Discipline or Punishment?

Proverbs 13:24

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Raising kids is tough. It’s hard to know what to do for them and when to do it. Raising kids is tough because they need to be disciplined. They’re just like us. They’re sinful to the core. Sometimes they make mistakes. Other times they deliberately do what they know is wrong. How is a parent supposed to respond? What’s a parent supposed to do? Raising kids is tough.

Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, gives us some advice in Proverbs 13:24. He wrote:

A person who withholds his rod hates his son, but one who loves him administers discipline promptly. (Proverbs 13:24)

Solomon speaks about discipline and he says that he loves his son disciplines him promptly. But he also says that whoever hates his son withholds the rod. So there is obviously an obligation of parents to discipline their kids. We have two synonyms that we’ll use interchangeably, but there’s really a subtle difference between their meaning. And those two synonyms are discipline and punishment.

Punishment is the extraction of a payment for something done wrong. So for instance your speeding, you get pulled over, the officer writes you a ticket, you have to pay the fine. The fine is the punishment for speeding. It’s the payment for something done wrong.

Discipline is subtly different from punishment. Discipline isn’t looking at the past, the wrong done, discipline is looking forward to the future. It’s about shaping the child into who God wants them to be. So discipline is carried out in love.

To be able to discipline my children then I’ve got to separate myself from anger. When my kids do something wrong it’s very easy for me to get angry at them and maybe even ‘discipline’ them at that time, but if I’m doing it in anger I’m not really disciplining, I’m punishing. I’m wanting to extract a payment.

Discipline lovingly looks at the child and says it’s not good for you to do that so I’m going to take action so that you don’t do that in the future. Discipline is done in love. That’s the way that parents are to shape their kids. And that’s the way that God shapes you. He disciplines you through hardship. It’s not punishment. God’s not trying to extract a payment. He’s not angry with you, but he realizes it’s not good for you to keep doing that. So I’m going to take action. I’m going to usually send hardship so that you don’t do that anymore.

So God loves you. And disciplines you. He shows you that he’s not angry with you because he punished Jesus in your place. All those things that you’ve done wrong in the past, Jesus made the payment for them. So you are forgiven. You are dearly loved by God and so he disciplines you. He wants to shape you into the person he wants you to be.

So with that same attitude lovingly look at your children. Don’t punish them. Don’t be angry with them. Love them and shape them. Discipline them as God disciplines you. Amen.