Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
The bright red coils caught my attention even though I was barely tall enough to see them. In my curious desire to know what they were, I reached out my hand. Had I done so slowly I would have realized the danger that awaited me. Being a child of no more than five years old, I was quick and deliberate. It only took a moment for me to learn that a stove top gets hot. It was a brutal lesson, but it was necessary. Years later, there is no pain and no scar, and I remember very little of the event. In that moment, however, it had a great impact on me. It showed me that the best way to learn about something new might not be to get up close and personal. It taught me to ask before I touch. This set a boundary for me that I could not set for myself as a child.
We know that self-control is not easy for adults, so we should not be surprised that it is not easy for children either. They are unable to make decisions that are in their best interest because they lack experience and wisdom. Discipline, the thing that God does to those He loves, is what He desires that we do for the children in our lives. Today’s scripture is no lukewarm warning. To withhold discipline from a child in your care is akin to hating that child. Scripture gives us a parallel between hate and murder, so it appears that the act of hating is similar to desiring death for someone. It is the opposite of giving life to that person. To discipline a child is to speak life by teaching how to live in a way that brings life. Discipline has the goal of building the child and setting boundaries that provide safety. Discipline always serves the best interests of the child.
The physical consequence that I experienced as a five-year-old taught me not to touch the stove top. Discipline also may carry a physical consequence of pain, or it may carry a feeling of conviction or disappointment. What children must learn is that there are real consequences for overstepping the boundaries that God has placed around us for very good reasons. These can be great spiritual consequences, and we should desire to protect our children from them. If we love the children in our care, then we will build them up by setting the boundaries they cannot set for themselves. Father, thank You that You discipline the ones You love, and help us to do the same with the children we love.