I have been reading many parenting sites since starting this website. I never had any intention of writing about spanking even though that is a big topic with GCMers. It is time though to start connecting all the dots because it leads into a much bigger problem at the GCM forum than is spanking right or wrong. But before I get there (in a post to eventually follow at some point in time) we have to look at what the Bible says about discipline/punishment/spanking/judgment/condemnation.
It is always good to be challenged in your thinking if it takes you to the word of God. One thing that an AP parent (one who practices attachment parenting) said (and I don’t remember if this was on the GCM site or some other AP site) was it was bad to punish your child. I never really thought of it like the poster was stating. So into the Bible I went to find out what it said about punishment. I learned a great deal – God’s word is tremendous!
The verse that stood out in my mind was Hebrews 12.
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
(Hebrews 12:6 ESV)
I use the ESV online, but I usually have an NIV when reading offline. It says punishes instead of chastises. So at this point in time, I did not understand why the person would say we should not “punish” our kids. I spoke briefly with my pastor and he too did not believe in punishing his children. I was missing something so to Strong’s Concordance I went.
Strong’s Concordance describes the Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible. The word punishment is Strong’s number 3811.
The definition: to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by impl.) discipline (by punishment).
This differs from judgment or condemnation; they are different words in the Greek, but they sound like synonyms.
They mean: process of investigation, condemnation, verdict, to judge against-i.e. sentence, condemn, damn.
The difference between discipline/chastisement/punishment and judgment/condemnation/punishment is the first is used to teach and the second is used as a final punishment (usually indicating death) with no teaching involved.
Contrast Hebrews 12:6 (punishment #3811) with 1 John 4:18 (punishment #2851).
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
(1 John 4:18 ESV)
This is the type of punishment that is connected to judgment/condemnation. Strong’s definition is: penal infliction; stresses the punishment aspect of judgment.
Some people, like me, use punishment in regards to discipline which is why I was confused for a while. I would use that word because of the NIV. Since talking to my pastor further, I realize he too thought the same way I did about discipline. We were just calling it different things. Since there is confusion out there about this and I don’t want to confuse people by thinking that I advocate punishing in the judgment/condemnation way, I have started to explain it further or not use the word at all.
Hebrews 12 goes on to say that no discipline (Strong’s #3809: tutorage, i.e. education or training; by impl. disciplinary correction) seems pleasant at the time but painful (or grievous). Hebrews states that God considers us sons and so disciplines us. Discipline is a good thing! It doesn’t feel like it at the time, but it will yield the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” to those who have been trained by it!! This is the purpose of discipline laid out in Scripture.
Now comes the difficult part. Does this mean spanking? Maybe, maybe not. What we do know from this verse is that discipline is not pleasant, it causes pain for a period of time, it is a good thing and for our own good, and it is to produce righteousness and holiness in us. Spanking will cause pain for a brief period of time and definitely is not pleasant! If used correctly (i.e. to teach and not to condemn), it can be a good thing which will produce in us righteousness. It does not appear from Scripture it has to be spanking and yet it does not appear it can’t be.
If spanking is done out of anger with the parent wanting revenge on their child, this is not Biblical discipline. This would be the other kind of punishment involving judgment and condemnation (this would be Strong’s #2581 and not #3811). Biblical discipline is to be for our good in the end. Unfortunately, many GCMers see all spanking as revenge. They tend to allude to someone who is NOT anti-spanking as abusers. They can not see past this to see that some parents do use spanking in a Biblical way. They would probably argue this point by saying that it isn’t a Biblical way. So let us look at other verses.…to be continued.