Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Photograph from The world of Italian women shepherds, Itch.World

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Proverbs 13:24

Perhaps the best known of the proverbs, and frequently paraphrased as 'spare the rod and spoil the child' this short directive is responsible for more child beatings than probably any other piece of literature. We humans always seem to find ways to justify our appalling behaviours, and Christians always seem to find those ways by misreading, misunderstanding or downright twisting the scriptures. Thus we have justified slavery, misogyny, homophobia, war and in this case child abuse. But when we look more carefully at what this proverb is about we find it has nothing to do with beating our children into compliance. The rod we are asked not to spare is not a club to strike with but a crook to guide with.

"A 'rod' or a 'staff' in the Bible was often the limb of a tree or a stout stick that a herdsman would take and whittle into a shepherd's crook. While the shepherd would use his rod to ward off wild animals, or thieves, who came to break in and steal the sheep, his rod was never used to harm the sheep. It was more often an instrument for guidance or comfort."1

In Psalm 23 we read thy rod and thy staff they comfort me offering further evidence that a rod in biblical terms is an implement of gentleness and guidance, not one of violence and punishment. When we neglect to guide our children, erect no boundaries or let them do whatever they want to do in the name of "autonomy" we are actually hurting them. To say we hate our children is certainly going to far, but it is a misguided kind of love that has no discipline, no structure to contain, no loving arms to hold and protect.

1 What Does Proverbs 13:24 Mean?, daily verse from, uncredited author