Grace, Obedience, Rewards, and Punishment:
A Parent-to-Child Relationship
by Tara Nicole Chapman
Dedicated to my Father the Most High God (my Spiritual Begetter, Nourisher, Nurturer, and Bearer)
Co-dedicated to my earthly father (my spiritual begetter, nourisher, nurturer) and to the mother he chose to physically bear, nourish, and nurture me
In a loving and Godly home, a child receives plenty of grace. A Godly father is patient (long-suffering) and kind (Psa 86:15) . He does not provoke his child to wrath but rather gently yet firmly guides him in the ways of God (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). Godly parents tell their child that obedience is pleasing to them and to God (Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1) and that it's always for their own good (Deut. 6:24; 11:8-9), as well as for the safety and respect of others (Lev. 19:17-18; Matt. 7:12). Godly parents let their child know what is acceptable and what is not and teach him to ask permission for certain things. They let him know when he has done something wrong and explain that he's disappointed them and why the transgression was wrong and why it's important not to do it again. For some things, there may be several warnings and reprimands. A Godly father knows that all fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and that if he wishes to be forgiven by his Heavenly Father, he should be forgiving of others, especially his own children (Matt. 6:14-15). A good father gives his children the same grace he expects his Heavenly Father to give him.
A child is expected to obey his father and also his mother, whom his father has appointed to care for the child while away (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20; Prov. 6:20). The more obedient and wise a child is, the less he needs grace. This equates to happily pleased parents (Prov. 10:1; 23:22-25; 15:20; 27:11) and a more pleasant atmosphere overall. A wise child heeds his father's and mother's instruction and good advice and obeys all their righteous commandments (Prov. 13:1; 4:20; 1:8; 6:20).
A father's main focus should naturally be on the firstborn son. In a properly-run home, after a son is weaned from his mother, he is to start learning from his father and models him. In the young years of boys (after weaning), a good father figure is the number one importance for a successful upbringing. Boys are very difficult for women to handle alone in the early years, before they've been properly trained by their fathers. If properly trained by his father (Prov. 22:6; Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4), a boy who enters adolescence and adulthood is a great blessing to his mother. Girls, on the other hand, are much easier for women to handle in their early years, but if they are not guided properly by their mothers by example, then when they enter adolescence, they often are more difficult than adolescent males.
Several young girls are usually very easy for mothers to rear, in comparison with multiple boys. In either case, younger siblings tend to model their older siblings. Parents never have the equal time to devote to younger siblings as they do the firstborn. This is why it is of the utmost importance that parents model perfection for their firstborn child so that the firstborn models perfection for his siblings (I John 2:6; John 15:10). The firstborn son who obediently models his father's righteousness will instruct his siblings on right and wrong, model righteousness for them, and will protect them. A good firstborn child sometimes even takes a younger sibling's guilt upon himself in order to spare the younger sibling of punishment. This should move the younger sibling to hold even more regard for the firstborn and to try even harder not to do something wrong.
A father should train his son to obey his voice and train him to be a mature man. He should teach him to honor his mother also and to love his siblings. He should teach him to be a good neighbor (citizen) to all and to live peaceably with all people. He should teach his son his trade (if he has one), even if his son is led to do something else. This leaves an alternative if it is ever needed. Names are supposed to identify a person, but we now live in a time where many people's names don't quite match who they are. For example, how many people do you know with the last names Baker and Smith who are baking and smithing for a living? It's usually a really good idea to do what one is supposed to do. That is what will come more naturally to him. Talents are ingrained in one's DNA (which itself is a name, an identification). Skills taught from an early age will also typically be easier for someone than learning something different and perhaps incompatible with one's natural abilities, at a later age.
A father should also teach his son how to be a husband and a father, by both example and oral instruction. If something happens to a father, a firstborn son who has passed through adolescence should be able to help care for his mother and help meet the needs of any possible young siblings and to be a father figure for them.
A daughter should also be taught to obey her parents, but her upbringing is modeled after her mother. A mother should teach her daughter (orally and by example) how to care for her children, how to love and respect her future husband, how to take care of a home and to prepare meals. She should teach her daughter the proper way to dress and to act.
Parents should teach both sons and daughters to obey God's Ten Commandments (and their statutes) and be in favor of their judgments upon the unrepentant. Fathers and mothers should also teach their sons and daughters to thank God for His grace that He will not execute the judgments upon repentant people with hearts toward the Most High and His Son their Lord the Christ. Parents should teach their children to be polite, generous, and compassionate to others. They also should be taught respect for animals and for God's creation in general.
Again, obedience from children is expected. A parent's grace toward a child does not undo the fact that there are rules. Those rules are still expected to be obeyed. I couldn't imagine telling my father or mother, back when I was a child, "I thought you forgave me for disobeying you. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to do it again." ?!?!?! I'm pretty sure my parents would not have bought that excuse. There is the carnal tendency for one to desperately say something--anything--to get off the hook. The truth of the matter, though, is if properly reared, a child CAN obey his parents (with the here and there regretted mistake which is forgiven under grace by his parents). "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." ~1 John 5:3~ Good parents give us good law and good doctrine (Prov. 4:2), because they love us. We show our love for our parents and fell man by obeying our parent's law.
There is a judgement in God's law that if a nation is living under His law, a grown child who turns out to be what we might call "a bad egg" (the bible uses the descriptive words "rebellious, glutton, and drunkard") is to be taken by his parents to the elders of the city to report his wicked behavior, and the men of the city are to put him to death. !!!!!!!!!!!! Most parents would have a REALLY hard time doing this, am I not right? Good parents always hope, hope, hope that their children will be good so that they don't need to be put to death. But if the wicked aren't eventually put to death, then all the righteous have to suffer. There have even been wicked children who have tried destroying their parents (and some who have destroyed their parents) because the parents either did not rear the child properly or the child was just wicked and the parents didn't want to report him to see that justice be done. NO ONE SAID IT IS EASY TO JUDGE A CHILD'S NEEDING TO DIE TO PROTECT THE PEACE OF EVERYONE ELSE. King David had this very thing happen to him. He had a wicked son (Ammon) who raped one of the king's daughters (Tamar, the son's half-sister). David was upset about it but didn't do anything about it. And the son wasn't repentant. Another son of his (Absalom), who was the daughter's full brother, later killed Ammon. David was grieved over that, too. Then, later Absalom got the people on his side and usurped the throne and ordered for the king to be killed, so David had to flee. One has to wonder whether Absalom made his wicked choices against his father, because he didn't respect that his father didn't do justice against Ammon. The bible does not say. The bible does say that David was a righteous man after God's own heart. Over all, he did the right things. But, he had two sons worthy of death, and neither one showed remorse, and yet David did not punish them. It may have saved HIM from having to run for his life from his own son.
We all hope our children will be righteous, but some people turn out to be wicked, and we are not to spare wickedness. A good parent will give plenty of grace, but if a child continues in his transgression and is obviously unrepentant, punishment is needed. Sometimes punishment can be minor, and it will turn the child around. Sometimes greater punishment is needed. Sadly, for some people, they are deeply wicked and unrepentant, and the only thing that can be done for the world to have peace is for those to be put to death. Unfortunately, this once-great nation in which we live has left off of righteous judgment based largely on God's law and judgments. Those worthy of death in this nation are usually not being put to death. The death penalty is NOT a pretty thing. No one is saying that. It's not pleasurable for anyone. Who in their right mind really WANTS to kill someone? But, it's a needed thing in a wicked world to rid the earth of the unjust.
Usually when a child is brought up to follow God's law and is given plenty of love and grace and punishments when needed, the child will grow up to a righteous individual. Usually, those children never go on to commit sins worthy of physical death as punishment.
Natural consequences are meant to be an effective punishment, and for the repentant, they are effective. For others, it corrupts them all the more. The natural consequence for adultery may be pregnancy. The natural consequence for fornication may be an STD. The natural consequence of gossiping may be loss of friendship. The natural consequence of improper agricultural policy may be poor health and famine. The natural consequence for listening to loud music may be hearing loss. It's sometimes appropriate for parents to use natural consequence to punish their children. Natural consequence from punishment should be allowed to happen only if the child has had previous instruction regarding the matter. I often tell my child WHAT the natural consequences will be if a certain thing is transgressed. That is usually enough to deter good-hearted children from doing it.
A father usually should mete out punishment, but a father gives some responsibility to the mother.
I'm just as much a believer in rewards as I do punishment. I highly prefer rewards over punishment. I hate to punish a child. I love to reward a child. But, the only reward for unrighteous behavior is punishment. Punishment is the only reward there is for continual disobedience of law. Any law. If someone raises up a law, and someone else happens to live under the first person's jurisdiction, the latter person is always at risk of being punished if the law is broken. I don't know of any law that has not had a judgment or punitive clause.
Lesser talked-about are blessings and rewards given for obedience to a law. As I've said twice before, a father expects his child to obey his law. That's just a given. Good rewards shouldn't be given to children every day just because they go every day without hitting a sibling or breaking something or shouting at a parent or whatever. I don't get rewarded each day for not murdering someone or not stealing from somebody. The withholding of punishment is NOT a reward. It's just neutral ground. You obey, and life goes on. You disobey, and you are rewarded punishment. Now, there ARE natural blessings from obeying a father's law. The child will be in good health, be safe, and things will go smoothly and well. But, a child should not expect anything extra for doing what he's supposed to do, anyway.
So, where do good rewards come in? A good father (and/or mother) love to give their children rewards if the children have been very impressive, if the parents see that the children are following the fathers' law from the heart and are obviously trying to please their parents from their heart. It makes parents joyful to see their children WANTING to obey and do the best they can from the heart and not just obeying to avoid punishment. There is a difference.
Also, if children do BEYOND what is expected of them, parents love to reward their children. A child who jumps in to help his sibling pick up his mess without anyone asking him to or a child who offers to rub his parent's feet or get a drink for him or her is an all-star child. It's natural for a loving parent to want to reward his child for doing these types of things.
At some point a child will learn that his parents like rewarding him, and it may move him to be even better. There is nothing wrong with this! I've read so-called experts teach that giving a child a reward system isn't right and that the child will just disobey if the rewards are stopped. This is hogwash! If there are no rewards, the child is still expected to obey like always. If the child starts continually disobeying, there is the reward of punishment. If a child is a wonderful being with an obedient and loving heart and goes out of his way to work hard and be good to others, why should the child not be rewarded with good things?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the first-begotten and firstborn Son of the Most High God our Heavenly Father, gave us his Father's law in the Father's absence. He perfectly obeyed His Father's law and gave us the perfect example to follow. He also went out of His way to love and help others. He took the guilt of all would-be siblings upon Himself and was punished for our transgressions. We have been shown grace. We are expected to follow the law. We can never be saved by keeping it, because every person who knows good and evil has broken it. The law doesn't show grace. The Lawgiver does show grace to those who are repentant and try their best to keep it. Grace through faith doesn't nullify the law (Jude 4; Rom. 3:23; Heb. 10-:26-29; John 8:10-11, etc.). Just because my parents gave me grace many times, I was still expected to obey their rules. I was charged with credit card fraud several years ago, before my conversion. I was guilty, but I was shown grace by the US government. That doesn't mean that I can now go steal someone's money. God's law has never been "done away." Grace doesn't give a license to sin (Jude 4). Only the repentant are shown grace and forgiven. Some people find grace, and some people do NOT find grace. For example, Noah "found grace," because he "was a just man and perfect" and "walked with God." He and his family were spared. The rest in that land were not. They did NOT find grace. They found punishment.
We should always be thankful for the grace our Father has shown us and be thankful for a loving Brother, the Firstborn, who took the blame for us. That should make us all the more zealous for our Father's law and to walk as the Firstborn walked (I John 2:6). We should try our very best. And we should be truly repentant for those times we make mistakes.
Our Father nor our Brother who has authority does NOT wish to put anyone to death (2 Peter 3:9; Ezek. 18:20-32). He PLEADS for people to repent so that they can be shown the grace that can be given through Christ's sacrifice--his taking our blame for us. If I as a firstborn child would have taken the blame for something my younger sister had done, she could have been thankful for the grace and could try her hardest not to transgress again. Or, she could have transgressed again and then again and again without any repentance. Imagine if my parents would have discovered that she continued to transgress and that I had taken the guilt upon myself. That would surely be even worse than if she would have done so without my taking the guilt (Hebrews 10:26-29). They would have been terribly angry with her and wanted to punish her greatly for taking advantage of the grace she was shown (no such thing has truly occurred; this is truly just analogous.) Everyone will at one time or another be shown the truth and be given the opportunity to repent and receive God's grace. Not everyone is being called in this lifetime, obviously. There have been billions through who have never heard the true salvational plan. God is not wicked. God is not some confusing "trinity" who has given us all some confusing "immortal soul" that either "goes to heaven" or "burns eternally in hell" when we die. God is a family of REAL people--a Father and a Son and now many more begotten sons and daughters who will be resurrected and born as children of God. There are firstfruits who will be used in God's Government (Hierarchical Kingdom) on this earth who will help teach people God's law and how the world will be peaceful if everyone follows it. And then there will be the great resurrection of all those never called (including those who died as infants and those raised in heathen religions) to see the truth, and then they will be given their time of judgment to test whether they will follow God's way or not (Rev. 22:11-12). Yes, indeed, the TRUE God wants to save as many as possible and bring them into His family. The TRUE God doesn't wish anyone to die an eternal death (meaning dead forever, not to be resurrected again...not being tortured in fire with some "immortal soul." Immortality is a gift that only the children of God receive--Rom. 6:23). God doesn't want anyone to perish but to REPENT, turn away from sin--the transgression of His law (I John 3:4).
God also uses natural consequences to punish people. It's not like He always looks down at someone and say, "You wicked adulteress. You will be struck with cervical cancer," or "You sodomite, I will strike you with HIV." You know, they transgressed the law. Remember how God's law is for His LOVE for us? Transgression of law has natural consequences. Having sex with another man's wife creates strife, and it can cause disease transmittal. Refusing to give land its sabbaths causes soil to be robbed of its nutrients and causes the food to be less wholesome. Eating unclean meats, having sexual relations during a woman's menstruation, and not doing anything about a house with growth in it all have the natural consequences of probable health problems. If a parent teaches a child not to run out into the street, but he does so, anyway, the child may be struck by a vehicle. The parent TRIED to lovingly teach the child to obey. God has TRIED to teach people the right way to live. He called Israel to be His witness to the world. But both Israel and Judah have rejected the ways of God over and over. Now, it's nearing the time for the children of God to guide Israel (after bringing Israel and Judah back together as one, after the tribulation) in being the RIGHT example to the world so that finally the whole world will eventually come under peace.
Our Heavenly Father also loves to give rewards to His children. When they have shown an especially good heart toward Him, He naturally wants to reward them. When they go beyond what the law requires to do good things, He sees that and loves it. Our Father stores up rewards for His children and will be sending them with the Firstborn when the Firstborn returns to this earth.
Thank you, Father, and thank you Lord Jesus for giving us good doctrine. Let us not forsake our Father's law. And let us please Him so that He can do what he wants to do: reward us.