What took me so long to get to studying this verse was that it appeared to be a cornerstone of the punitive discipline arguments and yet something about the verse had never set right with me. As I dug into it I figured out what that was. The explanation I had always been given for the meaning of the Proverbs 22:15 verse was, basically, this, “Children’s hearts are full of foolishness and they must be spanked to stop their misbehavior.” Perhaps you have also heard that teaching.
But that is not what this verse says, and definitely not what it teaches. Look at the words, “Foolishness is bound.” It is foolishness that is bound, not foolishness that is binding! Foolishness, or the propensity to do what we know not to do-or our human propensity to sin-or our sin nature!, is bound up and given no power in the heart of a child. Remember, the word na’ar, translated “child” applied to everyone from youth to young adult. And the “rod of correction” is the “shebet” used to “correct”-the parent’s authority to teach and correct and reason together-which has the power to drive foolishness far from a child.
Far from being an indictment against children and a command to spank, this is a verse of promise and hope. It means, if you take advantage of the time that your child is young and not yet accountable for their own actions, and during that time you properly exercise your authority to teach, correct, and disciple your child, you will be able to drive foolishness far from your child. You don’t have to raise a fool! It means, you have the ability to raise a child to be an adult who KNOWS better and CHOOSES TO DO better.
I believe it’s not an individual thing and it’s not about *us*–rather, I believe it’s an age at which the Lord chooses to hold one accountable for having made a commitment to Him by then or not. I don’t believe it has to do with “getting saved” but with actually being held accountable for your sins or not. If you are not saved by that time then your sins are applied to you. It is after this time that I believe there is a place for some aspects of decision theology. If you have embraced the Lord and salvation has been applied to you before this time then you are fine and accountable for nothing. I think that the age of accountability gets confused when linked to salvation as a “moment of salvation” and I don’t think that is right. God gives us enough time to do this awesome task of parenting. Thanks be to God who fashioned us in our mother’s womb, and knows us, and loves us and has realistic expectations of us. Even in the amount of time we have to properly raise our children there is much grace.