The Hated Son

The Hated Son

He who withholds his rod hates his son,

But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. (Proverbs 13:24)

     I remember well my father “taking me to the woodshed.”  I had done something foolish, and he was going to drive that foolishness right out of me (cf. Prov. 22:15).  I should have known better, since I witnessed the same happening to all of my older siblings.  Nevertheless, I didn’t learn the lesson via observation.  I was going to have to learn it via application.

     The book of Proverbs speaks frequently of using “the rod” (cf. 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14).  It notes that children “love being simple-minded” (1:22), and their childishness can have serious consequences.  “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them” (1:32).  One “tried and true” method of removing the foolishness is corporal punishment.  The text given above (Proverbs 13:24) provides several valuable lessons.

     First, the home is the place for discipline.  God expects the parents to do the training, directing and, when needed, the punishing.  Such must not be left to others (Proverbs 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1).  The Bible says that God disciplines His children (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11), and so earthly fathers are following His example.  The home is the place that is able to provide the perfect balance of strictness and compassion, example and instruction (4:3, 4, 11).  In 13:1 the father pleads with the son to accept his discipline.

     Second, fathers should not withhold the rod. Corporal punishment is something that has been a part of life since the begetting of children.  In the ancient world it was assumed.  One ancient text, dating around 200 B.C., read “He who loves his son will whip him often, so that he may rejoice at the way he turns out” (Sirach 30:1; also known as Ecclesiasticus – not to be confused with the biblical book of Ecclesiastes).

     Third, fathers who withhold the rod “hate” their son.  Herein lies the paradox.  Does spanking a child look like an action of love?  Modern “experts” scream “no!”  Rather, they maintain, that using the rod is an indication of an angry out-of-control parent.  God, however, says otherwise. He says that a failure to discipline is an example of hate.  How can this be?  When one chooses not to take action, when action is required, it is a sign of indifference and apathy.  That apathy is a form of hatred.  Few would argue that fathers literally hate their children.  But a failure to take action is paramount to hatred.

     Fourth, fathers who use the rod “love” their son.  True love means making the hard decisions and taking the difficult actions.  It is easy to let unruly behavior slide.  It is easy for parents to justify “looking the other way” as patience and compassion.  Yet true love acts.  True love reaches for the rod.  It is the way the child can be molded into the type of person every parent dreams.  God’s word says:

Do not hold back discipline from the child,

Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.

You shall strike him with the rod

And rescue his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 23:13-14)