Advice For Unwed Mothers

We’ve listed a series of articles that should be helpful and informative for unwed mothers and their families and friends.

The Hedge


“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” —Psalm 34:7


It was one fine spring day in 1992 that the familiar truth of this verse became much more real to me. That was the day the enemy fired a two-ton missile at my family.


It was about one o’clock on a Friday afternoon as the children and I were just loading up the car in preparation to go to the home schooling seminar and curriculum fair in the town where we lived at that time. (Pam, my wife, was in another state to visit some dear Christian friends and attend the curriculum fair there.)


As Drew and I were putting some supplies in the car the other (then) four children were putting their things in order and gathering in the living room. Just then my elderly neighbor lost control of her car, and it shot rapidly, in reverse, across my front yard. I’ll not soon forget that eternal moment in which I saw the car, out of human control and yet aimed with a menacing intelligence, shoot right toward the room where my children were gathering.


It wasn’t just idling along, either. It was accelerating, as if the lady had mistakenly stomped on the gas instead of the brake, and then frozen in panic.


The full-sized car climbed the one step to the porch, another to floor level, then exploded through the living room wall right under the picture window. Wood splintered, glass shattered into a thousand pieces, and metal twisted and screamed with the impact. The heavy oak bench seat by the window, laden with boxes of books, was launched through the air, crashing into the cabinet on the opposite wall; fragments of the bench and front wall were hurled through the living room, through the door into the kitchen, stopping only upon impacting the sink, 25 feet from where they sat a split-second before. An interior wall with a reinforced corner stopped the motion of the car several feet into the house. The enemy seemed to have pulled out his big guns.


Real Attacks … Real Protection


But “the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Drew and I were in the driveway. Sarah and Laura had stepped back into their bedroom to get some things. Only Joanna and Seth (our two youngest at the time, 4 and 6) were actually in harms way. But the Lord held their hands. Joanna ended up by the smashed bench with only a red ear from some impact. Seth was hit in the forehead (probably by part of the bench). Neither was really hurt, just scared. The only “injury” was a cut on my hand from climbing rather hastily and carelessly through the debris to find the cause of the piercing screams that began an instant after the impact. I found four panicked children huddled in a collective embrace in the hallway just off the living room. When I saw that no one was hurt, I quickly assured them all that everything was all right—we could fix the house. (The driver was dazed but not hurt at all.)


If the car had entered the house a foot or two over from where it did, it would not have stopped until it reached the kitchen, and one or two children would have been in its path. If all the children had been in the living room … If Drew or I had been entering or leaving the room … If … It doesn’t really matter. There are no “if”s with the Lord. He is in control; and he rescued us.


My first thought after calling the police (“I think we need some help”) was to run find the camera. We had quite a scene around the place for a while: several police cars, fire trucks, a rescue truck and an ambulance, not to mention curious neighbors. I wanted to record the event on film so that my children would have a concrete “memorial” to God’s gracious care for us (“Remember when the car came into our living room … Wasn’t God good to protect us from harm!”)


What struck me in this incident was just how real is the attack on our families, and how real is the protection the Lord provides us.


In our church fellowship at that time we had seen many attacks in a short span of time: one family had a head-on collision in their car some months before (no serious injuries!); another had been to the emergency room three times in the past few months with injuries to children; another had children come within inches of being hit by a car while they were riding bikes, and this happened twice within a few minutes; another had a two year old wander out of the yard who was found twenty minutes later under the watchful eye of a caring neighbor (three or four blocks away!). What was striking in all of these incidents was how evident had been the Lord’s protection. No one had been killed or permanently injured; in every case things could have been much worse. God had been our Protector!


We were soon to be reminded that the Lord, as Job discovered, does allow tragedies to occur for his own inscrutable purposes. Three months after the car violated our domestic tranquility one the members of our fellowship died in a one-car accident, leaving three children and a pregnant wife behind. Outside our church, but within our Christian home schooling circles, a mother of seven died of leukemia, and a father of four was killed while rock climbing on vacation.


Of course, just as real as the physical dangers that our families face are the spiritual dangers. The latter are even more serious since they have eternal, not merely temporal, consequences. We should let the visible threats remind us of those that are not visible. Scripture tells us that our true battles are against spiritual powers not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), but our spiritual enemies often use temporal means in their effort to fight us.


Against both of these threats we fathers are especially called to take out stand. We are, on the human level, the guardians of our families. Just as we must protect them physically, so we must guard them spiritually.


Guarding Through Prayer


One thing the near-tragedy with my family taught me was the importance of praying daily for the Lord to protect my family. It is my job as priest of my household to intercede on their behalf.

My favorite biblical example of this is Job. We are told in Job 1:5, “Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them [his children], thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom.” He interceded daily before the Lord on behalf of his family. But his was no perfunctory prayer, “Bless my wife and kids. Amen.” He took so seriously his role as family priest that he presumed to approach the Lord for forgiveness of his children’s sins! Now we know that the children themselves must have sought forgiveness in order to be right with God, but can we doubt that God was at work in the children of a man who so sought the Lord on their behalf?


Confirmation of God’s acting in response to Job’s prayers comes in verse 10 of the same chapter. Here we find Satan presenting himself before God and being directed to consider the righteous man Job. Satan’s response is instructive: “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” Indeed Job and his family were under God’s special protection, and Satan could not harm them, because God himself had erected a wall against those devices Satan might use to attack them. Surely we are meant to see a connection between Job’s faithful daily prayers for his loved ones and the Lord’s hedge of protection.


The most important work a man can do to protect his family is to prayer daily for the Lord to establish a hedge of protection around them all, guarding them physically as well as protecting them from the assaults of that “roaring lion” (1 Pet. 5:8) who wants to devour them. What an encouragement to realize that Satan and his minions have no power over our families except what our God allows! But how sobering to realize that God’s maintenance of his protecting hedge may be directly connected with our faithfulness in prayer!


“Praying a hedge” is a concept firmly rooted in Scripture. Let’s look at some of the biblical data. The term “hedge” itself simply means a wall or fence (Mk. 12:1), but this was often actually a thick hedge of vegetation, possibly thorns, which was placed to surround a vineyard or a sheep fold and served as an effective barrier against intruders. The term also is used metaphorically to refer to God’s protection of his people: “Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled” (Is. 5:5).

From the standpoint of the one intent on doing evil the hedge acts as a barrier to prevent his progress. Israel found her way blocked up “with thornbushes” so that she was not able to fulfill her (spiritually) adulterous plans and was driven back to her husband (the Lord; Hosea 2:5-7). Hedges block the progress of evil.


The agency of God’s protecting hedge is often the work of angelic ministers. “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” (Ps. 34:7). It was an angel who shut the mouths of the lions to prevent their harming Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 6:22). “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14)


In praying for a hedge of protection we must remember that it is God doing the protecting, not our prayers. I am uncomfortable with the approach of those who directly challenge and rebuke demonic spirits. It seems safer to use the approach of the archangel Michael in his dispute with the devil. He said, simply, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9) Let us not become too focused on spirits, good or bad, but keep out attention on the Lord our God.


Another danger in this matter of praying a hedge is that we will come to see it as some kind of magical incantation. It is simply an exercise of a man’s spiritual headship, as he appeals through his authority, the Lord Jesus Christ, to God for his protection. There is no “formula” to be used. God is not impressed with the outward form of our prayers; he is impressed with a man like Job who fears the Lord. More accurately yet, he is impressed with the intercession of Christ and the Holy Spirit on behalf of the man who prays (Rom. 8:26,27,34). We should simply entreat our Father with a genuine heart, knowing that he is pleased to hear and answer his children, whatever words they use.


At the same time, a man can do no better than to pray the words and thoughts of Scripture on behalf of those he loves. Jesus gave us a model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. We should learn to meditate on the petitions given here and use them too guide our prayers. Likewise, the apostles have left us with several prayers that we can use to guide our requests on behalf of our families. Examples of these are Ephesians 1:16-19 and 3:14-19 and Colossians 1:9-12.


In terms of the specific need for God’s protection, we would do well to pray specifically that the name and the blood of Jesus would protect each family member. I believe I have prayed something similar to this every morning and night since that day I was so vividly reminded of its importance three years ago. Nor do we ever set out on a long trip in the family van without a prayer for the blessing of the Lord’s protection. I am much more conscious that each day it is the Lord’s decision to protect, or to allow injury to meet us for his own good purposes. I just want to be sure that I have done my part in keeping the wall in good repair. It is comforting to think of the angel of the Lord encamped around my home, or traveling with us down the highway. (Now I wonder … Is it true that the angels jump off the car when you exceed 65 (or 55) mph?)


In all our prayers we need to remember that God is sovereign and will do as he pleases. He is not a genie in the bottle who is obligated to do our will. We are his servants, he is not our servant. Times will come when the Lord allows sickness, loss and, of course, death. So we need to pray for protection, not out of fear and a sense of bargaining with God, but out of a sense of complete rest in his disposition of our lives. We ask for protection and know he hears and answers. But when his answer is to allow trouble, like Job we will say: the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Our good Father will see that all things work out for my good and the good of my family, in his own way.


I mentioned earlier the woman who died of leukemia and the man who was killed in a mountain-climbing accident—unmitigated tragedies both. Yet some months ago Pam and I received a wedding invitation that surprised and delighted us: the widowed spouses, who had not known each other before their losses, had been drawn together and were getting married. Their combined family now boasts 11 olive shoots, with a twelfth on the way! Truly God works in inscrutable ways.


So do your job and pray for the Protector to guard your family. Then rest assured that any harm he allows will be swallowed up in blessing later on, in eternity if not before.


Father, Come Home . . . And Change The World!


Over the last decade or so hundreds of thousands of Christian families have begun a process of returning home. The choice is registered most visibly in the choice to homeschool the children. But this choice almost always includes another: the mother does not work outside the home. Her work becomes very much home-centered. Then, as the homeschooling process unfolds year by year, most families have discovered that just having Mom and the children at home is not enough. Dad must also “come home” in the sense that he must reclaim his responsibilities and privileges as head of the family if the renewal his family has begun to enjoy is to prosper. The homeschooling movement has had the salutary effect of turning the hearts of each member of the family back to the home.


This “family renaissance” is most welcome in a day when the home has become, even among Christians, a combination fast-food restaurant, transportation hub, and motel. Surely it is a wholesome development when families begin to take back responsibility for areas of life which God gave to them but which they have abandoned to other institutions over the years. And so not only have we seen education coming home; we have also witnessed a renewed interest in families taking charge of health decisions, caring for elderly relatives, and becoming self-sufficient in food, clothing, and shelter. Beyond this, many men are talking openly of their desire to come home in the sense of establishing a home-based business that would allow them to be closer to their families and would allow their children to follow them in a self-sufficient lifestyle. Some have even come to express open admiration for the simple, family-centered lifestyle of the Amish (without embracing their theological perspective). Surely this turning of the hearts of fathers to the home is to be lauded—or is it?


Is Being Home-centered a Form of Effeminate Abdication?


One esteemed brother and Christian writer recently scolded the Christian “masculine renewal movement” for actually being a quiet adoption of feminism! He refers to “the ‘neo-Amish’ home-centered reaction to modernity” in which “[t]he woman’s perspective on the home and family is accepted as normative and binding on all members of the family. Because she is home-centered, so must everyone else be…. But among many traditionalist Christians, the women have decided that the men must come home too. And so the men have, meekly submitting once again. But as the men adopt the home-centered vision which God intended only for wives, they have in fact betrayed their wives” [his emphasis].


He goes on to show that the Bible presents godly men who have vocations outside the home and which cannot be carried out at home (soldier, city treasurer, etc.). The model for manhood is the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman who “is where he is supposed to be, away from home, sitting in the gates with the elders of the city (v. 23)” [his emphasis].


He reaches his conclusion when he states that “those men who have accepted the home-centered vision deserve the strongest rebuke—not because of their traditionalist masculinity, but for just the opposite problem, that of effeminate abdication…. Neither should we praise those men who go home to try to give their children two mothers.”


The author was obviously in something of a pique when he penned his short article (I am purposely not identifying the author or publication because of the regard in which I hold both). But even allowing for the excesses of rhetoric which we writers too often employ to dismiss those with whom we have some disagreement, the brush with which he paints home-centered fathers is exceedingly broad! Most of the Christian men I know who are aiming to “come home” are conscientiously attempting to fulfill what they understand to be a biblical duty; they are not modeling fatherhood on motherhood.


So let us ask, should Christian fathers aim to come home, even to the extent of trying to establish a home business? Is it indeed a feminization of men for them to have a home-centered understanding of their role? Does a man have an outward focus that his wife does not, and if so, is that compatible with any efforts to “come home”?


As we examine Scripture on these points we will discover that, although we do not need to become “neo-Amish”, being home-centered is indeed God’s calling for men. However, while the term “home-centered” may properly be applied to both their callings, the term means something much different for the man than for the woman. Lets begin at the beginning.


A Job to Do, and Someone to Help


When God created man he made the male first (Gen. 2:7), gave him a job to do (v. 15), and provided him with the moral guidance he needed to get the job done (vv. 16-17). Adam’s job was to take care of the garden the Lord had planted in Eden. This was a specific application of the general job description God had given to man upon his creation: to rule, or take dominion over, the whole earth (1:26,28). The calling of the man was clearly an all-encompassing, world-changing, outward-oriented task. He was to reflect the universal dominion of his Creator-King by being a steward of this planet, re-creating and ruling this earthly domain to the glory of God.

But his task was not one he could do very well by himself. So the Lord God made a woman out of the man to be his companion-helper (2:22). Eve was, like him, in the image of God (1:27) and was to be his partner in carrying out the dominion mandate. But her role was a subordinate one; she was to assist Adam in carrying out the task God had given him before she was even created.


The heart of her role can be discerned in the other part of the dominion mandate: beyond ruling the earth, the man and woman were to “be fruitful and multiply” (1:28). The creation of woman made this fruitfulness possible. Adam could have ruled the earth without a wife, but he could not have borne children! The woman’s role was thus focused upon her husband, first of all, and then upon the children she would bear him to enable him to fulfill his calling as ruler over the earth.


The woman focuses on the home, while the man focuses on his dominion tasks with the whole world in view. This understanding of their respective roles is confirmed by noting that, after they sinned, the curse on the woman involved her children and her husband (3:16) while the curse on the man involved the ground (vv. 17-19), the earth over which he was to exercise dominion. Man is outward-oriented; woman is home-centered.


The rest of Scripture supports this understanding. The woman of Proverbs 31 is totally focused upon her husband, her children, and her household, while her husband in out in the city gates (v. 23). Similarly, Titus 2 presents a picture of a godly woman who is a “homeworker” and whose calling is absorbed with her husband and children—”so that no one will malign the word of God” (vv. 4,5). Men are church and community leaders, tentmakers, fisherman, and carpenters, carrying out their masculine callings in a myriad of ways.


(We should note that although fulfillment of the dominion mandate has been complicated by sin, God has never suspended it. Rather, he has provided in the cross of Christ the remedy that makes its fulfillment possible. So now we preach the gospel in order to make disciples of all nations, disciples who obey everything God has commanded, including the original command to rule the earth to the glory of God (Matt. 28:18-20). The Great Commission is the means to fulfilling the Dominion Mandate.)


Defining “Home-centered”


So far it may appear that our study has only served to confirm the perspective of the writer who dismisses home-centered men as merely second mommies. It is true: women are home-centered and men are outward-oriented in their callings. But this is not the entire picture. More needs to be said if we are to be faithful to all of Scripture.


The Bible also clearly shows that men are to be home-centered. Now, they are to be so in a way that is different from their wives, but they are to be so nonetheless. Let’s summarize the point first and then look at the biblical data.


A woman is home-centered in the sense that the scope of her particular calling as a woman begins and ends in the home. As we have seen, she is properly preoccupied with matters that relate to her husband, her children, and her household. As the family ministers to extended family, church, and community she will have contact with many other people and her influence will spread; as she helps offer hospitality and stands by her husband in his various callings, she will have an effect on many other people (even “at the city gate,” Prov. 31:31). But all of her influence results from her role as the helper of her husband. God did not intend her to have an independent influence. She does have a vital part to play in taking dominion over the earth, but it is a part that is expressed solely in her home-centered functions.


A man, on the other hand, is home-centered in the sense that the foundation of his particular calling as a man is in the home. His calling by no means ends in the home; it extends to every physical element, every person, every institution on the earth, all of which he is to offer to the glory of God through Jesus Christ. But his calling most certainly does begin in the home. The family is the most important sphere in which any man exercises his God-given dominion, and he cannot effectively serve God in other spheres unless he serves well first at home. A man should be home-centered in the sense that he makes his family the first priority in his life. Out of that commitment will grow effective dominion over the whole earth.


The home-centered calling of a man is seen, first of all, in the biblical injunction for a man to love his wife, to cherish her, to live with her as a joint heir of the grace of life (Eph. 5:25,28,29,33; 1 Pet. 3:7). She who was made from his own body, and is thus bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, is the most important person in a man’s life. She is his partner, his lover, his best counselor, his friend. In marriage he enters into a covenant with her to love her faithfully as long as they both live (Mal. 2:14). At the emotional center of any home stands the woman, and it is her husband’s devotion to her that makes her a radiant wife (Eph. 5:27), a channel of blessing to every member of the household and all who come into contact with it. A married man has no higher duty than to love his wife.


The second way in which the Bible reveals the home-centered calling of a man is in its emphasis upon his duty to raise his children for God. Out of the one-flesh union of the man and his wife comes the blessing of children. The multiplication of godly offspring is one of God’s chief purposes for marriage (Mal. 2:15), and the man is blessed of God whose quiver is full of child-arrows with which he can fight the battle for godly dominion (Ps. 127:3-5). Merely having children is not enough; God wants godly offspring, well-wrought arrows. He wants men to turn their hearts toward their children (Mal. 4:6; Lk. 1:17). This certainly involves gentleness and compassion (Eph. 6:4; Ps. 103:13) but it is much more. Fathers are to turn to their children with loving discipline (Heb. 12:9) and with sober teaching about the word and works of God so that succeeding generations will serve the Lord (Ps. 78:1-8).


Turning his heart toward his wife and children is both the highest temporal duty of a man and the most effective way to fulfill his manly duty of taking dominion over the earth and making disciples for Jesus Christ. As he devotes himself to shaping his children as disciple-arrows, and they in turn shape their children in the next generation, and so on, the earth becomes filled with godly seed. The children of the man who fears the Lord will indeed “be mighty in the land” (Ps. 112:2). Being home-centered is the most potent way for a man to be outward-oriented.


A home-centered focus is also necessary in order for a man to be effective in the other spheres in which God has called him to serve: church, civil government, commerce, etc. The Holy Spirit makes clear through Paul that a man is not even fit to lead in the church if he is not first leading his own family in a godly manner (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Faithfulness in the smaller sphere is necessary before a man can be entrusted with stewardship of a larger sphere (Matt. 25:21). A man who has not learned to manage his own family well has not developed the character necessary to take dominion in the other areas of life. Conversely, if he succeeds in the home, he is primed for success elsewhere. Real men are trained for their larger dominion tasks by faithful fulfillment of their home-centered task.


So men are indeed supposed to be home-centered—but that does not mean they are feminized. Quite the contrary. They are most masculine when they recognize that their family calling is the absolutely essential foundation for successfully carrying out their larger, outward-oriented dominion tasks.


Can “Coming Home” Go Too Far?


We come now back to the question of “coming home.” We earlier stated that it is a good thing that men are coming home in the sense of returning to their duties as head of the home and, in the process, reclaiming responsibility for education, health care, family welfare, etc. The question is, can this process go too far (as the author we quoted seems to suggest)? For example, the trend toward homeschool fathers wanting to start a home business or a self-sufficient homestead in order to be close to the family—is that going too far? Does that desire signal an abdication of a man’s outward-oriented dominion tasks? Is he making too much of his family and too little of the rest of his calling?


Our answer is threefold. The first we have just given above as we explained that being home-centered is part of a godly man’s strategy for accomplishing his dominion task. The aforementioned author presents a false choice: you will be either home-centered or outward-oriented. The fact is that you can and must be both simultaneously.


Second, a man may in fact be going “too far” in coming home if he views his family leadership role as his only calling in life. Some homeschooling fathers may indeed be a species of “neo-Amish” who renounce any world-changing role beyond the home. They are in serious error. The problem is not, however, that they are home-centered; it is that they are not also outward-oriented. A father has duties in his local church, his community, his nation, his world. His mission begins at home but does not end there. Some men will be elders, some community leaders, all should play some role in influencing these other spheres of life. For the “neo-Amish” the solution is not to remove the men from the home but to remind them that they are also in the world, a world over which Christ now rules and which he expects Christian men to influence to his glory.


Third, the desire of a father for a home business or a homestead points to a healthy reexamination of the balance of work and family. Too many have seen their jobs as their life focus, but the focus of life for the Christian man should be service to Christ—in his home, in his work, everywhere. And this will mean viewing his vocation not as an all-consuming end in itself but as a tool for both extending his influence in the world and family discipleship. God has not created the elements of life to flow in separate, unrelated channels—job, family, church, etc. All the channels should blend as currents in a unified stream of life, each with its due emphasis. A Christian father needs to think about how God may intend to create a confluence between his vocation and his family discipleship task. Home business and homesteading are two good options.


Not every man can start a home-based business or buy land for a homestead and begin to spend all day around his family (nor will this be the form of God’s calling for every man), but every man should aim to maximize his opportunities to disciple his wife and children. Some men will be able to become freemen and work for themselves or establish a family settlement, others will not, but both groups can serve the Lord Jesus, and neither can abdicate their calling to their families (cf. 1 Cor. 7:21-22). Coming home to work is not the only way for a man to increase the opportunities for discipleship of his children, but it is one of the best ways. Those who remain in callings that take them away from the family for large portions of time will have more of a challenge discipling their families, but if they are where God has placed them for now he will give the grace and wisdom to help them minimize the hindrances.


The Perfect Father-Son Relationship


Fathers need to meditate on the truth of John 5:19,20: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” Here is revealed the perfect father-son relationship. It is characterized by an intimate association between the two, a loving relationship in which the Father models and the Son imitates. It is the original discipleship relationship. Jesus recapitulated this relationship with his disciples: he spent time with them, loved them, and provided a model for them in his life and teaching.

Fathers are responsible to disciple their sons (and daughters). How can they do this when they are not even around the home? How can they develop intimacy and express love when they are away most of the time? How can they provide a model for their children when they are not with their children? Fatherhood is so much more than putting meat on the table. It is a heart to heart relationship through which to teach children and prepare them for life. How is this happening when Dad is off at his job all day? Many men have answered that question by getting back home vocationally, as much as possible. The more a father is with his children the more effectively he can fulfill his fatherly discipleship duties. (This is especially so with sons, and it is increasingly so the older the children are.)


Methods are not neutral. They make a difference. It makes a difference whether your children are educated at a public school or at a private Christian school or at home. Likewise, it matters whether children are raised with no exposure to their fathers or a little exposure or a lot of exposure. The same logic that suggests home education as the best alternative for raising godly children also suggests that the more a father can be present to disciple his children, the better the process will go.


So, can a father go too far in his coming home? No. He might wrongly neglect his wider calling, but he can never overdo his relationship with his family. Was God the Father too close to the Son? The more the family can be with a father to share his days, the better. A home-centered father is just trying to be like his heavenly Father.


In raising children to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ there is no substitute for the father-child relationship. In developing the father-child relationship there is no substitute for time with the child. The trend toward home-centered fathering is a promising one because it is one of the most potent forces for spreading the gospel and kingdom of Jesus.


Real men come home—as much as possible—in order that they can be truly effective in their world-shaping mission. They come home so that they can more carefully fashion the arrows in their quiver to strike a blow against the enemy and increase the dominion of the King of kings.


Come home . . . and change the world!


The Loving Art of Spanking

by Philip Lancaster


One of the saddest stories in the Bible is that of Eli and his sons (1 Samuel 2-4). Eli was the chief priest of Israel in the generation before King Saul. It was he to whom the boy Samuel was entrusted by his mother Hannah, to be raised in the priestly family. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as priests under the direction of their father during the time Samuel was being brought up.


Startlingly, the scriptures record that “the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD” (2:12). What? The sons of Eli, the man who tenderly taught Samuel to recognize the Lord’s voice (3:1ff.), did not know the Lord? The priests of Israel were corrupt?!


Yes, and their corruption was not of a minor sort. We are told that they utterly disregarded the Lord’s direction for how the sacrifices of the people were to be administered. God in His law carefully specified how the animals of sacrifice were to be killed, which parts were to be burned, and which part the priests were to receive as their share. However, the sons of Eli totally ignored God’s law for the sake of personal appetite. They claimed the best parts of the sacrificial meat for themselves, and if the one making the offering objected, they would simply threaten to take the meat by force. “Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD” (2:17). As if this were not enough, Eli’s sons “lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (2:22). The sin of these priests was notorious. Instead of urging the people toward holiness, they were actively engaged in corrupting them.


So what was Eli’s reaction when “he heard everything his sons did to all Israel” (2:22)? Here is the report: “So he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things?… No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?'” (2:23-25) This sounds like a righteous response. He rebuked his sons in a way that showed the seriousness of their offenses. But it wasn’t enough. “Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them” (2:25).


A few verses later we hear the words of a prophet the Lord had sent to address Eli. He spoke the words of the Lord: “‘Why do you kick at My sacrifices and My offerings which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?'” Obviously God was not pleased! He blamed Eli for his sons’ behavior and accused him of honoring his sons more than God. How could this be? Eli had rebuked their sin in no uncertain terms. What more could he have done?


We learn the answer when we read the content of Samuel’s first prophecy, which was a prophecy of doom on Eli and his household. “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (3:13). Apparently God regarded Eli’s verbal rebuke of his sons as inadequate. Something more than scolding was called for. The Lord expected this father to actually “restrain” his sons and put their offenses to an end. He was in the position of authority. His sons were under his control. His failure to get beyond scolding to actually demanding and obtaining a change of behavior was a sin sufficiently large to call for the most severe of judgments. “I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever” (3:14).


God takes seriously a father’s duty to demand and to get proper behavior from his children.


But what could Eli have done? His sons ignored his rebuke. They were adults. Could he have taken them over his knee and spanked them? Would that have done any good? Of course it was too late for that. But that is precisely the lesson we need to learn from this story: a father must train his children to obey when they are young because it is too late when they are grown. Obviously Eli had been a permissive father and had not made demands on his sons. Oh, he apparently scolded them when they did wrong. But they learned that this meant nothing. They could go on and do what they pleased with no consequences.


Eli should have restrained his sons’ behavior when they were growing up; then he wouldn’t have had to deal with their outrageous offenses when they were older. Even then he should have dismissed his sons and, if necessary, called out the Levites who assisted in the temple work to remove his sons from their priestly service. He had the power to do that, and that is what the Lord expected of him. But he was not used to restraining his boys and stayed with the patterns that apparently he had long ago established: rebuke the sin, but don’t actually put a physical restraint on the behavior.




If we are not to repeat the sin of Eli we must learn how to train our children when they are young, and specifically, we must learn how to train them in a way that goes beyond scolding to enforcement of God’s standards of right and wrong. But how is this done? What is God’s method of enforcing proper behavior on our children? How do we “restrain” their actions, even to the extent of taking physical measures to assure results?


The solution offered in Scripture is the rod. “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Prov. 23:13,14). Fathers are given the tool of corporal punishment to shape the behavior of their children. The rod represents the father’s authority (and hence the mother’s as well, since she shares his authority as his helper). It is the parents’ means of physically restraining the bad behavior of their children and bringing them into line with God’s standards.


Beating with a rod is not acceptable to modern psychologists who think they know better than God. These false teachers view spanking as a form of violence, of child abuse. Well, it is indeed a mild, restrained use of force and pain (not violence); but it is not child abuse. It is a carefully administered dose of superficial injury which is designed to bring about repentance and a change of behavior. We know it is restrained since the proverb tells us that the child beaten with the rod “will not die.” The aim is not serious injury. The aim is pain which results in a change of heart and of actions. “Child abuse” would be defined from the biblical perspective as a failure to use the rod. Those who disdain its use do not love their children enough to save their souls from hell! Just as Eli’s undisciplined sons grew into incorrigible rebels destined to the severest judgment, so any child from whom the rod is withheld is in danger of hell. That is why another proverb concludes: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (13:24).


Proverbs presents parents with the choice: they can give their children a moment of physical hurt or an eternity of soul-tormenting pain. The rod is the means God has designed to transform children from rebellious to obedient. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). A fool in Proverbs is not a simpleton or a merely naïve person; he is a rebel. So when the verse tells us that foolishness is bound up within the hearts of children, it is saying that they have a deep-rooted tendency toward rebellion. It is so deeply rooted that mere scolding will not dislodge it from the heart. More drastic measures are required. And God promises that bodily chastisement with the rod will have a beneficial effect: it will drive the rebellion out of the heart. If Eli had done this to his boys when they were young he would not have had such grief when they were older.


This is an amazing truth. In the rod we have a veritable means of grace, a measure that is part of what God uses to transform our children from rebellious offspring of Adam into obedient sons of God. Now there is no gospel grace in the rod itself, of course. The physical instrument of spanking does not have a direct effect on the soul, and many who by spanking in childhood have been shaped into decent, moral adults nevertheless have not yielded their wills to Christ as Lord and Savior. Yet God uses the infliction of physical pain by the Christian parent as part of the process of opening the heart of a child to the Lord. How can a child who is stubbornly resisting his parent’s authority possibly be open to the gospel of grace in Christ? Rebels don’t bow before the cross. But as the heart is freed from its mutinous instincts through chastisement, the soul is opened to the further gracious influences of the Holy Spirit which lead a child to salvation.




Clearly the godly father will want to make use of the rod since he loves his children and wants to see them submit to the Lord all their lives and avoid the pains of hell. But when should the rod be used? Do I beat my kids every time they do something wrong? It should already be clear from the scriptures we have referenced that the rod is used to deal with rebellion. “Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the backs of fools [rebels]” (19:29). Let’s clarify the matter by taking a look at some instances in which the rod should not be used.


First, the rod should not be used to correct mere inexperience and childishness. A two year old who knocks over a potted plant on the coffee table at a friend’s house is not being rebellious; he’s being curious. It would not be appropriate to spank him for doing what comes naturally at this age of exploration. Now if the toddler persists in touching the plant after having been told firmly, “No, don’t touch,” then a firm swat on the backside with the rod is in order since the act has been elevated to rebellion due to the command of the parent.


Second, the rod should not be used in response to accidents. When a nine year old trips on the steps carrying in the groceries and shatters all but one of the eggs in the carton he is not being rebellious. Perhaps he is clumsy, and this clumsiness can be corrected through training, but clumsiness is not revolt. To spank a child when he unintentionally breaks something may make the parent feel better (especially if it was grandma’s china plate that was broken), but it is likely to embitter the heart of the child since he senses the injustice of the attack against him.


Third, the rod should not be used when a child exhibits a lack of ability to accomplish a task. It would be an outrageous misuse of corporal punishment to spank a child who was having trouble learning how to ride a bike, or whose handwriting persisted in sloppiness despite his real efforts to be neat. The rod is designed to change the heart. It does not create a sense of balance or a steady hand. For a parent to resort to spanking when a child is reaching the limits of his or her ability in a task is a form of child abuse (though no concern of the state).


The rod is for the back of fools. It’s use should be carefully reserved for those times when a child is clearly revolting against authority. Which brings us to the question, How do we define rebellion? What does it look like? Or to put it more positively, What does obedience look like?




My handy desk dictionary defines obedience as both “an act or instance of obeying” and as “the quality or state of being obedient.” Someone who is obedient is “submissive to the restraint or command of authority: willing to obey.” We get the sense, which certainly agrees with Scripture, that obedience is not just a matter of outward conformity to the will of another; it involves the attitude that lies behind the action. Obedience is not just doing what an authority wants, it is doing so in a certain way. Let’s consider the nature of true obedience.


First, true obedience is prompt obedience. Children are commanded to honor their parents (Ex. 20:12) as part of their general duty to honor all authority, and ultimately the authority of God himself. This attitude of honor is made evident as children respond to the command to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). Is God pleased if He commands me to do something and I take my time about responding? No, true obedience, that springs from honor to God and those He has placed in authority over me, is prompt obedience. If the heart is submissive it will cause the child to want to respond immediately when a command is given. Delay and dawdling suggest that he does not want to obey and is putting it off since it does not suit him at the present. Postponed obedience must be treated as disobedience. It is not obedience “in the Lord.”


Second, true obedience is complete obedience. Just as delayed obedience is an assertion of self-will as to the timing of the act of obeying, so incomplete obedience is an assertion of the will as to the amount of conformity necessary. King Saul did not destroy all of the people and goods of the Amalekites as God had ordered. Even so, he boasted to Samuel “I have performed the commandment of the LORD” (1 Sam. 15:13). After Samuel confronted Saul with the evidence of his failure to obey fully and rejected his excuses, he asked the king, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” (v. 19) Saul thought 90% obedience was good enough. God had a different measuring stick: He demanded 100% conformity to His will.


If my six year old daughter is told to bring all the dishes off the table into the kitchen and she brings all but the water glasses, that is not obedience, however promptly it was carried out. She may figure someone else should help her. She may decide it would be handy to leave the glasses so they are available for the next meal. She may think a lot of things to justify herself, but 90% obedience is disobedience.


The need for complete obedience on the part of a child suggests the need for a parent to be very clear in giving directions. If the command is vague, obedience cannot be exact, and it would be wrong to spank a child who simply did not understand what was expected of him. Now of course, we all know that children can take advantage of the situation and claim that they did not understand or did not hear, but that all the more underscores the need to be clear. It is best to have eye contact with the child to be sure your command is heard, and perhaps even to have the command repeated back if there is any tendency for the child to “misunderstand” or “not hear.” Requiring a “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” as a sign that the direction was heard and understood is also a good idea.


Third, true obedience is cheerful obedience. Here we get thoroughly into the matter of attitude. God is always more concerned with heart attitude than with outward actions, though both are important. The great error of the Pharisees was in thinking that God only cares about external conformity to His will. Jesus told them they looked great on the outside, like a beautiful tomb, but that inside they had the putrid stench of decay (Matt. 23:27). Their hearts were far from God, though they scrupulously fretted about being outwardly righteous. Jesus’ most scathingly denunciations were reserved for those who thought pleasing God was just a matter of externals and who left their hearts out of their religion.


In announcing the curses He would visit on His people when they did not keep His covenant, the Lord said, “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies…” (Deut. 28:47,48). Sometimes God’s people grudgingly obey on the outside, but their hearts are not in it. They see God’s commands as burdensome and they chafe, even as they obey outwardly. God does not accept such behavior. He wants those who serve Him with gladness.


Our children must not only conform their actions to the commands we give them, they must also do so with a cheerful spirit and without complaint. This does not mean they cannot seek clarification to be sure they understand what is expected, but their attitude must be right. They cannot be permitted to gripe, or to heave a big sigh of disgust, or to roll their eyes, or to scowl, or to shake their heads, or to walk away from us with body language that communicates disdain. Such behaviors clearly evidence an unsubmissive spirit even if accompanied by outward actions of conformity to the directions given. The rod should be used in such cases as surely as if the child had steadfastly refused to obey at all.


To fail to discipline for inward as well as for outward rebellion is to assure that the heart will remain unyielding. The result will be that we create children who learn to do what they are told, but whose hearts remain self-willed, like the child who when told to sit down does so but mutters under his breath, “But I’m still standing up on the inside.” If this kind of attitude, however expressed, is allowed to persist, a father will end up producing Pharisees who are outwardly compliant but whose hearts are full of rottenness.


So, obedience is not doing what I’m told when I feel like getting around to it. It is not doing most of what I’m told to do. It is not doing what I’m told with a complaining and downcast spirit. Obedience is doing what my authority tells me to do, and doing it promptly, completely, and cheerfully. Anything less is rebellion and calls for the rod of correction.


Now we must deal with the question of what exactly is meant by the use of the rod. What is a rod? How should a parent spank a child?




The rod of correction in Proverbs is not some high-tech torture device. It is simply a stick, a piece of wood. My grandmother from North Carolina called it a switch. (The first time I heard her threaten its use on me, I thought she was planning some kind of electrocution, though I did think that a bit out of proportion to my offense.) A Hebrew father would take a small branch from a tree, one that was solid enough to inflict pain upon application to the hind regions, yet yielding enough not to inflict real injury. I have used a dowel rod purchased at the hardware store, about 5/16th of an inch by 18-24 inches, seems about the right balance of heft and flexibility.


As in everything, we are safest when we adhere closely to the wisdom given in Scripture. Could we substitute something else for a wooden rod? Perhaps, but why should we? Many parents, mine included, have used a hefty leather belt. This choice can be quite effective. The only danger is if the parent gets a bit carried away and strikes the child with the buckle (this happened to the boy next door once – big ouch!). Some use wooden kitchen spoons, which seem reasonably close to a rod. A paint stick is too wimpy, except maybe for the bare backside of small children. I once saw a specially designed paddle made of heavy wood that was about a foot long and 3/4th inch thick with rounded edges and a hand grip on one end. This was far too solid for a rod: you could kill someone with that weapon. Others have promoted plastic versions of a rod. My main objection to them is that they will not break, like a wooden stick does, if used too hard.


There is real value in having a unique instrument to serve as the rod of discipline rather than whatever household item is handy. The rod then comes to symbolize the disciplinary authority of the parents and is used only for corporal punishment. A belt or a spoon have other daily uses and are confusing symbols.


It is good to avoid the use of the hand as a means of spanking. The hand in Psalms symbolizes God’s leading (139:10), God’s provision (104:28; 145:16), and God’s deliverance and help (37:24; 119:173; 144:7).It also pictures discipline (32:4) but not in the sense of being struck by God’s hand. The hand does wield the rod, and it is the parent who is applying the discipline, but the use of a neutral instrument underscores that the parent is not acting in his own right and for his own ends but is representing God’s authority by taking up the form of punishment He has ordained. It is not personal vengeance being poured out on my child; it is the chastisement God has authorized me to use as I act in His name.




We know when to administer corporal punishment: it is for rebellion against authority; it is for disobedience. We know what to use to administer that chastisement: the rod. Now let’s address the practicalities of how to apply the rod. What is the process we should go through when our children require a spanking?


The first thing to stress is that a spanking should be given promptly after the offense. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Just as the child’s obedience should be prompt, so the sentence for disobedience should be carried out swiftly as well. Justice delayed is not true justice. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). It is important to connect the crime with the punishment in order to reinforce the fact that actions have consequences.


It is also unloving to make the child wait in dread for the pain he knows he has earned. My great-grandfather used to tell his boys when they disobeyed that they had a switching coming. Then he might wait a week or two and suddenly as he and his son are walking along the road, he grabs a switch and tells the boy its time to give that switching he is owed. Talk about exasperating a child (Eph. 6:4)! Such a way of handling discipline is sure to tempt a child to despise his father. No, punishment must be swift.


The spanking should be administered by the father if he is present (and by the mother in his absence). He wields the authority of the rod as the head of the home and he should apply the discipline when he is with the offending child. This would apply even if he is in the basement fixing the plumbing while Mom is out in the garden with the children. When one of them disobeys Mom, she should get Dad to administer the discipline. This honors him as the family leader and reinforces to the rest of the family that Dad is in charge. The failure to obey Mom was not only an offense against her, it was also a sin against the father whose authority in the home (delegated to his wife) has been challenged. Besides, as we have already noted, the force required for spanking is more readily exercised by a man than by a woman.


Now it is important that the mother not become the comforter while the father becomes the bad guy. She must support his role as primary disciplinarian and not allow any attempt of the child to set the parents in opposition to each other. As we’ll see below, when Dad spanks a child, he himself should end up comforting him. Then Mom receives the child back as one properly chastened and back in fellowship, but she should not give comfort in a way that suggests that Dad was either wrong to spank or too harsh. As the man’s helper, the wife must stand by him as he deals with the souls of his children.


When Dad is not home, Mom must do the duty of spanking. She should use the same force and demand the same respect as her husband (although we can readily see the disadvantage of having fathers away from home so much of the time). She should not use the line, “Just wait until your father gets home” since discipline must be prompt and she has the right to wield her husband’s authority in his name just as if he were doing it himself. Having said this, it is not inappropriate for a father when he gets home to use the rod on a child who has shown a general spirit of disobedience during the day with his mother. Besides whatever spankings the young one received at her hands for specific offenses, his Dad can deal with the general attitude of non-cooperation which constitutes a distinct offense against the authority of the father who has left the mother in charge. “Mom spanked you for not cleaning your room when she told you to, for hitting your brother, and for throwing your sister’s doll. I’m spanking you for disrespecting my wife and assistant by not obeying her orders as if they were my orders.”


The father should not spank in anger. Now anger is not inappropriate for a person whose authority has been rejected or ignored. But he should wait until his anger subsides so that he is not tempted to be violent while he is using the rod. He should be in full control of his emotions when he sits down to begin the ritual of corporal punishment. He is supposed to reflect the character of God, the Father, who always acts for our good. The spanking is not a way for the parent to get back at the child, and to spank out of anger will not achieve godly results. James warns us that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:20). The use of the rod should draw father and child closer together, but a spanking in anger will have the opposite result and may harden the heart of the child and make him less responsive to the promptings of grace.


As to the spanking itself. It should be carried out in private to focus the attention of the child on the parent and to eliminate any other influences (not to mention the threat of hotline calls if you discipline in public). The reason for the spanking must be clarified so that the child understands exactly why he is about to experience pain. At this point it would be good to identify not only the specific offense, but the root problem and any applicable scriptural principles as well: “You threw your sister’s doll even though we’ve told you to leave your sister’s things alone. When you do that you are breaking God’s eighth commandment (do not steal) which teaches the need to respect the property of others. For that reason I have to spank you. It’s the duty God has given me as your father to help you learn to obey God.” For the child to be able truly to repent, he must understand his offense as a sin, a sin against God as well as his sister.


For the spanking itself the child must be put in a good physical posture for the act. Smaller children can be laid across the knees or lap. Older children could be told to lay over a chair or the edge of the bed. Part of the child’s duty in receiving the discipline is to cooperate with the process and to assume the necessary position without complaint.

Speaking of complaint, the child must have an attitude of submission during the process. He should not be allowed to protest or resist your attempt to put him over you lap. He must have a submissive attitude in accepting the need for discipline and receive it willingly. His carrying on and fighting you would become another offense that requires another spanking.


Scripture tells us the part of the body to spank: “Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the backs of fools” (Prov. 19:29). God has designed an area of the body to receive corporal punishment. The back, the buttocks and the back of the upper legs are a safe place for a beating since there are no vital body parts that may accidentally be injured in the process, and the latter two parts are preferable since they are farther from the head and have more natural “padding” (and are less likely to be visible to anyone else in case the “stripes” remain a while).


How hard and how long do you spank? The idea of corporal punishment is to inflict enough pain to break the will without doing serious injury. In the King James translation of Proverbs 19:29 it recommends “stripes for the back of fools.” This suggests that a proper beating will be forceful enough to leave marks: red lines or even possibly welts that disappear shortly. A spanking is supposed to hurt! Mere tapping with the rod, or spanking through layers of clothing and diapers, will not be effective. It is the pain that works brokenness. A father may need to teach his wife how to use the rod in his absence. Most women are by nature more gentle and find it hard to apply sufficient pain in spanking to achieve the intended result. But without pain a spanking is a waste of time and will only serve to frustrate both parent and child.


Your aim should be to spank until you elicit a cry of repentance from the child. Some children will begin crying before the rod even makes contact with their back sides, but it is not mere tears that you are after. Other children will respond to the blows with the rod by crying out in protest or anger, but this is definitely not what you are after. This response must be distinguished from a cry that signals the child is yielding his will and succumbing to the pain. Perhaps this sounds cruel, but what do you think is the point of spanking?! If it is not a token gesture, a symbolic event, then we must press on with the infliction of real pain, despite our sensibilities. The pain is what God uses to break the will and produce a submissive spirit. Call it tough love. Just remember you are fighting for the soul of your child, and the Lord expects you to persist until you win the battle for his life. God will hold your responsible if you don’t restrain your child’s behavior and train him to yield to authority. The rod is your tool to that end.


Once the discipline is inflicted, you are not finished. It is time for the all-important follow-up time. Now is a very important moment in your relationship with your child. Don’t allow him to run off crying or to run off at all. There are several things you should aim to do at this time, once his crying has subsided.


1) Seek a confession of sin from the child (if it was not made before the spanking) and have him ask for forgiveness. This casts the whole event in its proper light and keeps the focus on the godly motive for discipline.


2) Express forgiveness and love for the child. Comfort him and hold him close. Remember that you disciplined him because you love him, not because you hate him (Heb. 12:6). You should assure him verbally of your love.


3) Pray for the child. Ask the Lord to forgive him and to work obedience in his heart. It would be good if the child were able and willing to pray, but this is not necessary. The parent can intercede on his behalf at this time.


4) Plan restitution. The Bible makes it clear that when a wrong is done to another person the offender ought to pay back the person wronged (e.g., Exod. 22:5). If there was someone hurt by his actions, a child ought to be required to ask forgiveness of that person. If property was damaged, it ought to be replaced, with more beside. If the injury was intangible, perhaps a hurtful word, the child could be required to perform some acts of service on behalf of the offended. Parents should be creative to consider if there is some way to make restitution. This teaches a valuable lesson about the cost of sin. When all this is done, it is time to dismiss the child, perhaps with a final hug.




One final question that may arise: For what age child is discipline with the rod appropriate? The simple answer is, At whatever age he evidences foolish (rebellious) behavior. There is no age too young nor too old. Now practically, when a child is very young it may be hard to discern when a certain behavior is a lack of submission. Nor does it seem appropriate to take a nine month old across your lap and wale away on his naked legs with a rod. On the other hand, there are times when it is clear that the infant is not getting what he wants, so he screams in protest. This is a form of revolt that should be nipped in the proverbial bud. A moderate stroke or two to the legs with a firm, No, seems proportional to the offense. Those who wait until a child is two or three to start spanking may are definitely waiting too long. The child’s will evidences itself well before that and ought to be dealt with at is earliest manifestations. The word “promptly” in Proverbs 13:24 may best be translated “early,” which would give this rendering: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who love him disciplines him early.” It’s never too early for loving chastisement.


Nor is it ever too late. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that once a child grows to a certain age or size he is immune to this form of punishment. Proverbs makes no such distinctions. The fool of any age deserves stripes on his back for his willful disobedience (19:29). This might even be an appropriate form of discipline for the civil government to use against fools who disturb the peace and order of the community. But certainly it is always appropriate within the family. Of course there is a serious problem if a 16 year old does something that marks him a fool, thus calling for the rod. If the punishment has been used consistently through the years, it is hard to imagine it would still be necessary at that age. If it has not been consistently used, it may not be effective once the child is that old. We are reminded of Eli’s sons with whom we began this study. They needed restraint, but how do you restrain someone who is grown and who still has foolishness bound up in this heart? Once again we come to the conclusion that it is absolutely vital to begin the process early and thus avoid the prospect of trying to tame the will of an almost-grown child.




It is evident that using the rod has a considerable cost attached to it. To do it right requires the parent to stop what he is doing and take a few minutes out to deal with the sin of his child. Frankly, there are times when any father would rather let an offense go than to go through all this process. Or he would like to just give a few quick strokes with the rod and be done with it. But any shortcuts in the process risks losing the benefits God intends the rod to bring.


I have heard parents say that they would spend their whole day spanking their child if they were to respond to every instance which called for that response. This is an indication that the child has already won the battle for control: he is not submitting to parental authority, but the parents have given up trying to control him. It probably also indicates that the parents do not know how to apply the rod properly. The father in this case must commit himself to begin immediately gaining control of his son or daughter. If he uses the rod in the way we have described he will get results. It may be tough for a while as the child tries to see if Dad is serious about being in charge, but eventually he will yield if the discipline is carried out correctly.


Using of the rod is not just about developing the character of the child. It is also about the character and faithfulness of the parents. It takes faith, courage, determination, and wisdom to use the rod effectively in the training process. The process we have described here does not come naturally to any parent. We have to be convinced that it is a matter of obedience to employ this method of child training. But as we act in faith and obedience ourselves, we will find that God is faithful to use the means He has ordained to shape our children into God-fearing adults who are motivated to submit to the Lord out of love.


In all of our efforts to train our children we must remember the utter futility of our labors apart from God’s blessing. There is no mechanical connection between a spanking and a change in the child. We must bathe all of our efforts in prayer, recognizing that unless the Lord changes the heart of the child, our labor is in vain. But thanks be to God, He is indeed faithful to use the rod as a means of grace as we apply it faithfully, and with faith in our heavenly Father’s gracious activity in the hearts of our children.


Helping a Teen Drive Responsibly


One of the joys—and terrors—of parenthood is having children “come of age” and begin driving. It is a joy for me because I have avoided a lot of running around since I’ve had a teen driver to call on for the errands—and these young drivers don’t seem to mind the running around. It is a terror, of course, because of the danger that driving entails and the difficulty of letting go and allowing my child to face those dangers without me.


Just this minute, after writing the last sentence, my son Drew called me from town to say he was heading home and did we need anything. Pam, my wife, looked around and thought of a couple of food items. So my 16-year-old will bring them home and I won’t have to run to the store later. Nice for me (and I do have to get this issue out before too many more months pass!).


But I have also uttered a few extra prayers this afternoon: as Drew left the house, as I occasionally thought of him while I was working here at the computer. One thing I’ll say about teen drivers: they are a boon to your prayer life!


Drew has an older sister, Sarah, who is almost 18. But she does not have her license yet. She got her training permit about a year ago, and renewed it after six months; but she hasn’t shown much interest in driving. It appears that after the initial thrill of the experience wore off, Sarah has concluded that driving is not such a vital necessity after all. Come to think of it, I guess her second permit has expired (I wonder if she even knows that). [Note: Sarah did get her license a few months after turning 18.]


Now Drew, on the other hand, has actively sought every conceivable (and inconceivable) opportunity to drive, and he was ready to take his driving test at 12:01 on his sixteenth birthday last November. And I was happy to have him get his license because I knew it would be a blessing to have the additional driver.


But I faced the questions: How shall I turn over this huge responsibility to him? How can I assure that he operates the vehicle safely at all times? How can I entrust the lives of my other children and others to him? Is there any way I can have a measure of control even though I will not be with him? Does he have the internal controls to take on this responsibility?


The vehicle I decided to use to give me the assurances I needed is the “Driving Agreement” [Please note: that driving agreement is longer available online, sorry. Please refer to the suggested agreements at the end of this document]. This agreement binds both my son and myself to certain commitments. We discussed these and both signed the covenant. I’ll just make a few comments about the content. The numbers in my comments correspond to those in the original Driving Agreement.


Drew needs to become independent. That’s part of becoming a man. But I want that independence to be of the godly variety … one that keeps his heart bound to mine and his conscience sensitive to the Lord. I decided that having a son or daughter start driving didn’t need to be sheer terror. It can instead be a delight and an opportunity for them to grow in grace and for father and child to draw closer together. But I still pray a lot more.


My Son’s Agreement


(1) I wanted Drew’s promise to keep the rules and drive safely. This is primarily for the welfare of the people in the vehicles, but the fact is we only have liability insurance and so the vehicles would not be covered in an accident we caused.

(2) It is important for him to be directed by his own conscience, since I won’t be there to monitor him.

(3) This is to obviate any temptation for Drew to think that driving removes him from my authority or that he is now free to establish his own independent lifestyle.

(4) If he does not keep first things first, he doesn’t need the privilege of driving.

(5) This, too, is a recognition of my authority. It is important for him to know that there are real sanctions.


My Agreement


(1) If this Agreement is for real, I have to take it seriously and keep it in mind, just like my son.

(2) Driving tempts young people to independence. I wanted it to have the opposite effect of giving me a way to draw even closer to Drew.

(3) This one hurt. I need the integrity to stick to the rules of the road even when alone. If I don’t, how can I expect my son to do what I won’t. My rebellious spirit could infect him. Ouch!

(4) He can help when he has enough income, but I am glad to provide the insurance for now. I don’t want his need for insurance money to make him think he needs to become a drudge at McDonalds or something (as if I would allow that).


Some Suggested Sample Driving Agreements: