Fathers Raise Your Children

Ephesians 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonishing of the Lord.

Nearly two thousand years ago Paul spoke of the need for godly fathers who would step up and fulfill their duties to their children. Genuine fathers that follow Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 6:4 are becoming an endangered species. Parenting is hard work. It is easier to raise turn-ups, squash, lettuce, etc. than children. But if we as parents today would turn-up for worship, squash our self-centeredness, and let us lovingly discipline we will be able to raise a bumper crop of god-fearing children.

The context involves the submission of everyone to one another in their various roles: “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). Wives and husbands submit to each other and Christ in their mutually compatible roles. Children are to obey and honor their parents. Fathers must submit to their role of parenting.

Recipients of this Command: “fathers”

Is this command given to fathers specifically or parents in general? The same term is used for both of Moses’ parents in Hebrews 11:23. In Jewish families, the fathers were responsible for the education of the children. Special emphasis upon the father’s rule of spiritual leadership as the head of the family unit. Although this passage mentions it is the father who takes the lead, the command applies to both parents in general.

After the Supreme Court ruled against school prayer a cartoon came out in the Washington Post: “What do they expect us to do – listen to the kids pray at home?” When it comes to school, parents have become lazy and expect the teachers to raise their children. Furthermore, God did not tell the church to train up or parent the children of the members. Fathers, stop passing the buck to teachers, elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, members, etc. Bible classes are to aid parents in teaching them about the Lord and His Word. The primary duty is on the shoulders of the fathers. Bible Classes are an expediency. However, too many parents in this world have left the training of their children to TV, movies, internet, and the child’s peer group.

Restriction: “do not provoke your children to wrath”

Parenting comes with a restriction or warning for fathers not to “provoke.” This term means to “goad your children to resentment” (NEB). Parents can easily misuse their authority and discipline to manipulate, exploit and crush the very spirit of their children. Provoking is the opposite of encouraging the children.

This provoking by some fathers pushes the child to the point of having an attitude of “wrath.” It means to exasperate or to enrage. This will happen time-to-time in the child parent relationship. However, the tense of the verb implies the father is continually goading their child to the point of enraging them. The noun form is used of “anger” in Ephesians 4:26. This is not to say that a father must permit a child to do wrong for fear of arousing its anger.

Just how can a parent provoke a child to wrath? By pampering and indulging their child they can over-indulge them. This may cause a sense of entitlement. Other fathers neglect their child with making little personal sacrifice of their limited time. Other fathers leave their family causing abandonment issues and making the child feel unwanted. Fathers need to care more about their off-spring than their golf swing. Foster homes are filled today with children due to divorce or simple disinterest of parents. Children are a blessings not a burden “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps. 127:3). King David’s great sins and neglect at being a father drove Absalom to rebellion, treason, and attempted patricide (2 Sam. 14,15).

In a list titled Ten Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter, rule number one was, “if you pull into my driveway and honk, you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re sure not picking anything up.” Some father’s are so over-protective and domineering they provoke their children to wrath. Excessive involvement results in helicopter parents who hover over their children and a smother instead of mother.

On the other hand some parents are overly cruel in their discipline. The verbal abuse by sarcasm and constant ridicule damage the child emotionally. Some punishments are so cruel and harsh they result in physical abuse. Others are just overly strict to the point they can never let the child learn via their mistakes. One son complained, “my father would use a nuclear warhead to kill a mosquito.”

The opposite situation of failing to discipline a child can be equally damaging. Parents who care enough to correct a child are seen by the child as caring. Often discipline only amounts to empty threats like the promise of a spanking if they “do that one more time.” Inconsistent discipline tells the child they can either be blamed for everything or get away with murder.

Some parents are perfectionists with overly high expectations and others have very low expectations for their child. They may try to live their life vicariously through their children pushing them in areas of athletics, academics or social achievements. One young lady was pushed to be head cheerleader, homecoming queen, and later a model. After a complete mental collapse she took her life and later at the hospital a note was found on her lifeless body, “I don’t care what it is I do, it never satisfies my mother.”

Martin Luther once wrote, “spare the rod and spoil the child – that is true. But beside the rod keep an apple to give him when he has done well.” Parents are too heavy on the rebuking and too light on the encouraging. Instead of fault-finding they need to try to catch their children doing right and compliment them. Parents become the enemy by acting like one who never offers up words of encouragement.

The Bible is filled with poor parenting which resulted from favoritism or showing partiality among their children. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob and Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph. For parents to compare their children with each other, especially in the children’s presence, can be devastating to the child who is less talented or favored. Remember, children might not be equally talented. Some are mechanically oriented while others are book-oriented from the start.

Responsibilities to Children

Next, Paul introduces two responsibilities for fathers with the word “instead”. It shows a contrast between the duties of nurturing, training, and admonishing with the aforementioned restriction of provoking. The term “nurture” which is translated “bring them up” has to do with the idea of feeding someone something nourishing. The term is used in Greek of midwives who rub the gums of infants to simulate them to nurse. In means to “rear them tenderly” (Hendricksen 262).

Thayer defines “nurture” to mean “the whole training and education of children which [involves]…the cultivation of mind and morals…commands and admonitions…reproof and punishment…correcting mistakes and curbing the passions… the increase of virtue.” Compare this to Jesus who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

The second responsibility of a father is to provide the child with training. This comes form the Greek term paideia. It is used in Hebrews 12:5-11 of discipline or chastening. This is the corrective teaching via forms of punishment that a father must use to correct the child’s bad behavior.

Although spanking is not the politically correct method of parenting today. God’s wisdom has promoted it for thousands of years. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24), “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction” (Prov. 19:18). “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him (Prov. 22:15).

The final duty of dads to their children is to provide instruction by admonishing them. The Greek term nouthesia means to “place before the mind.” It implies a verbal warning of a compliment encouraging good behavior. A son or daughter will do well to heed the admonitions of their fathers. “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent” (Proverbs 15:5 ESV).

Parents, ask yourselves: What do you put before their minds? What pictures do you have on the walls? What books do you have on the bookshelf? What magazines do you subscribe to? What television programs do you watch? What music do you listen to? Do you admonish them of the dangers in these?

Realm: “in the Lord”

The origin of authority in the role of parenting is in relationship to the Lord. It is spiritual, not television, football, scouts, hunting, science, etc. Neither is the parent
to rear the child after his own ideas and notions. Our goal is not merely to get our kids to outwardly conform to a list of rules. It is the indoctrination of the child. Where the parents put the Lord’s doctrine in the heart and mind of their children. The end result would be like that expressed by the apostle John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).

A father’s most important reason for living is to transfer the baton – the gospel into the a hands of his children. As point man or forerunner or coach of his team, dads must pass on their faith to the extent that it becomes the faith of their child. This is not by force but resulting in the free will acceptance of the teaching and discipline of the Lord Jesus Himself.

– Daniel R. Vess

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