“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
“Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:22-25)
Another family difficulty, in biblical times and all through the ages, is the neglect of parents to discipline their children. Parenting is not easy and cannot be avoided. We might be surprised at how many overwhelmed or insecure parents shrink back from much of the relational parenting they should be doing. Providing food, clothing, housing, education, and medical attention is the easy part. Building relationships with children that will help them stay the course with God as they grow is the substance of biblical parenting.
Proverbs 13:24 is not intended to support physical abuse or excessive corporal punishment. Instead, it teaches us not to ignore or dismiss sin or rebelliousness to keep peace in the short term. Only through instruction, correction, and consequences can a child learn what is right and what is wrong. Left on their own, children will do what comes naturally, which is to sin, having been born a sinner. “…a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15b) In his book, “A Proverbs Driven Life,” Anthony Selvaggio says this about Proverbs 13:24: “We must remind ourselves continually to reject the unbiblical teachings of secular culture. Left entirely to themselves, most children will give in to [harmful desires]. Unless they disciplined, they won’t gain self-discipline. Undisciplined children, then, tend to grow into undisciplined adults, becoming a danger to themselves (and others). A child who never learned to live within the boundaries of his parents’ rules will be more likely as an adult to overstep the boundaries of God’s moral law.” *
Eli was so inattentive to his sons that he had to hear about their rebellious behavior from others in Israel (1 Sam 2:22). This was only the tip of the iceberg. Their immorality led to death and shame to their father, recorded in Scripture for eternity. Our present-day equivalent may be parents who learn about their children’s sinful behavior from school principals, neighbors, or even the police. Dishonesty and pretense seem to fool parents who may be so busy with their own lives that they take the “easy way out” by ignoring signs of difficulty. However, there are parents, like my own, who just didn’t know what to do about issues and power struggles that arose with us when we were teenagers.
I have heard my younger relatives tell me, “There is no parenting manual.” Of course, that’s not true—there are plenty of them. But the best one is the Bible, which gives us gospel wisdom and truth on which to build a life. Do you turn to the Bible for help with parenting and instruct your children in its teachings? Will you pray for and speak with your grown children about seeking God’s wisdom to sort out their difficulties and parenting concerns?
* Selvaggio, Anthony. A Proverbs Driven Life (Kindle Locations 2321-2326). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.