“Those whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.”—HEBREWS 12:6.
1. How does the Bible often describe discipline?
WHAT do you think of when you hear the word “discipline”? Many people think of punishment, but discipline is much more than that. The Bible says that discipline is good for us and sometimes mentions it along with knowledge, wisdom, love, and life. (Proverbs 1:2-7; 4:11-13) That is because God’s discipline proves that he loves us and wants us to live forever. (Hebrews 12:6) Although God’s discipline sometimes includes punishment, it is never cruel or harmful. In fact, the most important meaning of the word “discipline” involves education, such as the education a parent gives a beloved child.
2, 3. How might discipline include teaching and punishment? (See opening picture.)
2 Think about this example. A little boy named Johnny was throwing a ball in the house. His mother said: “Johnny, you know you should not play with your ball in the house! You might break something.” But he ignored his mother and continued to play with the ball. The ball hit a vase, and the vase broke! What did Johnny’s mother do to discipline him? She taught him by explaining why what he did was wrong. She wanted him to realize that it is good for him to obey his parents and that their rules are necessary and reasonable. To help Johnny learn this lesson, she decided that it would also be appropriate to punish him by taking his ball away from him for a while. That was not pleasant for Johnny, but it helped him to remember that there would be consequences if he disobeyed his parents.
3 As Christians, we are part of God’s household. (1 Timothy 3:15) Our Father, Jehovah, has the right to decide what is right and what is wrong and to discipline us when we disobey him. Also, if our actions have unpleasant consequences, Jehovah’s loving discipline can help us to remember how important it is that we obey him. (Galatians 6:7) God loves us very much and does not want us to suffer.—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
4. (a) How does Jehovah want us to train others? (b) What will we discuss in this article?
4 When we give discipline based on the Bible, we can help a child or a Bible student to become a follower of Christ. We use the Bible to teach our students what is right and to help them understand and ‘observe all the things Jesus commanded us.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20; 2 Timothy 3:16) This is the way Jehovah wants them to be trained so that they too can help others follow Christ. (Read Titus 2:11-14.) Now let us discuss three important questions: (1) How does God’s discipline prove that he loves us? (2) What can we learn from the example of people who were disciplined by God? (3) How can we imitate the way Jehovah and his Son give discipline?
GOD DISCIPLINES WITH LOVE
5. How does discipline from Jehovah prove that he loves us?
5 Jehovah corrects, educates, and trains us because he loves us. He wants us to stay close to him and to live forever. (1 John 4:16) He never insults us or makes us feel worthless. (Proverbs 12:18) Instead, Jehovah focuses on our good qualities and allows us to have free will. Can you see how the discipline we receive through the Bible, our publications, our parents, or the elders proves Jehovah loves us? In fact, when elders try to correct us in a mild and loving way even before we realize that we have done something wrong, they are actually imitating Jehovah’s love for us.—Galatians 6:1.
6. How does discipline show God’s love even if it means that someone no longer qualifies for an assignment?
6 Sometimes discipline involves more than counsel. If someone has sinned seriously, he will no longer qualify for certain assignments in the congregation. Even when this happens, the discipline shows God’s love for him. For example, it may help him to see how important it is to spend more time studying the Bible, meditating, and praying. Doing these things can help his relationship with Jehovah become stronger. (Psalm 19:7) As time goes by, he may regain the responsibilities or assignments that he lost. Even when someone is disfellowshipped, that proves Jehovah’s love because it protects the congregation from bad influences. (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 11) And because God’s discipline is always fair, it helps the disfellowshipped person to understand how serious his sin is. This can cause him to repent.—Acts 3:19.
JEHOVAH’S DISCIPLINE BENEFITS US
7. Who was Shebna, and what bad quality did he develop?
7 To understand how important discipline is, we will now discuss two people whom Jehovah disciplined. One is Shebna, an Israelite who lived during the time of King Hezekiah, and the other is Graham, a brother in our time. Shebna was “in charge of the house,” apparently that of King Hezekiah, and had much authority. (Isaiah 22:15) But Shebna became proud and wanted to make others think that he was important. He even made an expensive tomb for himself and rode in “glorious chariots.”—Isaiah 22:16-18.
8. How did Jehovah discipline Shebna, and what was the result?
8 Because Shebna tried to get glory for himself, God gave his assignment to a man named Eliakim. (Isaiah 22:19-21) This happened when King Sennacherib of Assyria planned to attack Jerusalem. Later, Sennacherib sent a group of officials and a large army to frighten the Jews and make King Hezekiah surrender. (2 Kings 18:17-25) Hezekiah sent Eliakim and two other men to meet the officials. One of these men was Shebna, who was now a secretary. From this we can see that Shebna probably had learned to be humble and did not feel offended or sorry for himself. He was willing to accept a less important position. Here are three lessons we can learn from what happened to Shebna.
9-11. (a) What important lessons can we learn from Shebna? (b) How do you feel about how Jehovah treated Shebna?
9 First, the fact that Shebna lost his position reminds us that “pride is before a crash.” (Proverbs 16:18) We may have special assignments in the congregation, and others may think that we are important. If so, will we remain humble? Will we remember that any abilities we have and any good things we accomplish are only because of Jehovah? (1 Corinthians 4:7) The apostle Paul warned: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think, but to think so as to have a sound mind.”—Romans 12:3.
10 Second, the strong counsel that Jehovah gave Shebna may indicate that he believed that Shebna could change. (Proverbs 3:11, 12) This is a lesson for those who have lost a special assignment. Instead of becoming angry and offended, they can continue to give Jehovah their best. They can choose to view the discipline as evidence of Jehovah’s love. Remember that our Father will eventually reward those who remain humble. (Read 1 Peter 5:6, 7.) Jehovah’s loving discipline can mold us if we are humble and are like soft clay.
11 Third, we learn a valuable lesson from the way Jehovah treated Shebna. Although the way that Jehovah disciplines shows that he hates sin, it also shows that he loves the person who sinned. Jehovah looks for the good in people. If you are a parent or an elder, will you imitate the way Jehovah gives discipline?—Jude 22, 23.
12-14. (a) How do some react to discipline from Jehovah? (b) How did God’s Word help one brother to change his attitude, and what was the result?
12 Sadly, some people feel so hurt when they are disciplined that they draw away from God and the congregation. (Hebrews 3:12, 13) Does that mean that no one can help them? No! Take the example of Graham, who was disfellowshipped and was later reinstated. After that, however, he stopped preaching and going to meetings. An elder made the effort to become Graham’s friend, and eventually Graham asked the elder to study the Bible with him.
13 The elder recalled: “Graham had a problem with pride. He was critical of the elders who had been involved in his disfellowshipping. So for the next few studies, we discussed scriptures on pride and its effects. Graham began to see himself clearly in the mirror of God’s Word, and he did not like what he saw! The effect was amazing! After acknowledging that he had been blinded by a ‘rafter’ of pride and that his critical attitude was his problem, he began to change quickly for the better. He started to attend Christian meetings regularly, to study God’s Word earnestly, and to make daily prayer a habit. He also accepted his spiritual responsibilities as family head, much to the delight of his wife and children.”—Luke 6:41, 42; James 1:23-25.
14 The elder added: “One day, Graham told me something that touched my heart. ‘I’ve known the truth for years,’ he said, ‘and I’ve even served as a pioneer. But only now can I honestly say that I love Jehovah.’” Soon, Graham was assigned to help with the microphones at the meetings, and he was happy to have that assignment. The elder said: “His example taught me that when a person humbles himself before God by accepting discipline, blessings just pour out!”
IMITATE GOD AND CHRIST WHEN YOU GIVE DISCIPLINE
15. What must we do so that our discipline will be effective?
When others see that you are humble, it will be easier for them to accept counsel from you
15 If we want to become good teachers, we must first be good students. (1 Timothy 4:15, 16) Likewise, if you are someone Jehovah uses to discipline others, you must remain humble and let Jehovah guide you in life. When others see that you are humble, they will respect you and it will be easier for them to accept advice or counsel from you. We can learn from Jesus’ example.
16. What can we learn from Jesus about effective discipline and teaching?
16 Jesus always obeyed his Father, even when doing so was very difficult. (Matthew 26:39) He reminded his listeners that his teachings and wisdom came from his Father. (John 5:19, 30) Jesus was humble and obedient, and this helped him to be a compassionate teacher. Sincere people enjoyed being around him. (Read Luke 4:22.) Jesus’ kind words encouraged those who were discouraged and who felt weak. (Matthew 12:20) He corrected his apostles in a kind and loving way even when he could have become irritated with them for arguing about which one of them was the greatest.—Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27.
17. What qualities will help elders take good care of the congregation?
17 Any time elders give discipline based on Bible principles, they need to imitate Christ. In this way they will prove that they want to be guided by God and his Son. The apostle Peter wrote: “Shepherd the flock of God under your care, serving as overseers, not under compulsion, but willingly before God; not for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; not lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-4) Elders who joyfully submit to God and to Christ will benefit, and so will those they care for.—Isaiah 32:1, 2, 17, 18.
18. (a) What does Jehovah expect parents to do? (b) How does God help parents?
18 What about discipline and training in the family? Jehovah tells family heads: “Do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Are training and discipline really necessary? We read at Proverbs 19:18: “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not become responsible for his death.” Jehovah gives parents the responsibility to discipline their children. If they do not, they must answer to him! (1 Samuel 3:12-14) But Jehovah gives parents the wisdom and strength they need when they ask for his help in prayer and rely on his Word and holy spirit to guide them.—Read James 1:5.
LEARNING HOW TO LIVE FOREVER IN PEACE
19, 20. (a) What blessings come when we accept God’s discipline? (b) What will we discuss in the next article?
19 If we accept discipline from God and imitate the way Jehovah and Jesus give discipline, we will have many, many blessings! Our families and congregations will be peaceful, and everyone will feel loved, valued, and safe. This is just a small sample of the peace and happiness we will have in the future. (Psalm 72:7) Jehovah’s discipline is preparing us to live together forever as a peaceful and united family, with Jehovah as our Father. (Read Isaiah 11:9.) If we remember this, we will see what discipline really is: a beautiful way that God shows us his love.
20 In the next article, we will learn more about discipline in the family and the congregation. We will discuss how we can discipline ourselves. And we will learn how to avoid something more painful than any discipline we could ever receive.