Proverbs 22:8 NKJV He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, and the rod of his anger will fail.
Have you ever been in a place where you feel like the discipline you provide for your kids is ineffective, or worse, causes greater rebellion? Or that no matter how many times you express the same concern, your spouse never demonstrates that they actually understand you? You may be sowing iniquity!
I got to experience this fist hand with my youngest child and my wife. The kid would not chew with his mouth closed! No matter what discipline I used, it would not take. It got to the point where I resented him most of the time and forced interaction with him for the rest. My son could do no right. I would watch him meticulously at dinner as he chewed like a cave dwelling barbarian, my wife oblivious to the opening and closing cavern that was his mouth. The smack, crunch, spittle spray that was his nightly routine. There she was across the table, not even wearing a poncho!
“Can’t she feel spray from there? Surely the biscuits are soggy with it! Why won’t she do anything?” I would wonder to myself. “She obviously doesn’t respect me at all or she would exert some effort to correct this!
Then the anger would burst in.
“What I did last night didn’t work, I’ll have to escalate until I find something that does!” I raged within myself. Or was that even me? Was I mistaking a demonic emotional “push” for my own thought? I believe I was! Not that I was guiltless, but I didn’t need the help!
Here are two incredibly important relationships that I was actively tearing down. But how did I get here? I had made judgements against my son and my wife. (I would not have admitted this at the time.) I viewed everything they did through the lens “he’s against me” and “she’s against me”. As I interpreted everything they did through these lenses, I created adversaries within them for real. They had to defend themselves from me, because I was obviously their enemy. Their fear response fed my confirmation bias. Not only was I right, but they knew they were GUILTY! I got exasperated to the point where I gave my wife an ultimatum; “you discipline him, or I’m done disciplining him COMPLETELY!”
I’m ashamed to admit it, but this went on for a long time. There were two other kids at the table witnessing this, night after night. Our sin always has collateral damage. Do you see the internal dialogue that pits them against me? This is your evidence, right here. It was all about me. Satan (the thief) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Here I was, obeying him and destroying these relationships. Meanwhile I was getting devoured by him. The whole time I was playing the victim while inflicting the damage.
Proverbs 22:8 Shows me that the reason my discipline failed is that my motivation was wrong. I was in effect “sowing iniquity”. A bad tree can’t produce good fruit. Not only that, it’s guaranteed to produce bad fruit, “reaping sorrow”. When we are walking in rebellion against God in an area of our life, we tend to use domination, manipulation, or intimidation to get what we want in that area. The “rod” is supposed to be for the benefit of the person on the receiving end, that they may know the Lord, and to limit the collateral damage by stopping the sin at that person. The “rod of my anger” had “failed” to produce Godly obedience in my son, or consistency in my wife.
The reality was I was harboring unforgiveness, which turned into resentment, and set roots in bitterness. I was “delivered to the torturers” as Jesus said I would be!
[Mat 18:32 NKJV] "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
[Mat 18:33 NKJV] 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?'
[Mat 18:34 NKJV] "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
[Mat 18:35 NKJV] "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
The word “torturers” here literally means “the rack”. You know, the table that stretches you slowly until all your joints pop out and the tendons tear. God is willing to deliver us over to a spiritual version of "the rack" for the sake of purging us from unforgiveness. It’s a slow, steady, tearing pressure that builds and does not relent.
So what about you? Are you feeling a little stretched lately? Are you harboring unforgiveness in a way that everyone close to you can see and feel? Are you causing fear in someone else that confirms that you’re right about their guilt? Do you have internal arguments with people that elevate your stance or position, even though you don’t have them with a real person?
If the answer to any of these is “yes”, great! Now is the perfect time to start dealing with it. Ask God to show you specifically what judgement you made against that person and when. When you know it you need to “confess” it to God as sin. This means that you tell God out loud that your specific judgement against them is evil. You turn toward God, and simultaneously away from sin.
Next, ask God how to deal with the other person. In general, you’re going to end up apologizing to the other person for being a tool of Satan by choice, but God may give you some specific words to use, or method of delivery. Either way, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. You will know if the apology is sincere, and so will God. Remember the torturers? Make it a good one!
The person will either forgive you or not. This isn’t up to you. You can’t make them, guilt them, convince them. They get to choose. Some evil form of control got you here, and now you must surrender the control.
Depending on the person’s response, Satan (or one of his minions) may take swipe at you. This looks like; feeling guilty in any way that keeps you from God, feeling ashamed about what you’ve done and wanting to hide it from others, or trying to reassert the judgement into your heart against the person. Stand fast, trusting that God has forgiven you. Ask family or friends to pray for you.
Your kids want to be able to trust you. Your spouse does too. But understand that it may take some time to reestablish that trust. Pray for them. If Satan can’t use you as a tool against them, he’s going to seek another way.
Finally, be on guard. If you see something that needs to be dealt with pop up, do it right away. I’ve had to apologize to my wife and kids over many other things since this. I call it “eating crow”, and I’m developing an appetite for it. You can too!
PS. After God dealt with me, I apologized to my wife and son. My wife became consistent in her expectation of him and my son started chewing with his mouth closed. (Mostly 😊)