Thursday, April 4, 2013

Proverbs 22 Godly Parents Embrace the Rod of Discipline

Prov 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Prov 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

Proverbs 22:6 is translated in the NIV as "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." However, NLT translates it as "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." Young's Literal Translation puts it as "Give instruction to a youth about his way, Even when he is old he turneth not from it." Two words critical to this verse are hanak (translated variously as train, direct, and give instruction) and na'ar (translated as child, children and youth). 

But interestingly, the  Hebrew word hanak is mostly translated elsewhere in the OT as dedicate. It is used to dedicate a house (Deut 20:5), the temple (1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chron 7:5), and even an idolatrous image (Dan 3:2). The noun-form hanukkah is also used to refer to the dedication of an altar (Num 7:10; 2 Chron 7:9) and the walls of Jerusalem (Neh 12:27). Only in Prov 22:6 is the verb translated "train." So it is suggested that the goal of training and instruction is to dedicate the child to God and learning His ways. The goal of education as such is not just to ensure academic success to secure a good job but to prepare a young person to become God's instrument of transformation in this world. Hebrew education has a higher purpose beyond the economic--its ultimate goal is religious, to train a child/youth who is dedicated to fulfill God's Kingdom agenda.

The second word that is critical to understanding Proverbs 22:6 is the identity of na'ar, which is translated "child" in almost all English versions, except the YLT, which translates it as "youth." In fact, na'ar  can refer to a broad range of ages, from infant (Ex 2:6), a weaned child (1 Sam 1:24), young child (Jer 1:6), a growing child (Gen 22:12), an adolescent (Gen 37:2), or even to a young man of marriageable age (Gen 34:19). The word na'ar refers to that stage of a person's life when his or her character and values remain trainable: the Talmud says this would be up to the age of twenty-four, which is what we would call young adulthood.

But what does training a child/youth entail? For much of modern education, it is nothing but academic and professional training geared towards making the child economically productive. However, the spiritual and moral dimension is often not the main focus. In fact, modern education encourages the child to question the value system imparted to them from  their parents or teachers and so re-define the DIY value system which is often self-centred and self-focused--the what's-in-it-for-me value system. Proverbs 22:15 says that "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." This "rod of discipline" refers to some kind of corporal punishment and its use is therefore appropriate even for the training of young adults. Consider how the SAF trains enlisted young men to become disciplined soldiers--much of its training is physical and often punitive when recruits disobeyed order or commit some miscreant acts. The "folly" that is bound up in the heart of a child extends all the way to the eighteen year-old serving out their National Service. It often takes physical punishments to train them from a motley crew of undisciplined recruits to become disciplined soldiers that can operate as a team within the army set up. No one army in the world will use a child-centred approach to military training--it will lead to battle disaster if every soldier is trained only to seek the path of self-fulfillment!

This call for the "rod of discipline" is also found in other proverbs:

  • Proverbs 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." 
  • Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.
  • Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.
  • Prov 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.
The "rod of discipline" represents negative consequences for wrong behaviour. Wrong behaviour cannot be rewarded by time-out from classroom to go for "counselling", molly-coddling and even giving in to the child's demands. The idea behind the "rod of discipline" is that negative action attracts negative consequence. Since, not all negative actions (lying, rudeness, disobedience, etc) have built-in negative consequences, the godly parent must create these negative consequence through some form of physical pain, viz., corporate punishment. Of course, as the child gets older, the negative consequences may be less physical and more verbal or psychological (a rebuke, or a denial of child's access to his or her favourite pastimes, etc). But nothing is worse in parenting than giving in to a child's rude and disrespect demands--because that will reinforce the idea that such wrong behaviour (especially in public) will get rewarded if a child perseveres in it to embarrass his or her parent. Such indulgent parenting is the root of much youth delinquency, Delinquent youths are not always from poor or even dysfunctional families, but usually a fruit of indulgent parenting.

Father, teach us to be like You, for You discipline those whom You love, sometime with painful consequences. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.