I was a very busy boy. My mom tells me I required two mothers. She also tells me she used to pray I have a son just like me.
God answered her prayer. My wife and I are blessed with one of the busiest 2-year-old boys we’ve seen. He is also a very sweet boy, too.
As with any child, there are moments of utter dismay. We ask ourselves, “Why does he just not listen?” We give simple instructions; often they go unheeded. He does what he wants to do. These are times when we see folly bound within his heart.
We work diligently and patiently with our son. In fact, we are slow to resort to spanking. But when we are certain that he is behaving defiantly and foolishly, we apply the biblical means of correction that God has given us. This may alarm some readers, but please pay attention and try not to jump to conclusions.
Folly is bound in the heart.
What do I mean by folly is bound in my son’s heart? Well, Proverb 22:15 declares, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” In reading this authoritative Word, we discover that a child’s heart is by nature arrested by foolishness; it is under folly’s imprisonment.
The Scriptures indicate that the heart is the control center of the person. It governs all activity. And as early as Genesis 6:5, God probes the evil and wickedness of mankind and finds it settled in the heart. Let’s also not forget Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
This applies to our children. Though they are small and seemingly innocent, God’s Word reminds us that our children are bent inward by sin. They are little fools, minions to sin. I know this is a tough pill to swallow, because, like you, I love my kids.
Folly despises wisdom and instruction.
But let’s be honest. If you have children you know that they despise wisdom and instruction. A favorite saying of our children is, “I do it myself.” There is an engrained stubbornness present since our little sinners birthed. Proverb 1:7 make it plain, “…fools despise wisdom and instruction.” You’ve witnessed your children do this. They just don’t want to follow simple instructions.
You could tell them, “Don’t run out into the road.” They still will do it. Sometimes, you might even scream it out of fear. But if you’re like me, you’re not just yelling. You’re chasing and rescuing them from harm.
This is precisely what we are to do with our children’s folly. While we drive folly away, we chase after our child’s heart and keep it near.
The rod of discipline drives folly far.
Look back to the second half of Proverb 22:15. There you will see the means to drive folly from a child, according to Scripture. Proverb 22:15 say, “…but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”
This isn’t a popular means for discipline today. Because of this, many might challenge this Scripture saying, “Perhaps that was an acceptable method of correction then, but it isn’t now.”
Well, I ask, “Who gets to decide that?” Seriously, if God wanted to change his means to correct and instruct children, I believe he would have offered biblical instruction to fully equip us to do so. But this is the instruction we have.
Proverbs is the book we go to for wisdom on raising children. That is precisely why this book is written (Prov. 1:4, 8). We must trust that God’s Word is sufficient for the task of parenting God has entrusted to us.
Before we get bent out of shape about this, let’s think on what’s at stake. Thomas Case, a Puritan pastor wrote, A Treatise on Afflictions. In it he says this about corporal correction of children. “It is not only foolish, but cruel pity to forbear correction for a few childish tears; to suffer the child to wail in hell for sin, rather than to shed a few tears for preventing it.” We should remind ourselves that this is really what is at stake. To be rescued from wrath, the heart must be unbound from sin and folly. A rod must drive them away.
Loving correction keeps the heart near.
Of course, parents cannot just spank a child every time he or she misbehaves and then leave it at that. This, as studies show, results in a terrifying cycle of escalation. Even if behavior modification occurs, all a child learns is that certain behavior is punished, while other behavior is rewarded.
All discipline or correction must first be seated in love and guided by instruction. Long before we arrive at Proverbs instruction on the use of the rod, we read this from Proverbs 3:11-12:
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.
Discipline is grounded in love and instruction. So when we discipline, we do not just correct the behavior. We go straight to the heart, because, as you recall, that is where the trouble is bound. Folly is bound to the heart.
Therefore, we talk about the heart issue with our child, even in the midst of disciplining. We show our children where they broke God’s law. We help them understand that this dishonors the Lord and in turn dishonors mommy and daddy.
But we don’t stop there. We show them that they are under arrest to their sin and folly. Only one thing can set them free. It’s not the rod upon their bottom, but the cross upon Christ’s shoulder. God the Father did not spare the rod from his Son, even though he stood perfectly righteous and undeserving. Christ took our correction on our behalf. So when we discipline, we share the gospel…every time!
If you’re a parent, you have a child whose heart is bound up in folly. Offering balanced discipline and correction will be a challenging task. If I could suggest one help, it is Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. This book has proved an inestimable resource for my wife and I, as we lovingly keep our children’s hearts near, while driving folly away.
Joey Cochran is a graduate of Dallas Seminary and a church planting intern at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois under the supervision of pastor Joe Thorn. You can follow him at jtcochran.com or @joeycochran.