The Word: Spare the rod, spoil the Christian

Published 9:22 am Saturday, February 17, 2024

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You’ve probably heard the saying “spare the rod, spoil the child.” The point is that if children are not taught discipline then they will get in trouble. But what makes us think that discipline is only good for our children? I was blessed because the Navy taught me discipline. The hours spent on the drill field marching taught me how to march in close formation. It took discipline to be able to move as a unit without anyone getting hurt by the bayonets on the end of our rifles. The Navy taught me the value of exercising every day. Hours running and bicycling showed me what I could accomplish. Thirty five years later I still exercise and that discipline gives me the energy to do a little more every day.

Our walk with Christ takes discipline as well. Listen to the apostle Paul. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Living as a child of God requires discipline. We’re supposed to curb the desires of the flesh and when we don’t we confess our sins and celebrate our new life in Christ. That’s discipline! That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works through the Word to show us both our sins and our Savior – to discipline us so that we spend more time following Jesus.

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The practices of Lent are all about disciplining us so that we walk closer with Jesus. Many people choose to give up something for Lent. Giving up something serves two purpose. First, it gives us more time to spend in God’s Word and prayer. Second, it teaches us to say no to our body. This discipline accomplishes something really important in us. It strengthens us to say no to thoughts we shouldn’t have. To say no to words we should never utter. To say no to glances that our eyes should never make. While this discipline will never save us (Jesus already did that!) it can keep us out of trouble, which if left unchecked will disqualify us eternally.

The 40 days of Lent invite us to stop “beating the air” and running “aimlessly.” God is at work through His Word and Sacraments to give life to that which was dead and transform those who had no meaning and give them eternal purpose. It’s there that we behold the glory of the Lord and are “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Rev. Matthew Sorenson is the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church. He can be reached at