Discipline Yields Peaceable Fruit
“No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—HEBREWS 12:11.
1. (a) What does Jehovah’s Word say about man’s ability to direct his life’s course, yet what does man say? (b) Who has been proved true, and who false?
JEHOVAH’S Word says that “it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Man says it is in him to do so, and from the outbreak of rebellion in Eden, he has done so. From then until now, with many people it has been as it was in the days of the Judges in Israel: “What was right in his own eyes was what each one was accustomed to do.” (Judges 21:25) But the words of Jehovah at Proverbs 14:12 have proved true: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” For 6,000 years, men have taken the way that seemed right to them, and all that time it has led to war, famine, sickness, crime, and death. History has proved Jehovah’s words true and man’s ways false.
2. What position do child psychologists take on spanking, but what fruitage has their permissiveness produced?
2 Imperfect people need discipline. They need it from childhood onward. God’s Word says: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” (Proverbs 13:24) Many child psychologists dispute this divine wisdom. Years ago one asked: “Do you mothers realize that every time you spank your child you show that you are hating your child?” Yet their permissiveness produced such a deluge of juvenile delinquents that a Brooklyn court judge made this caustic comment: “I think we need the woodshed for some young folks. But that is not considered fashionable now. Now we are told you must not strike a child; you may be stunting a genius.” But their permissiveness produced no crop of geniuses—only a lawless wave of teenage criminals.
3. Based on the statements of several authorities, what trend is becoming evident?
3 Now winds of change are in the air. Burton L. White, authority on child development, says that your strictness will not cause your child to “love you less than if you were lenient. . . . Even if you spank them regularly, you will find they keep coming back to you.” He stresses the child’s primary need for overflowing “irrational love.” Dr. Joyce Brothers reported on a study of hundreds of strictly disciplined fifth and sixth graders who believed that the strict rules “were an expression of parental love.” The Journal of Lifetime Living said: “The child psychologists, wrangling over scheduled versus demand feeding, spanking versus non-spanking, have found that none of it makes much difference so long as the child is loved.” Even Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of Baby and Child Care, took part of the blame for the lack of parental firmness and the resulting delinquency. He said blame rested on the experts, “the child psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, social workers and pediatricians like myself.”
The Rod of Discipline
4. Of what is the rod of discipline a symbol, and what is shown by its proper use in contrast with permissiveness?
4 “Rod” as used above does not necessarily mean spanking; it represents the means of correction, whatever form it may take. The New International Version says on this verse: “rod. Probably a figure of speech for discipline of any kind.” A rod is a symbol of rule or authority—in this case parental authority. A parent gets no thanks later for his permissiveness and spoiling: “If one is pampering one’s servant [or child] from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one.” (Proverbs 29:21) To abdicate parental authority by permissiveness brings shame and shows not love but indifference; to use the rod of discipline kindly but firmly reflects loving concern. “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.”—Proverbs 29:15.
5. (a) What does one commentary say on Proverbs 13:24, and with what other Bible text is it in agreement? (b) Who are the ones that Jesus and Jehovah discipline?
5 Referring to Proverbs 13:24, the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament explains: “A father who truly wishes well to his son keeps him betimes under strict discipline, to give him while he is yet capable of being influenced the right direction, and to allow no errors to root themselves in him; but he who is indulgent toward his child when he ought to be strict, acts as if he really wished his ruin.” Moffatt’s New Translation of the Bible at Proverbs 19:18 concurs: “Chastise your son, while there is still hope of him, and do not let him run to ruin.” Kind but firm discipline from early childhood reflects parental love. Jesus said: “All those for whom I have affection I reprove and discipline.” As for Jehovah, “whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.”—Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:6.
6. What form does discipline often take, and what examples support your answer?
6 Discipline may at times involve spanking, but often it does not. Proverbs 8:33 does not say, “feel” discipline but, “listen to discipline and become wise.” Many times discipline comes in the form of words, not spankings: “The reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” “Take hold on discipline; do not let go. Safeguard it, for it itself is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13; 6:23) When Jehovah’s servant Job needed to be disciplined, it was accomplished by reproving words, first by Elihu and then by Jehovah himself. (Job, chapters 32-41) Job accepted the reproof and said to Jehovah: “I make a retraction, and I do repent in dust and ashes.”—Job 42:6.
7. What is the meaning of the Greek word translated “discipline,” how is it to be administered, and what does it accomplish?
7 Pai·deiʹa is the Greek word translated “discipline.” In its various forms it means to train, to educate, to be “instructing with mildness.” (2 Timothy 2:25) It relates more to training in conduct than to acquiring knowledge. This disciplining is to be “with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) It is well exemplified in the admonition to fathers: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Kindly but firmly, this discipline is to regulate youth in Jehovah’s way of thinking.
The Source of Discipline
8. From what source and in what ways can we discipline ourselves?
8 The principles involved in disciplining children also apply to adults. The Bible is the source of information about what we should and should not be. As we read it, we can test ourselves and apply correction where needed. (2 Corinthians 13:5) As we ponder Jehovah’s precepts, feelings of guilt may be stirred up in us, helping to identify needed changes for us. It did this for the psalmist: “I shall bless Jehovah, who has given me advice. Really, during the nights my kidneys [“my deepest emotions”] have corrected me.” (Psalm 16:7) We may discipline ourselves as Paul did: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Corinthians 9:27.
9. What other means are there for beneficial disciplining?
9 Discipline may come from someone else. It may come as a look, a frown, a word, a gesture, a verbal reproof. Jesus gave Peter a look that reminded him of the prediction of his grave sin, and he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61, 62) Another time it was a rebuke in four words that crushed Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23) Reading Watch Tower publications, attending meetings, talking with others, enduring hard experiences—all such activities may open our eyes to areas where we need to make changes. The all-important source and guide for disciplining, however, is God’s Word itself.—Psalm 119:105.
10. Of what value are the proverbs of Solomon for disciplining, yet what course do some insist on following?
10 The proverbs of Solomon were given for people of all ages, for them “to know wisdom and discipline, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive the discipline that gives insight, righteousness and judgment and uprightness, to give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.” But perhaps a person “will not let himself be corrected by mere words, for he understands but he is paying no heed.” (Proverbs 1:2-4; 29:19) Some inexperienced ones insist on learning in life’s “school of hard knocks,” as did the prodigal son before “he came to his senses.”—Luke 15:11-17.
11. (a) How were the Corinthian congregation and Jonah disciplined? (b) What disciplinary punishments were visited upon David for his adultery and cover-up efforts? (c) What words of Psalm 51 written by David show the depth of his repentance?
11 Commenting on a letter that he had previously written to the Christian congregation at Corinth, Paul said: “You were saddened into repenting; for you were saddened in a godly way, . . . [and it resulted in the] righting of the wrong.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11) Jonah was disciplined by means of an ocean storm and a big fish. (Jonah 1:2, 3, 12, 17; 2:10; 3:1-4) David’s adultery and attempts at a cover-up brought disciplinary punishments upon him, as shown at 2 Samuel 12:9-14. His repentance was movingly expressed in these words from the 51st Psalm: ‘Wash me from my error, cleanse me from my sin. My sin is in front of me constantly. Wipe out all my errors, create in me a pure heart, put within me a new spirit. Do not throw me away from before your face. A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.’—Ps 51 Verses 2, 3, 9-11, 17.
12. What more drastic measures are needed for some, and what is the outcome for those who reject repeated reproofs?
12 With some persons more drastic measures may be necessary, as Proverbs 26:3 indicates: “A whip is for the horse, a bridle is for the ass, and the rod is for the back of stupid people.” At times Jehovah let his nation of Israel be subdued by the troubles they brought upon themselves: “They had behaved rebelliously against the sayings of God; and the counsel of the Most High they had disrespected. So with trouble he proceeded to subdue their heart; they stumbled, and there was no one helping. And they began calling to Jehovah for help in their distress; out of the stresses upon them he as usual saved them.” (Psalm 107:11-13) Some stupid ones, however, harden themselves beyond the reach of any kind of healing discipline: “A man repeatedly reproved but making his neck hard will suddenly be broken, and that without healing.”—Proverbs 29:1.
Giving and Receiving Reproof
13. What should we avoid in giving reproof, and how should it be given?
13 Whatever form the discipline may take, it should never be given in anger. In fact, rather than helping, “anger stirs up contention.” We are also advised: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” Moreover, “the insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22; 14:29; 19:11) When needed, discipline should never be excessive. Give it at the proper time and to the proper degree—not too soon, not too late, not too little, not too much.
14. What other guidelines are given for those offering reproof?
14 Here are some guidelines for those giving reproof: “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) Do you entreat, not browbeat? “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) Do we counsel in mildness, always aware of our own frailties? “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12, The New English Bible) Do you put yourself in the other one’s place, showing empathy?
15. What does receiving reproof require, and what additional counsel is given to those being reproved?
15 Receiving reproof requires humility. Does it seem picky, unfair, unjust? Do not be hasty. Think about it. Do not be negative. Reflect on it positively. If not all seems valid, is part of it? Open your mind to be receptive; evaluate it objectively. Are you being overly sensitive, too quickly offended? It may take time to see it in a positive light, after any initial hurt or offense has subsided. So wait. Hold your tongue. Calmly evaluate what was said. Is it possible that you are prejudiced against the one giving the counsel, and you rejected it on that basis? Nevertheless, see it as well meant and not to be summarily rejected.
16. (a) What scriptures and related questions should we consider when receiving counsel? (b) What feeling expressed by the psalmist might we imitate?
16 Here are some scriptures to reflect on when you are reproved: “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge, and a man of discernment is cool of spirit.” (Proverbs 17:27) Do you listen and remain cool? “The way of the foolish one is right in his own eyes, but the one listening to counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) Do you quickly decide that you are right, or do you listen receptively? “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Do you follow these words when counseled? “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Are you quick to take offense? How lovely if we can feel as the psalmist did: “Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head, which my head would not want to refuse.”—Psalm 141:5.
Endure Discipline and Reap Peaceable Fruit
17 Discipline is not always easy to take. It may involve some embarrassment and bring some restrictions. It may even cause you some grief. But endure all of this. It will pass; joy comes afterward. Remember: “It is for discipline you are enduring. God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is he that a father does not discipline? True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Hebrews 12:7, 11.
18, 19. What strong feelings did both Jeremiah and the psalmist express that set a proper course for us when we are undergoing discipline?
18 So if the discipline is grievous and hard to endure, wait for the peaceable fruit that comes afterward. Wait for Jehovah, as did Jeremiah: “Without fail your soul will remember and bow low over me. This is what I shall bring back to my heart. That is why I shall show a waiting attitude.” (Lamentations 3:20, 21) Remember what the psalmist in distress said to himself: “Why are you in despair, O my soul, and why are you boisterous within me? Wait for God, for I shall yet laud him as the grand salvation of my person.”—Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5.
19 So when disciplined, let each one of us wait for God. After we have been trained by it, we will reap the harvest of peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.
Do You Recall?
□ What is the value of using the rod of discipline?
□ What is the main source of discipline? What are other sources of discipline?
□ In addition to words of reproof, what stronger measures may be needed?
□ What are some guidelines for giving reproof?
□ What counsel will help us to accept reproof?
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Do you wisely “listen to discipline”?
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The principles involved in disciplining children also apply to adults