Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spare The Rod

I stumbled into a discussion amongst mothers the other day.  Some of them were spankers and others were aghast at the thought that anyone would ever think of spanking their child.  Somewhere amongst the back and forth about that, someone quoted the Bible verse we've all heard many times.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.         Proverbs 13:24
In conversational context that's often shortened to "spare the rod and spoil the child" and used by many Christian parents to justify spanking their kids.  I don't have kids, so in a sense I don't have a right to an opinion one way or the other on how other people choose to discipline theirs.  That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion, just that I'm going to keep it to myself because it isn't important to what I want to say here.  I will agree that seeing it as direction to discipline with spanking is, certainly, a possible interpretation of the verse.

One of the ladies in this discussion offered another idea about it.  Her position was that "rod" may have a whole different meaning here.  Consider these verses:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod.   Numbers 17:6
And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.   1 Nephi 8:24
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.  Proverbs 29:15
What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?  Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power.  D&C 113:3-4
Yea, though I walk through 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.  Psalms 23:4
And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life...  1 Nephi 11:25
Now I realize there are plenty of examples in the Bible that indicate a rod is an instrument of punishment.  But these verses show us that it is used in other ways, too.  Rod would seem to be a record keeping device, a guide, one who serves Christ...  I especially like the imagery from the last verse.

Rod = God's word = Holy Scriptures

Reread Proverbs 13:24 and the verse selections above with that in mind.  Could it be possible that sparing the rod might mean neglecting parental duties to teach a child moral values in the home?

“The home is the first and most effective place to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self control, the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”   David O. McKay

Children look to their mom and dad not just for basic survival care but to learn how to act as adults.  Parents are the first moral compass for their children and have those early formative years, the most most influential time of a child's life, pretty exclusively to begin laying the foundation for the thoughts, actions and attitudes of the adults they will become.

Now that's a monumental task!  And one that all of society should be interested in seeing parents accomplish successfully because the price of failure is so very high.

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