from a child,” I don’t think more important words have ever been said. (Well, that’s not true, but it is pretty darn important.) Children need discipline. To what degree depends on the parent and child, but on some level all children require it to grow as human beings in society. It teaches respect and kindness. It teaches moral values and limits. It teaches them to be a positive, contributing member of society that can obey the rules, and listen to, and respect, authority.
Discipline lets children know that their parents care, and I’m sure it’s one of the reasons they try to push back. They want to know you care, that you’re strong enough to take care of them. (at least that’s what I read in some psycho-babble book once and it kind of made sense)
We do not live in a world where we get to make the rules. We are governed by all manner of rules and regulations made up and enforced by others, and children need to learn this at a young age. There are rules and consequences when those rules are broken. If discipline is not taught, this understanding would not exist in children as they grow.
As for the rod, the word is open to interpretation. Want to use it for biblical justification of spanking? Go for it. Want to look at as authority, that’s perfectly acceptable as well. Myself, I choose the latter with no judgement of those that choose the former.
I do think the word “death” in these verses needs to be expanded on though. “[I]f you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.” In this saying, both sentences reference death, but I don’t think they are referring to physical death as a result of discipline from a physical rod, which some might suggest.
I think what Solomon is referring to here is eternal death, separation of ourselves from God our Father. I think he could also be referring to physical death, in the sense that as a result of your discipline your child lives within the boundaries laid out, and doesn’t go off and get himself killed. Be it by playing in the road as a young child or drinking and driving as an older child.
This is a verse written for the Hebrew people, but it holds just as much weight today with Christians.
Teach your children with authority so that they might know God. Teach them the commandments put forth by Jesus and live according to his ways. Let them know when they are straying from the path so that they may know what they are doing. I don’t think this has to mean physical pain, but by leading by example and teaching with authority.
Our children look to us for guidance, wisdom, and discipline. This is a vitally important part of our parenting with lots of advice throughout the Bible.
Christopher Neufeld (@twistedxtian) is an IT guy by day, and Apprentice of Divinity by night. He’s a husband to a wonderful wife, and father to a beautiful baby girl and a toddler son. He’s the pastoral assistant and resident bass player at Central Baptist Church in Winnipeg, MB. You can find his theology blog at http://twistedchristian.ca and his dad blog at http://twistedchristian.ca/dadblog.