Why the why in discipline matters

When was the last time you got spanked? It’s honestly been so long since my parents punished me for anything, I don’t remember. Not that I was a great kid. I was actually the bad one. Or rather, the independent one. I liked doing things my own way, and I was stubborn about it. (Imagine that, right?)

Even then, I don’t remember the last spanking I got. While I didn’t always agree with them, I always understood why it was necessary. And growing up, I learned not to do the things Mom and Dad said were wrong because I didn’t want to be punished. But as I got older, I began to understand that the things Mom and Dad said were wrong really actually were wrong. They weren’t trying to prevent me from having a good time. They were trying to protect me from doing something that could damage my life.

So as I grew older, I stopped obeying them out of fear of punishment and started obeying because I recognized their rules existed for my benefit.

Typo as a kitten swatting at Gremlin's tail, Haven, KS

Typo as a kitten swatting at Gremlin’s tail, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 3:11-12.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

Anyone ever have a similar experience with God? When you first met Him, did you do what He said was right because you were afraid of being punished? Did you only obey Him because you feared what He would do to you if you disobeyed?

Well, I could be opening a can of worms, but I really don’t know if God works like that. Now, will He allow you to face the consequences of your actions? Definitely. But is He watching for the moment you make a mistake to smash you with a hammer? No.

I remember being young, both in age and in my relationship with Jesus, and I was often afraid that I would do something wrong. And if I hated spankings from my parents, I could just imagine what a spanking from God would be like. So growing up, I always made sure to obey the rules because I didn’t want to be punished.

But I’m older now. I’ve known Jesus for a long time. And after all the years I’ve walked with Him, after all the life He’s let me experience, I can honestly tell you that fearing punishment isn’t the way to build a relationship with Him.

The same holds true for your parents. If you go through life just doing what they say so you won’t get in trouble, you’ll never understand why. And it’s often the why that leads us into closer relationships with others. It’s the why that breaks down the walls of our communication and gives us a glimpse at someone else’s heart.

I’ve known too many people who treated God like a strict disciplinarian. And I can tell you, each one of those people were never interested in getting to know Him. If that’s the way you see Him, you won’t want to take the time to get to know Him.

Because, honestly, who wants to know somebody like that? People like that are hard to get along with and uncomfortable to be around. And those people do exist. But God isn’t that way. And I can say that because I know Him personally.

There’s nothing wrong with the parent-child relationship that begins with obedience through fear of punishment. In many instances, that’s the only way to get through to a strong-willed, hard-headed child. But just because the relationship begins there doesn’t mean it has to stay there. If that same relationship exists when the child is an adult, something is wrong. If that same relationship exists when the child is grown, the child never actually grew up.

Relationships are supposed to grow. And maybe you start obeying because you’re afraid of discipline, but if you take the time to understand why the discipline is important, you’ll get to the place where you understand your authorities better. And—here’s a shocker—you might even agree with them.

So what rule are you having trouble obeying right now? Have you taken the time to understand it? Have you taken the time to ask why it matters to your authorities?

If you’re fine living in fear of punishment for the rest of your life, that’s up to you. And, true, just because you understand a rule doesn’t mean that you’ll escape punishment if you break it. But understanding a rule will help you take a step toward building a relationship with people in authority over you, and that will have a tremendous effect on your attitude.

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