Monday, September 22, 2014

Spare the rod and spoil the child

I've been thinking since yesterday about 'spare the rod and spoil the child' which most people believe is in the Bible. It isn't. That phrase comes from a poem by Samuel Butler in 1644.

What IS in the Bible is Proverbs 13.24: "Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them."

So the 'spare...spoil' line is from a 17th Century poet, not Proverbs!

Let's ponder what a 'rod' is for a moment.

The two instruments of a biblical time shepherd were 'the rod and the staff'.

The rod was a piece of wood about 5 feet long and the staff was longer, usually taller than the shepherd and had a crook on the end--the model for the crozier a bishop carries.

The rod was used to literally, 'keep the sheep in line'. It was not used to hit them, but to guide them by leaning it against their side to make them change direction.

I know a bit about sheep, and hitting them does about as much good as hitting children does. A sheep has no idea what a blow means and will simply try to get away--but a gentle push on the side...a sheep understands to move the way he/she is being guided.

The staff, with it's hook, was to help sheep go down hills or up hills by being hooked around their neck and giving them a pull.

Remember Psalm 23, how the shepherd 'maketh me to lie down' and 'leadeth me beside still waters'. How the Lord 'leadeth me in the paths of righteousness' and how even 'in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

How could a weapon 'comfort' anyone?

The Biblical 'rod' is an instrument of discipline, certainly--but a discipline of guiding and leading, not of punishment.

So, next time you hear someone say that the Bible says, "spare the rod and spoil the child" you'll know it doesn't! And you'll be able to give some insight in to the guidance and encouragement and even 'comfort' of being gently being put back on the right path, without any violence.

Here's something to ponder: how could so many people be so wrong about what they think is in the Bible? And, more importantly, is that the only thing they are wrong about.

And always remember, Jesus said, "let the little children come to me" and "to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must become like a little child" and  Isaiah said, "a little child shall lead them...."

Just some things to ponder while you're pondering whether it's a parent's right to hit their children....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.