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Okay, so welcome back to our Parenting and Consequences series. Not only is this Part 4 of the series, but today is actually part 2 of lasts week’s episode because there was just too much information.
So, if you’re just joining us, thanks for taking the time to check out Truth.Love.Parent. Just make sure you go back to the beginning of this series and work through all the episodes in order to really understand and be able to use the information we’re discussing.
And since — just like last time — there is so much information we want to cover, let’s get started.
First: A Definition of Secondary Consequences
Secondary Consequences are Physical and Relational Consequences given by an authority that are used to point back to the Spiritual Consequences of sin.
Second: The Theological Foundation of Secondary Consequences
Secondly Consequences are not punishment. They are a divinely ordained tool that follows the Primary Spiritual Consequences and helps to teach the Primary Spiritual Lessons. This involves speaking God’s truth in God’s love in such a way that the consequences unmistakably point to the Primary Consequences — specifically that sin hurts our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and ourselves.
So, now, we’re ready to talk about . . .
Third: Practical Considerations When Giving Secondary Consequences
When it comes time to give a consequence to your child, I want you to remember 3 words: Type, Tax, and Time.
The word “Type” refers to the category of consequence — the kind of consequence. We’ll talk about some of these shortly.
“Tax” refers to the weight or intensity of the consequence.
And “Time” deals with the duration of the consequence. Each of these are important considerations when it comes to giving valuable, Christ-honoring Secondary Consequences.
We will consider Type, Tax, and Time with each of the following principles.
1. All of your discipline must be conversational.
This is what I call Targeted Reconciliation. It’s not lecturing or haranguing or remonstrating. It’s teaching and reproving that will — hopefully — lead to correcting and training.
By the way, we have various episodes about each of these steps. Check out the description for links to those resources. I also have a resource on The Celebration of God called Discipleship Requires Conversation. But why must we converse with our kids when they do wrong?
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
A very necessary consequence of sin is that mature believers confront the one in sin. If we know about our children’s sin, this Type of Consequence must always be employed one way or another.
In James 5:19-20 we read, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
All throughout the New Testament we are told that we need to speak the truth in love, admonish, rebuke, reprove, correct, teach, discipline, and so many others. And these conversations should be a two-way street with participation from all sides, questions, answers, and discussion.
There are so many illustrations of this in the Bible from Jesus to Timothy. One good example is Galatians 2:11 where Paul tells us that when he ran into Peter in Antioch, Paul “opposed [Peter] to his face, because he stood condemned.”
Peter had hypocritically stopped fellowshipping with Gentile believers who didn’t follow Jewish customs. In verses 14-21 Paul records what he said to Peter in the presence of the church.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their children about God, and when the kids don’t submit, they need to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Again, this isn’t nagging or complaining or badgering — this is Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
It’s God’s truth in God’s love for God’s glory by being conformed to God’s image.
As we’re going to see later, there may be times when you don’t have to give Physical or Relational Consequences at all. But — like I said — this consequence is always necessary. Even if the child sinned behind your back, was convicted, came to you to confess and apologize, and wants to repent, you — the parent — are going to need to interact with that. And the content of that conversation needs to be truth in love that helps them be successful in maturing to God’s glory. It’s all about Targeted Reconciliation.
Now, we hope and pray that our kids will learn from our teaching and that they will seek to please God. But we know they’re sinners. So, we hope and pray that they will learn from the Spiritual Primary Consequences and not need Physical or Relational Secondary Consequences to mature. But if they still don’t care about submitting to God, then we may need to introduce some additional Relational Consequences.
2. All of your discipline must be uncomfortable.
In Jeremiah 17:9-10 God says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
So, what does sin deserve?
There’s an interesting guiding principle from Galatians 6:8 that is helpful as we consider giving appropriate consequences. In Galatians Paul writes, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.”
The Greek word translated “corruption” refers to destruction, pain, and death. Of course, this isn’t an admonishment to kill people when they sin, but it does remind us of an important truth we learned last time from Hebrews 12. The best way to draw attention to the painful Spiritual Consequences is to utilize painful Physical or Relational Consequences. That’s what sin reaps. It reaps pain, it reaps corruption, and — in an eternal sense — it reaps death (Romans 6:23).
The verses concerning the rod also speak to the painful necessity of consequences. But — then again — the natural sowing/reaping reality of the world teaches us this too.
In Proverbs 1:18 we learn, “But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. 19 So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.”
And in Matthew 26:52, “Jesus *said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.’”
My friends, if you cannot bring yourself to introduce a little pain into your child’s life in order to help them learn the eternally necessary spiritual lessons, then you are not only rejecting God’s Word, you’re also rejecting common sense, science, and anthropology. People don’t learn best by comfort. They learn best by discomfort.
Some of the most significant times of spiritual maturity occur in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Suffering and persecution and trials all have amazing ways of refining people.
Of course, we should never want to merely inflict pain on our kids. It’s not about finding pleasure hurting them. That’s wicked and violent. No, we simply introduce enough painful stimuli to help focus the child on what really matters.
Even if it’s just being confronted with God’s truth in love through Targeted Reconciliation, that’s uncomfortable. It brings shame and guilt, and — Lord willing — will lead to grief. By the way, check out our Children and Shame Series to see how God intends to use shame in a valuable way in your child’s life.
Now, though physical and/or relational pain may be an appropriate Type of consequence, we must also consider the Tax and the Time of such consequences. All three must work together to find the right balance.
The government shouldn’t remove someone’s child from their home because the individual racked up thousands of dollars in speeding tickets. That’s the wrong Type of consequences.
Governments shouldn’t kill people for jaywalking. That’s an example of a consequences being too Taxing . . . too weighty.
The government also shouldn’t make someone spend 50 years in prison for a crime that should have earned them 5 years in prison. That’s an inappropriate amount of Time.
So, we always need to be searching for and balancing out the Type, Tax, and Time of each consequence.
If the Type, Tax, and Time are too extreme, we’re likely in punishment mode. At best, we’re being very foolish. On the other hand, to allow our children to consistently dodge painful Physical and Relational Consequences is to lie to them about the way God created the world to work. We propound this lie to our kids when we don’t give them Christ-honoring consequences for their sin and when we do everything in our power to shield them from the consequences others would give them.
But there are so many options for appropriate, Christ-honoring painful discipline. There are so many potential Types, amounts of Taxation, and Time, how are we to know what’s right?
For this next part, I want to consider . . .
3. Your discipline may need to be Physical.
Discipline needs to be conversational and uncomfortable because sin always hurts and it always needs to be confronted. But additional Physical and Relational Consequences aren’t always necessary.
Here are some examples of times where you may be able to legitimately pass on Physical and/or Relational Secondary Consequences.
First, the child doesn’t know that what they did or said was sinful. When I worked at Victory Academy for Boys, many times new boys would mindlessly take the Lord’s name in vain. I never knew what they had been taught. For all I knew everyone in their lives did that, and it was no big deal. So, I would — in a very chill manner — address the issue without giving a consequence.
Second, it was the child’s first offense. None of us get everything right the first time, so — depending on their age, maturity, and the like — I may not give a Secondary Consequence the first or even the second or third times.
Third, the child has clearly seen the Primary Consequences of their sin, and they have learned the lesson God has for them. There’s a lot of subjectivity to this one, but it does happen. And I think that when someone has been crushed by their sin, and they come to you for reconciliation, then, yes, there are times that Secondary Consequences aren’t needed.
Of course, there are kids who like to fake spiritual awakening as an attempt to avoid consequences. I’ve experienced that a lot working with at-risk teens.
And we must’t forget that it’s not appropriate to give no consequences to a murderer simply because they promise that they’ve learned their lesson. Even if that murderer has been genuinely converted, recognizes the horrendous nature of their sin before man and God, and will legitimately never kill anyone again, there needs to be a consequence for their sin.
Fourth, it was the child’s first offense in a long time. If my child used to get in trouble all the time for talking in class, but they’ve repented and are striving to glorify God and have — consequently — not gotten in trouble for taking in class for over a month, I may not give a Secondary Consequence the first time they slip.
Fifth, you’re using this as a calculated moment to show mercy and grace. We will talk more about this point at the end.
Otherwise, and — generally speaking — we will find ourselves having to give our kids Physical Consequences for their sin. But how do you know what to do?
Well, have you ever looked to the Scriptures for ideas about Christ-honoring Secondary Consequences? I did, and it’s really quite enlightening. In fact, I was once in a conversation with someone who thought that giving consequences to people was ungodly. When I walked this individual through just a handful of examples of how God has historically dealt with sin (and how He will deal with it in the future), this person completely changed their perspective.
The truth really does set us free when we embrace it.
So, let’s look to the Scriptures for our instruction. Of course, some of these are going to be examples of penal punishment, but I’m obviously not sharing them because I think it’s appropriate to punish our kids. It’s simply an example of the Types of Physical Consequences we receive for our sin.
A. Physical Pain
I won’t belabor this point. But yes, as we’ve already seen, Christ-honoring spanking has it’s place. I’m not talking about pinching, smacking, punching, kicking, or the like. Historically, the application of the rod has always been to the softest area and largest muscle of the body. It’s not designed to break, cut, or bruise. It’s a mild to moderate pain designed to teach that sin hurts.
Of course, though spanking is often an appropriate option, it’s not the only Physical Consequence we can use. And though we don’t have time to talk about it today, I will say that it’s not always even the best Physical Consequence to use. But that doesn’t mean that all spanking is wrong.
B. Removing Blessing
Let’s go all the way back to the very first sin. When Adam and Eve broke God’s only command, there were a number of consequences. One of the consequences was that they were ushered out of the Garden of Eden and lost access to the Tree of Life. They also lost the ease of caring for the creation.
When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, II Samuel 11 tells us that one of the consequences for their sin is that they would lose the baby born out of that sinful encounter.
This is also how God dealt with the Nation of Israel as a whole. When they turned to worshipping idols, God removed the protection and provision He had been giving them.
All throughout the New Testament Jesus shared — what we call — the Parable of Talents. As the parable unfolded, the servants who invested their talents (a form of currency) were rewarded according to how well they had done. Those who doubled their money were given access to even more.
But the one who hid the money in a hole in the ground was rebuked, and Matthew 25:28 says that one of the consequences was that the talent would be taken from the unfaithful servant and given to the servant who had made the most money. In fact, now that I think about, many of the parables concerning servants had similar themes. The ones who were unfaithful were always stripped of something — sometimes their position, sometimes their freedom, and sometimes their life.
This same principle undergirds the entire judicial system in Old Testament Israel where sin would result in the loss of finances or influence or even one’s life.
So, what kinds of sins might our children commit where it would be appropriate to remove physical blessings?
Adam, Eve, David, and Bathsheba were all guilty of taking something that didn’t belong to them. The unfaithful servant didn’t use wisely what he was given. Other unfaithful servants abused what they were given.
Quite often these consequences work well when a child has abused a possession or relationship or privilege. Removing the abused blessing is very helpful to keep the focus of the consequence on the main thing, and may likely be a very helpful part of learning to use that blessing in a Christ-honoring way in the future.
For example, last time I used the illustration of a daughter who continues to break curfew. Removing the blessing of being able to go out by herself in the evenings could be a great choice.
But when we look in the Scriptures, we also see . . .
B. Withholding Blessing
With the second point, something that was already possessed was removed. In this point, something that would have been possessed in the future was withheld.
Again, let’s consider Adam and Eve. When they lost access to the Tree of Life, they were stripped of the potential for the eternal life afforded by the Tree. Of course, they still had access to a relationship with God through faith in the future Messiah, but part of their consequence was a blessing withheld.
Eve also lost the future potential of bearing children without pain.
And then in Deuteronomy 32 we learn that because Moses didn’t obey the Lord, he wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land. Of course, the Israelites who didn’t trust God on the boarder of the Promised Land weren’t allowed to enter either.
In II Thessalonians 3:10 we learn that “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” Though I don’t believe it’s ever appropriate for a parent to not give their child sufficient nourishment, this too illustrates the appropriateness of withholding blessing.
And then there’s I Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Unrepentant sin loses the future blessings of eternity with God.
When it comes to knowing the best time to use consequences like this, consider Luke 16:10, where Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
If the child has shown themselves incapable of glorifying God with their technology (like computers and game systems), then it might be valuable to withhold their access to a future mobile phone.
In the example of the daughter and the curfew, if she were working toward purchasing a car of her own, but she repeatedly showed that she was negligent and disobedient when it came to borrowing her parents’ car, then not allowing her to purchase her own car (for a time) may be a very helpful part of her learning to submit to God.
Okay, so those are the big three Types of Christ-honoring Physical Consequences we see illustrated in the Scripture — Physical Pain, Removing Blessing, and Withholding Blessing.
Pretty much everything from spankings to groundings to confiscating toys/tech to sitting in time out to losing privileges can all be done for the good of the child and the glory of God.
But there’s another main Type of consequence.
4. Your discipline may need to be Relational.
First, just like I said earlier, there are times that a person’s sin will have Relational Consequences, but we may not always have to instigate them ourselves.
Second, please hear me out. I am not saying that we disown our kids, that we write them off, or that we give them the silent treatment when they sin. None of that is appropriate. That’s not what we’re talking about here at all.
In fact, Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 talk about parents not provoking their children to wrath so that they lose heart. I did an episode called Provocative Parenting that worked through those two passages in order to help us understand about what God was warning us. I’ll put a link in the description if you’d like to find that episode easily. The point is, God was warning parents about passing final judgment on their kids and giving up in them. That would be to sin against our kids relationally.
So, no, Relational Consequences must not be sinful or hurtful. But there are legitimate Relational Consequences that can be very helpful in equipping children to recognize the Primary Consequences and learn the spiritual lessons God wants them to learn.
The first Relational Consequence I want to look at is . . .
A. Removing Blessing
In I John 1:5-9 we read, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When we live in sin, we miss out on fellowship with God. The current fellowship is removed, but any future fellowship is also withheld until reconciliation is sought. Praise God that He’s ordained a way for us to have that fellowship restored.
Now, the removal or limiting of fellowship has a very specific application. We need to understand what fellowship is, and it’s only appropriate to limit that fellowship when our kids are living in unrepentant sin. The moment true reconciliation is sought, fellowship is reinstated. Remember what the passage said, when we “confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.” When our kids are living in the light, they will have fellowship with God and us.
By the way, fellowship is an intimate relating that is only possible for reconciled believers. It’s impossible for Christians to fellowship with unbelievers, and God commands us not to fellowship with believers who are living in unrepentant sin.
But when forgiveness is granted, fellowship must always be restored.
Another way we may have to Remove Blessing is actually more about communicating to our kids the fact that the Relational Consequence has already occurred,
When our kids sin they lose the joy their parents had in them. What do I mean? Proverbs 15:20 says, “A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish man despises his mother.” Proverbs 17:21 reads, “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy.” Proverbs 28:7 tells us, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.” And Proverbs 29:15 laments that “a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”
It will sometimes be necessary to make it very clear to your child that you are ashamed of them, that their behavior has brought you no joy, but that it has caused you pain and grief. That parental pride and joy may need to be set on the shelf for a time.
It’s not that we stop loving our kids. That would be a sin. But when we interact with them, we shouldn’t try to hide the fact that their sin has had a significant impact on their relationship with you. The grief and shame and pain is real. It can be very valuable to communicate that to your child so they don’t miss the very real consequences of their sin.
But, remember, you don’t want to use any consequences (especially relational consequences) as a way to manipulate your child. It’s not designed to wrench their emotions and make them feel bad about hurting you.
So, when it comes to communicating these Relational Consequences, make sure that it starts and ends with God.
Here’s an example: “Son, in addition to all the other Spiritual Consequences we’ve discussed, God designed Creation so that your rebellion would strain and hurt the most important, most valuable relationships in your life. You know how important parents are — we’ve talked about it before. We’re not perfect, but when we do our best to bring you up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, that is a blessing to you. That should be one of the strongest and closest relationships in your life. But your rebellion is grieving us. Proverbs 17:21 reads, “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy.” That’s where we are. Your sin is straining our relationship with you, and it’s not nearly as valuable as it could be. In addition, we’re saddened for you and — though we love you dearly — we are ashamed of the choices you’re making. But our shame is not the reason you should obey. Your sin should cause you to feel ashamed because you’re not just sinning against me and your mother — most importantly — you’re rebelling against God.”
I hope that example is helpful.
B. Withholding Blessing
In Genesis we encounter a sad moment when one of Noah’s sons did something very inappropriate to his father. One of the consequences of the young man’s sin was that — instead of receiving a blessing — Noah cursed his son. Now, we don’t have the time to talk about parental blessings, and I don’t want to muddy the waters here, I’m simply using it as a biblical example that a child’s sin may need to result in them losing a future relational blessing. It may be financial, it may be time investment, it may be not being able to participate in a recreational activity, or numerous other possibilities.
A similar thing happened with Isaac when it came to blessing his sons. What’s interesting about that situation was that Esau lost out on his unique blessing because of his brother’s sin! Again, I don’t want to pigeon-hole us into thinking that because one child sinned, another child now needs to be penalized, but the biblical illustration is helpful to help us think deeply about consequences.
The daughter who stayed out too late driving around town may have burned through the gasoline and not had time to refill it as she raced back home. And now, on Saturday her older brother was going to use the car, but there’s nothing but fumes in the tank. The older brother is experiencing Physical and Relational Consequences because of her sin.
That’s not something we parents need to make happen, but it is a reality of sin.
And then consider Proverbs 1:27-32, “When distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, 29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord. 30 They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof. 31 So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices. 32 For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them.”
This passage is a personification of wisdom. If someone rejects wisdom, when they finally realize they need her, they won’t have her. In the same way, like the Prodigal Child, when a child distances herself from God’s people, she’s cutting off important lifelines and the blessings of redemptive relationships.
I’ve had the unfortunate experience of counseling parents not to post their child’s bail. I’ve worked with parents who realized that the child had gotten himself into a very bad situation because he refused to submit to God’s wisdom, and — in certain situations — there’s value in making the child dig their way out of the proverbial hole in which they’ve found themselves.
Withholding Blessing can be valuable when we carefully choose the right consequence to accompany the lesson God and we are trying to teach them.
Okay, so, quick review.
1. All of your discipline must be conversational.
2. All of your discipline must be uncomfortable.
3. Your discipline may need to be Physical.
4. Your discipline may need to be Relational
But there’s another very important consideration when it comes to choosing valuable, beneficial consequences. In fact, when I’m working with parents (or my own kids for that matter), this ends up being one of the most impactful considerations.
We know consequences have to be uncomfortable, and they may be Physical and/or Relational per the biblical examples, but . . .
5. Your discipline must be personal.
What I mean by this is that the discipline needs to be suited to your child.
The most valuable consequences are the ones that clearly point back to the spiritual realities of the sin — both the Primary Consequences and the main lessons God wants your kids to learn — but they don’t only do that, they should also be specific to the individual.
As you scan the Scriptures you see countless actions and reactions — Primary Consequences and so many Secondary Consequences — on every page . . . even in the genealogies, but rarely do you have an opportunity to see this particular point illustrated.
But thankfully we have Jonah.
As most of you know, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach repentance. But Jonah hated the Ninevites and didn’t want them to receive God’s grace, so he ran away. But you can’t escape God, so while he was sailing to Tarshish, God sent a massive storm. When the superstitious crew correctly recognized that the storm was the result of one of their misdeeds, Jonah fessed up and offered to be thrown overboard. And we all are familiar with the fact that God sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah and transport him back to where he needed to be.
Now, that particular consequence could — in theory — have been appropriate to anyone in that time period. It made sense that someone thrown overboard would need to be rescued in the ocean, and it was a sign of God’s miraculous power that He superintended the fish. And though we know that this particular consequence was just what Jonah needed because God always knows what’s best for each individual — God doesn’t explain why He did what He did.
Now, fast forward. Jonah did what he was supposed to do — he preached to the Ninevites — and they all repented. And the Bible says that Jonah was very angry. In chapter 4 verse 1 we read, “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.’ 4 The Lord said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’”
What’s interesting is that Jonah didn’t answer.
Then in verse 5 we read, “Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.”
Believe it or not, God didn’t send the plant to reward Jonah. In fact, the comfort God gave Jonah wasn’t because Jonah needed the comfort. To be honest, God gave the comfort specifically so that He could take it away.
Here’s why God did what He did: One, in the same way that God loves the people of Nineveh and offers them grace, God does the same for everyone . . . including Jonah. But Two, God sent the plant because He was going to give Jonah a consequence for his bad attitude, anger, and self-worship.
Verse 7 reads, “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, ‘Death is better to me than life.’” And this is where we see some of the motivation for God’s decisions as they relate to Jonah’s personality and his need.
Verses 9-11 tell us, “Then God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?’” Now, remember, Jonah hadn’t answered the previous question when God asked if Jonah had a good reason to be angry about the Ninevites repenting.
But Jonah believed he had a good reason to be angry this time. "And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to death.’” And this is where God shows us some of His reasoning. “10 Then the Lord said, ‘You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?’”
Jonah’s sinful choices, how he felt about the plant for which he could take no credit, the Primary Consequences Jonah had already brought on himself because of his repeated sins, and the desperately important truth God wanted Jonah to learn all coalesced perfectly when God took away Jonah’s plant.
A couple days ago I was addressing a sinful habit my kids have had for years. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that it involves their behavior when they are both interacting with one particular activity. Now, these two do everything together, but when they engage in this one activity, they so quickly descend into the miry clay of sin and hurt.
And my wife and I have been working on this with them for years. They’ve received Targeted Reconciliation, we’ve withheld Physical and Relational Blessings, we’ve removed Physical and Relational Blessings, and still they struggle. They’re getting better, but they’re not maturing as quickly as they could.
So, this time I tried something new. Both of my kids now have jobs. Though they don’t work full time, they do have the opportunity to make money every week. So, I preemptively informed them that if they return to the same sinful vomit-like behavior while engaged in this particular activity, the offenders would owe me $20.
I explained to my kids that the Bible says that they owe every person in their lives . . . they own them God’s love. And when they sin against each other, they have a debt that can never be repaid. When you are supposed to love someone the best you can every second of the day, but you hate them for five minutes straight, you can’t ever make that up because you already own them your best love every second moving forward.
That’s why it’s so important for us to ask for forgiveness. When we confess our hateful behavior and admit to the love debt we owe and which we cannot repay, and then we ask for our debt to be forgiven, we’re engaging in deep spiritual truths that reinforce so many doctrinal realities and necessary character traits.
So, based off that illustration, I explained to my kids that since they seem incapable of remembering that they owe each other love, maybe they will remember that they will own me money.
Now, that’s the illustration. However, I do want to be completely transparent. Remember how children care too much about the Secondary Consequences for the same reasons they didn’t care enough about the Primary Consequences — their selfishness. This means that our kids could do their best to avoid our consequences simply to save their selfish skins.
And this is why we need to continually bring the consequence back to the spiritual reality. We have to keep teaching and reteaching. And I told my kids that it would be really sad if they cared more about losing a $20 bill than they care about hurting their sibling, their parents, and their God.
So, I chose that consequence because I believe/hope that it can be helpful in drawing my kids’ minds back to the most important truths about how God wants them to live, and thereby discouraging them from sinning. But I’ve been wrong in the past, and I could be wrong now.
Anyway, remember that I intended this to be a personal example of how I chose a specific consequence for my kids. However, it may not be the best choice to help another child open their eyes to their need. The point is that we need to know our kids well enough to be able to make the consequence specific to them.
Of course, this is easier said than done. God definitely has an advantage over us when it comes to knowing a person’s heart.
Let me say two things about this. First, it’s so sad to me how many parents assume they know their kids, but they don’t. And the only way you will ever truly know anyone is to talk with them. You can go to all of their games, watch all of the newest movies together, you can fish in silence for hours on end, you can attend their recitals and science fairs, but relationship is only ever deepened in communication.
You need to ask questions. You need to listen. And, no, you don’t need to do this simply so that you can tailor consequences to them. You need to do this to be a Christ-honoring parent.
Yes, it will help you tailor consequences, but it will likely also help — more than you can know — to equip your kids to do right in the first place.
Now, when it comes specifically to sin, there’s a really good question that I sometimes like to ask.
After engaging in Targeted Reconciliation, I may ask, “So, what kind of consequence do you believe will best help you to learn these very important spiritual lessons?”
This is helpful for lots of reasons. First, it tests how well the child is understanding the depth of their sin. Second, it helps you better understand how they think about consequences. Third, it may — unfortunately — reveal a manipulative streak in your kids, and fourth, it can provide you an opportunity to illustrate grace.
I may ask my daughter that question, and she may break down and say in a crushed spirit of remorse, “Because I loved my video game more than my brother, I should have to throw it away!”
And I might respond, “Well, given that every time you play this game with your brother you act so hateful to him, that sounds like it may be exactly what you deserve. It would also show how serious you are about removing the temptation. But thankfully God doesn’t always give us what we deserve because He knows there are better ways for us to learn these important lessons. If He gave us what we deserved, we’d all be immediately sent to hell with no chance to learn and change. So, no, you aren’t going to have to throw the game away. I believe there are better and more challenging ways to learn the importance of loving God and loving your brother.”
And then I can go on and explain what we need to do the next time they play that game in order to help her make new choices that will please the Lord.
You see, considering what is best for our specific child will also help us choose the best Type, Tax, and Time for the consequence.
Spanking looks different depending on the age of the child. Some children may want to get out of family time and be sent to their room while others really struggle with time outs.
Knowing our children can help us formulate the most impactful, instructional consequences.
Now, we’re so totally out of time — can you believe I was originally going to try to cover the last episode and this one together! But there are still two more point to mention.
6. Your discipline must be consistent.
Numbers 32:23 says, “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.”
Ecclesiastes 8:11 warns, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”
And Colossians 3:25 tells us, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”
When we say one thing and do another, we’re lying to our kids, we’re modeling inconsistency and hypocrisy, we’re setting them up for failure, and we’re asking for relational problems.
So . . .
A. Your discipline must be consistent with the child.
If your child is annoying their sibling, but you don’t say anything because it’s not bothering you, but then it finally gets loud enough that you want it to stop, so you send your kid to their room . . . you’re communicating that sin becomes punishable when it finally bothers mom.
If — in the past — the sin deserved losing one’s phone, but you don’t do it this time because you don’t want to deal with the fallout . . . you’re protecting yourself while simultaneously not doing what’s best for your child.
In addition . . .
B. Your discipline must be consistent with all the children.
I’m not saying that you have to give each kid the exact same consequences. That would completely go against our last point. But we do need to make sure that we communicate to our kids that the severity of sin doesn’t change depending on whose sinning. Sin is sin. And though different children may receive different consequences, the consequence they receive are designed to help that child recognize the very real severity of their sin and change accordingly.
This is often a hangup with children. They demand equity and fairness. We need to be very careful to consistently discipline our children so that they realize that God and His will are the most important things to us. It’s not about inconsistency or favoritism. It’s about change the pleases the Lord.
And . . .
C. Your discipline must be consistent among the parents.
Fathers and mothers should not be in competition. They need to support each other and be a unified parenting team. If mom decided that a child isn’t allowed to eat ice cream for a week, dad shouldn’t waive that consequence because he wanted to take the kid out for ice cream until mom’s edict ruined his plans.
By the way, if you think like that, you yourself don’t understand the nature and importance of consequences. Your ice cream date wasn’t ruined by your spouse, it was a Physical and Relational Consequence of your child’s sin. And hopefully it was the perfect consequence to help the child see the very real Primary Consequences God wants to use to help the child grow.
Now, let me finish with a point I made earlier.
When talking about why we may not always need to give Physical and Relational Consequences, I mentioned you may be using the situation as a calculated moment to show mercy and grace.
I brought that up because often times when I talk about consequences, someone will ask, “What about mercy and grace?”
Obviously, it’s very important. However, what I’ve found when counseling parents is that people who ask this question are generally talking about a capricious decision to not give a consequence based off personal reasons.
I’ve met lazy parents who claim that their discipline-less parenting is simply being merciful. I’ve met fearful parents who claim that grace was the motivation for not giving a consequence they knew would likely result in their child melting down the next four days. And I’ve met theologically weak parents who blame their refusal to ever give consequences on the fact that God is daily merciful with us.
But here’s the thing . . .
First, we should never give or not give consequences for selfish reasons. This includes fear, laziness, anger, manipulation, and the like.
Second, it is appropriate to show grace and mercy. Let’s be honest, all consequences for sin that don’t involve death in hell are better than we deserve. Can we be clearheaded and theological enough to recognize that? Therefore, all consequences are better than we deserve. And — though this is not an excuse for sin — God is still merciful and gracious when people sin against us by giving us heavy-handed consequences.
Listen, I’m not making excuses for punishing our kids, but I’m pointing out the truth that giving consequences is actually part of God’s mercy and grace in our kids’ lives. And that should be a glorious thing.
But even if we set that idea aside and only think of mercy and grace in the strictest sense as not giving Secondary Consequence, our choice to not give those consequences needs to be grounded on biblical truth and a correct understanding of our child and the situation.
Third, when we do show additional grace and mercy by not giving Secondary Consequences, we need to be careful to communicate to our children what we’re doing.
You see, too many parents who claim they’re being gracious by ignoring sin and not giving consequences (or simply lecturing the child without giving consequences) assumes the child recognizes and appreciates the grace they’re receiving.
But — generally speaking — since the parent never actually explained the purpose behind their actions, the child is left to interpret the lack of consequences however makes sense to them.
And the three most prevalent interpretations among children when they don’t receive consequences for sin is:
1. They got away with it.
2. Dad and mom don’t care. Or . . .
3. It wasn’t bad enough to warrant consequences.
I think parents know about a lot of their kids’ sin, but they don’t know how to act on it, they’ve been told they’re not allowed to act on it, or they’re afraid of acting on it, and though the parent may coddle herself on the idea that she chose not to act because she was being gracious, the child can only rightly assume that their sin was never discovered.
Now, let’s say that the child is relatively certain that mom and dad know. For example, dad and mom were in the room when the child pushed their sibling. It was impossible to miss. Well, if dad and mom don’t even say anything about it, I promise that the child is not thinking to themselves, “My parents are so wonderfully gracious to me. They are a living picture of God’s mercy in my life by not giving me what I deserve for my sin.”
But even when parents might verbally react — regardless of how Bible-centered their confrontation — if the idea of consequences is never discussed, the child can only ever legitimately come to the conclusion that what they did wasn’t “bad enough” to earn consequences.
Of course, every child knows deep inside that if they were to immediately turn around and push the same sibling for the same reason, the likelihood that they will receive a consequences is significantly higher. But why is that?
Honestly, we all know the answer. It has nothing to do with the fact that grace or mercy has run out. It has nothing to do with the fact that the second push was worse than the first. It often doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the second push is now compounded by direct disobedience because most children already know they shouldn’t be pushing their siblings.
Generally speaking, what’s communicated by the parents’ words, attitudes, and actions is that “What you just did really bothers me.” All the child can see is that consequences are a direct result of angering mom and dad.
So, no, unless you specifically talk about mercy and grace, your kids aren’t interpreting your lack of consequences that way.
And talking about it is as simple as, “Obviously, what you did was a sin. We’ve discussed that in grand detail, and you’ve received many consequences designed to teach you important truths about God. And I have to say that I’ve been really proud of your behavior in this area for the past few weeks. And we have been talking about the fact that the more time that goes by, the easier it may be to fall back into those old sin patterns. That doesn’t excuse what you did, but it makes sense, and it shows that you don’t need to feel discouraged like you’re a failure who will never mature past these sinful thoughts and behaviors. With all that said, I recognize the fact that God is merciful with us. He doesn’t automatically give us everything our sin deserves. He’s also gracious with us. He frequently blesses us in ways that we absolutely do not deserve. So, today, this time, in order to be an encouragement to you and to help you better understand the undeserved nature of God’s love and mercy, I will not be giving you any additional Secondary Consequences. The Primary Consequences are still there. You have hurt your relationship with God and others, and you’ve hurt yourself. And you’ll need to work through that like just like we’ve taught you before. But you’re not going to be grounded or anything like that this time. I love you, and I’m proud of you, and I’m here to help you glorify God with your life.
“Now, one last thing. Romans 6:1, Numbers 14:40-42, and many other passages of Scripture teach us that it’s very dangerous to presume on God’s mercy and grace. It would be excessively immature for you to come to any conclusion that your sin didn’t deserve a consequence, that you got away with anything, that you probably won’t get a consequence if you do this again, or anything that takes your eyes off the fact that you are — right now — a recipient of grace far beyond what you deserve.”
I don’t think your kids’ will easily misinterpret that situation.
So, yes, my friends, it is appropriate for the reasons we mentioned earlier to sometimes not give Secondary Physical or Relational Consequences for sin. But if we do that, we need to clearly root it in and point it back to God as we communicate with our kids in Targeted Reconciliation.
Thank you for sticking with us to the end. Honestly, I could have easily cut today’s episode into multiple parts, but it would have messed with our schedule moving forward.
As always, please share this series on your favorite social media outlets. Christian dads and moms really need to submit their parental discipline to God’s perfect plan.
And if you’re having a hard time practically applying these truths in your home, please contact us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call us at (828) 423-0894.
I hope you’ll join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to best worship God with our parenting.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the final chapter of this series. We’re going to lay out helpful ways of changing the consequence culture in your home. This is really important, and I have had the privilege of leading many families through this process, so I’m excited to serve you in the same way.
I’ll see you then.
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