Principles of Discipline


Daily Bible Reading – Deuteronomy 25-27; Galatians 5

Today’s Key Passage – Deuteronomy 25:1-3

Today’s key passage may appear at first to be a bit controversial.  In it, Moses tells the Israelites that when two men have a dispute they should go to the court to have the judges decide the dispute.  If one of the men is found guilty and deserves to be beaten, the judge should flog him in his presence, but it should not exceed forty lashes.  Now for most of us, the idea of flogging someone seems detestable.  When I think of flogging, my immediate reaction is to think of Christ on the day of His crucifixion, and it places an image in my mind that makes my stomach turn.  For that reason, when I first read this passage today I immediately dismissed it as a topic to write about.  However, as is often the case, this passage kept coming back to me.  I kept thinking about it and the imagery of the words would not leave my mind, so I decided to really study the passage again.  As I did, I kept three things in mind.  First, I remembered that this was written for a civilization that was much different then ours.  At the time, public floggings were commonplace and were the accepted method of punishment for a crime.  Secondly, I remembered that God never changes.  The God who told Moses to write these words in the Bible is the same God that we still worship today.  He has never changed and will never change.  Finally, I remembered that everything in the Bible has a purpose and everything teaches us a lesson.  What lesson could I find in these words that would apply to us today? Applying those three criteria to the reading, I found that the passage took on a new meaning for me.  Instead of focusing on the brutality of the method, I instead saw that the underlying principles of discipline in these words is absolutely sound.

Before you think I am condoning flogging another person, let me explain what I am talking about.  Most of us at one time or another are in a position to discipline another person.  Whether it involves disciplining our children, an employee, or another believer we may be called to provide a level of discipline at some point in our lives.  In today’s key passage, I believe we can learn three important principles of discipline that we can apply to all of these situations that may arise.  First, we learn that before any discipline takes place, we must first determine whether a person is guilty.  Did the person really do what we think he did, or is there a misunderstanding?  Everyone deserves a fair “trial” before any type of discipline is enforced.

Assuming we find that the person is indeed guilty, the second principle we learn is that the discipline needs to be immediate.  Once we have determined that a punishment is necessary, we cannot put it off – we must act now.  Imagine the following scenario: Imagine that you explicitly tell your son that he cannot eat a cookie right now because he will spoil his dinner, but your son goes behind your back and eats a cookie anyway.  When you find out about this, you decide to discipline him by not letting him watch TV for the night.  Now imagine that instead of imposing this punishment immediately, you do not say anything now, but two weeks later, you tell your son that he cannot watch TV because of the cookie he ate two weeks ago.  That would not make a lot of sense would it?  Discipline needs to take place immediately.

The third principle of discipline is that the punishment should fit the crime.  Using our illustration above, while taking away TV privileges for a night might seem like a reasonable punishment, taking away TV privileges for two years might be a little bit of overkill.  If we over-discipline, we run the risk of degrading the other person, which should never be our intention.  Discipline should be used to correct another person, not to destroy them emotionally.  Even though we have the power to discipline, we should never go overboard or become unrestrained, as that type of discipline does more harm than good.  When we react in a reasonable way and punish accordingly, we can provide the necessary correction without causing long-term damage to the relationship.

Whether you are a parent, a boss, or another type of leader, disciplining others is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.  In most cases, the act of disciplining others will not exactly be pleasant, but if we adhere to the three principles of discipline we learn in today’s key passage, we can achieve the intended results without causing any undue damage.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

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Posted on March 14, 2013, in 05 - Deuteronomy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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