Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. In today’s world, it is considered by some to be taboo to even consider disciplining our children, but the Bible teaches us about its importance in both the Old and the New Testament.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.
Provers 29:17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged.
Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
These Scriptures clearly tell us that the discipline of a child is both right and important. Lessons from the life of King David give examples of what happens when a father refuses to correct and train his children.
King David was a man after God’s own heart in many ways, but he failed at parenting. One of his sons, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-20). While he was very angry concerning the despicable behavior of Amnon, the Bible does not record that King David disciplined Amnon in any way. (2 Samuel 13:21). Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, however, was extremely wroth and plotted and ultimately had Amnon killed. (2 Samuel 13:22-33).
Absalom later contrived a plot against King David to steal the hearts of the people unto himself (2 Samuel 15:1-10) and overthrow his father as King. (2 Samuel 15:12-14). Absalom even had sex with his father’s concubines publicly during his attempt to de-throne King David. (2 Samuel 16:21-22) through civil war. King David did ultimately regain his Kingdom, but only after great pain and sorrow when his son, Absalom, was killed. (2 Samuel 19:1-4).
This terrible outcome of poor parenting even carried over into the final days of David when his son Adonijah, while King David was still alive, declared himself to be King. God had selected Solomon to become King following David’s death (1 Chron. 22:9-10). King David informed Solomon that he would be his successor, telling him that God had chosen him to be King and that Solomon would build God a house. (1 Chron. 22:6-11). David had not made a public declaration concerning who would succeed him, however, and Adonijah, the next oldest surviving son, assumed it to be himself, saying, “I will be King” (1 King 1:5). The Bible said that David had never “displeased him at any time, in saying Why has thou done this?” (1 King 1:6.) In other words, Adonijah was used to having his own way. Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba reminded David of his “promise” to Solomon and David then made the public declaration that Solomon would be King in David’s stead.
Even after David’s death, this terrible legacy continued when Adonijah deceitfully requested that Bathsheba, Solomon’s Mother, ask the then King Solomon to give Abishag, King David’s former servant, to Adonijah as a wife. On the surface, this appeared to be an innocent request because the relationship between King David and Abishag was never sexual. In reality, however, it was another attempt on Adonijah’s part to present himself as one who had his father’s servant. This was a hidden plot to overthrow King Solomon in the same way that Absalom’s public misbehavior with David’s concubines represented an attempt to dethrone King David. The outcome of this fiasco was the death of Adonijah, ordered at the hands of his own brother, King Solomon.
Let’s take a look at another Old Testament example of poor parenting that had a deadly outcome. This is the case in which Eli, the priest who served God in the tabernacle of Shiloh, failed to discipline his evil sons, Hophni and Phineas. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, cried out to God because she was childless. Eli the Priest blessed her and she delivered a son, Samuel, (1 Samuel 1:1-20) who later became a mighty man of God. Eli, however, was a very poor disciplinarian. He had two evil sons, Phineas and Hophni, who also served as Priests in the Temple. They ate meat from the sacrifices that were not allocated to them and even “lay” with the women who served at the entrance to the tent meeting (1 Samuel 2:22). Though Eli was not pleased with their behavior, he did not enforce his discipline (1 Samuel 2:23-24). God warned Eli that if he did not discipline his sons they would die. (1 Samuel 2:29-34). However, Eli did not heed the warning and the result was that both Hophni and Phineas were killed and the Ark of the Covenant was taken during a battle. (1 Samuel 1:4-10-11). When Eli heard that the Ark was taken he fell from his seat backward, broke his neck and died (1 Samuel 4:18).
Parents, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The two Bible examples of poor parenting that we’ve reviewed should help us avoid the mistakes related to the lack of parental discipline. The world’s trend is to allow children to grow up doing whatever they choose to do. However, this is wrong. We should discipline our children while there is still time. Foregoing discipline will result in a situation in which parents have no real influence over their children’s lives and in the development of their characters, making them open prey for the devil. Parents, if you love your children, you will discipline them.