Proverbs 22:6; 29:17; 19:18 (New Living Translation)
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. … Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad. … Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.
Discipline. That’s a word that sends shivers down many people’s spines. It conjures up images of long walks down the hallway to the Principal’s office. Memories of stern talks from parents, or of being grounded. So, when we read today’s selections from Proverbs, they may have provoked a not-altogether-pleasant reaction from us.
The Hebrew word used for “discipline” in today’s proverbs is yasar, which means to chasten or admonish for the purpose of instruction. If you’re a parent, you know that there are times when it is necessary to firmly and lovingly correct your child, teaching him or her important lessons about how to live. I’m guessing it’s fairly safe to say that when the child receives this discipline, it’s not always with immediately overwhelming happiness or gratitude: “Woohoo! Thanks for the reprimand, Mom! I’ve got it now!”
(If your child is the exception to this, then, congratulations! You hit the genetic jackpot with that kid.)
We don’t really grow fonder of discipline as we get older, do we? Receiving correction and critique is not usually our favorite activity. But it is just as necessary for us as adults as it was when we were little. Because we get off the path God has laid out for us. We stray from a God-honoring life. We engage in unhealthy behavior. And so we depend upon God’s guidance. We require God’s discipline.
How can we be more willing to accept God’s discipline? By remembering that — just like a perfectly loving parent — God disciplines us to lead us back to a healthier path. And by remembering what the author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in the way” (12:11).
How well do usually accept criticism? The last time you received some “discipline” or “instruction” in your life, how did you react?