“He who withholds the rod [of discipline] hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines and trains him diligently and appropriately [with wisdom and love].” Proverbs 13:24 AMP
We’ve all heard of the old phrase “Spare the rod, and spoil the child”, and many have used the phrase interchangeably within Christian based teachings and upbringings. (I encourage you to research the phrase and where it came from). The phrase in its entirety is not biblically based but rather a sarcastic remark in a poem titled Hudibras that was published in several parts in the 1660’s and was immediately successful and appealed to many, including Charles II. It was written from a poet and skeptic, Samuel Butler, that targeted and opposed the extreme religious beliefs in militant Puritanism during a time when they sought to reform the church government throughout the nation.
Discipline widely has to do with gaining control. One’s first thought in describing discipline might be – to gain control of the ill-mannered behavior of another person by some sort of punishment in order to correct it. It is true that the bible speaks of not withholding the rod of discipline, but this should not be interpreted in the manner of which it was spoken about in the poem by Butler. In the scripture, the bible advises that discipline should be done with wisdom and love. Inflicting physical pain, as some may think the rod symbolizes, cannot be used to display wisdom or love. Instead, it drives fear into the heart and mind and serves as a trained trigger to deter one from the actions that would lead to the infliction of pain. For some, it can cause rebellion, loss of love, loss of genuine joy, loss of respect, and deeper yet, it can cause many to question the faith or religious beliefs that would justify this behavior, thereby paving the way in later days for some who have been deeply afflicted by it, to turn their back on the body of Christ (church).
When we think of our God holding a rod, there is no fear attached to the thought. Instead, there is the comfort of a Shepherd that is well equipped with a rod that symbolizes that he is a self-controlled protector, guiding our way and extending his staff to pull us up when we fall and not beat us down. That rod in itself is the picture of discipline. Not the discipline that the world has made it out to be, but the personal discipline of the disciple themself who holds the rod.
“…I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.” Psalm 23:4 AMP
The scripture says “He who withholds the rod [of discipline] hates his son…”. The “rod of discipline” is singular possessive and governs ‘He’ who holds or withholds it. In other words, “He who withholds the rod” is similar to saying:
- he who withholds love or does not display it freely without fear of being rejected
- he who does not possess joy, inner peace, or act appropriately while waiting
- he who does not reflect one whom the sheep can aspire to be
- he who does not show kindness without strings attached
- he who does not aspire the excellence, quality, and virtue that defines goodness
- he who is not steady, true or trusted in his faithfulness
- he who withholds gentleness with the sheep of his flock but rather is severe, rough, or violent
- he who is not self-controlled – restraining oneself from their own actions or feelings.
“But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.” Galatians 5:22-24 AMP
“But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits. It is unwavering, without [self-righteous] hypocrisy [and self-serving guile]. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness (spiritual maturity) is sown in peace by those who make peace [by actively encouraging goodwill between individuals].” James 3:17-18 AMP.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8 NIV
Not only does ‘the rod’ symbolize protection, guidance, and comfort, but we see that the fruit of the Spirit is the adjective of ‘the rod’ because it describes the attributes that the rod possesses which is sealed in Wisdom and Justified by Love (Both Wisdom and Love are interchangeable with who God is).
“But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law.” Galatians 5:16-18 AMP