Chastening—along with related terms such as chastisement, correction, and discipline—is often considered negative and equated with punishment, spanking, being yelled at, having privileges removed, or suffering other penalties. But can chastening actually good for us?
To chasten means to make someone understand that they have fallen short of meeting an acceptable standard. The purpose of chastening is to encourage us to change and improve—if we have the humility to acknowledge our shortcomings and endeavor to make the improvement. If we reject correction for our failures, we continue in our errors, inevitably consigning ourselves to the consequences they bring.
Correction is instruction about needed changes to bring us back from error for the purpose of improvement or rehabilitation. Chastisement is reprimand for wrongdoing. Discipline is training through instruction, practice, and reinforcement regarding obedience to the rules of acceptable behavior.
So, why do we loath being chastened or corrected? Because our human nature does not like to admit that we are wrong. It hurts our ego. It makes us feel inadequate, rejected—as though we are a failure.
But there is a very positive side to correction that it is important to understand, especially for those who want to follow Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:5–11 instructs us about being chastened. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” This is a quote from Proverbs 3:11–12. Hebrews explains that the Lord deals with us like a father chastens his sons. God does it for our profit, so that we may be “partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). What a lofty and worthy end result—far greater than merely learning to put our toys away, doing assigned chores, or remembering to say please and thank you.
It is also acknowledged that “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v. 11). Chastening can sometimes be very painful. Some use the analogy of taking correction like taking your medicine; some medicines taste awful but help us recover from sickness. Being chastened or receiving correction is unpleasant, but if humbly accepted and acted upon, it yields benefits that are genuinely valuable.
Ephesians 6 tells children to “obey your parents in the Lord” based on the commandment that says, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Parents are told to “not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1–4). The Greek word paideia, translated as “training,” means “tutorage, i.e. education or training; by implication, disciplinary correction—chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture” (“3809. paideia,” BibleHub.com). I like the word “nurture,” which is how paideia is translated in the King James Version. Nurturing is caring for and encouraging someone's growth and development. That is what God does with us. And the Greek word nouthesia, translated as “admonition,” means “calling attention to, i.e. (by implication) mild rebuke or warning” (“3559. nouthesia”). Yes, we need both.
James 1:22–25 uses the analogy of looking into a mirror. The mirror is very frank. If we have a smudge on our face, messy hair, or a crooked tie, it says so. It shows us the truth about ourselves. We can either do something about the flaws in our reflection, or we can ignore it, go our way, and suffer the consequence of embarrassment. Ignoring God’s correction brings far more perilous spiritual consequences.
There is great value in being chastened. “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole” (Job 5:17–18).
It is especially important to teach children the value of correction and discipline early in life, when there are many opportunities for them to learn in small ways where the consequences of bad behavior—and the punishments for it—are less severe. Check out "The Value of 'No'" in this recent issue of Tomorrow's World. You won't be disappointed.