“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4
According to the Bible, fathers are not to “provoke their children to wrath.” “Provoke” means “to exasperate,” “to anger,” or “to rouse to wrath.”
A parallel passage to this one in Ephesians (above) is found in Colossians 3:21. There we read the Apostle Paul’s instruction to saints and faithful brethren who were in Colosse – “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” The opposite of
“provoke” is “encourage.” So anything that parents do to discourage their children is provoking them. This provocation can take a number of forms:
1 – Unreasonableness. Some parents ask things beyond the child’s capability, or load
the child with so many demands that frustration is inevitable. Parents must always take into account their children’s inexperience and immaturity as they nurture and grow them.
2 – Neglect. The Bible records the sad results of parents neglecting their children, either by being bad examples for them or failing to discipline them properly. David pampered Absalom and set him a bad example, and the results were tragic. Eli failed to discipline his sons and they brought disgrace to his name and defeat to the nation of Israel. In his latter years, even Isaac pampered Esau, while his wife showed favoritism to Jacob; and the result was a divided home. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph when God providentially rescued the boy and made a man out of him in Egypt.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones observes, “If parents but gave as much thought to the rearing of their
children as they do to the rearing of animals and flowers, the (world) would be very different.”
3 – Overprotection. “Children should be warned against great dangers. On the other
hand, a modicum of risk-taking is necessary for their physical, moral, and spiritual development. If the little bird remains in the nest it will never learn to fly!”
4 – Bitter words and physical cruelty. Here is a father who loves to throw his weight
around and to make use of his superior strength. Scolding his children and inflicting severe
physical punishment has become a habit with him. Court records are more and more filled with cases of unbelievable cruelty to boys and girls, including babies.
Paul also speaks here in Ephesians 6:4 to fathers about training. The last half of verse 4
reads, “But bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” “Training” means
disciplining our children. Training is what we do when we lay down boundaries for our children, and then enforce them! Not abusively, but lovingly with firmness, resolve, and compassion.
- Proverb 19:18 – “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.”
- Proverb 15:32 – “He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.”
We cannot forget that the parent who will not discipline his/her child actually hates the
child. Proverbs 13:24 teaches us, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Parents, when they are disciplining their children, often say, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Mine said that, and I often thought, “Yes, but not in the same place where it hurts me!”
There are times when parents find it difficult to discipline their children because they don’t
want to alienate the children and they don’t want to put up with the tears that may follow from disciplinary action. But when they just allow children to do whatever they want, without any discipline and without any instruction, they’re loving themselves rather than their children.
Another truth in this verse is “Admonition.” This means parents are to give their children
instruction (verbal education). As such, parents are to teach their children. But a good
question at this point is this – What are Christian parents to teach their children? That’s easy to identify – we are to teach them to “fear God and keep His commandments.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
In Deuteronomy chapter 6, we see Moses giving instructions to Israel, having already taugh
them the Ten Commandments in chapter 5. With verses 4-7, he shares some unmistakable
direction for believing parents when we read, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is
one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall team them diligently to your children. . .”
Christian parents have the primary responsibility and duty to train up their children to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Master and Lord, and the church to which they belong comes along side of them and assists them in this most important task. Fortunately, when God saves us to Himself, He also saves us to His family – the Church. When we adopt the Church as our own, great things will happen. This should remind us that parenting isn’t merely babysitting – it is demanding, 24 hour a day ministry that requires a high amount of energy, compassion, and resolve.
I thought of the importance of the church for our children recently when I witnessed a
promotion (graduation) ceremony. At least two of the youth had fathers holding membership in a church they are not presently attending, and those fathers are not taking their children to worship and Sunday School, either. And we wonder why our kids are in trouble…the apple doesn’t often fall far from the tree! Sink your roots deep into God’s Word, Dads! Support and participate in the Church – make sure your children do, too. The church is your children’s best chance to succeed in this fallen world. See you Sunday? Your kids are counting on you!