California Assemblywoman, Sally Lieber, is sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal for parents to spank children under the age of four. Ms. Lieber does not have children, but she has compared spanking to wife-beating. So far, the reaction to her proposal has been overwhelmingly negative. Surprised that so many people would oppose the measure, Lieber said this:
“I have to question why our society holds so tightly to physical discipline among the very young. We’re very addicted to violence” (source).
It’s unfortunate that Ms. Lieber would liken spanking to the “violence” of domestic abuse. A stinging fanny hardly compares to a brutalized wife, and I don’t think the distinction is lost on the majority of parents who will be offended by Ms. Lieber’s blanket indictment.
But Ms. Lieber’s proposal poses a particular challenge to Christians who desire to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A spanking ban would pit the laws of the state against what Christians have held to be the clear teaching of the Bible. Far from being an act of violent abuse, corporal punishment is presented in the Bible as an act of love.
Proverbs 13:24 24 He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
13 Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, And deliver his soul from death.
15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
The “rod” in the book of Proverbs refers to an instrument of physical discipline that is used to correct and teach a child. It is not an instrument of abuse, but one of love and nurture. The Proverbs teach that a stinging fanny is a lot less painful than a broken life. A person who will not lovingly administer a spanking to a disobedient child sets the child up for failure in life and godliness. Much more harm is done by withholding this kind of discipline than applying it. Thus, biblically speaking, to withhold the “rod” is tantamount to child neglect and abuse (Longman, Proverbs, pp. 291-92).
So the wisdom of Solomon contradicts the spirit of the age reflected in Ms. Lieber’s proposal. If her proposal were to pass, this is one instance in which Christian parents would have to practice civil disobedience because it is better to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).