Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
The role of a father with his children an serves an integral part of their development and well-being throughout their lives as they grow and mature. For those of us who have become fathers, the Scriptures afford us with points of wisdom to guide us in this role. And I believe, fathers, we need to spend time in the Word of God to see what our Heavenly Father has to say about the role He ordained for men to fulfill in His creation. Sure, we have our own fathers as examples … and the fathers of other people as examples. And as hard as they might endeavor to be the “best” father, we realize that each one will miss the mark at times because we are fallen creatures. Still, that is the most tangible resource men becoming fathers will have to work with as we hone and prepare our hearts for this service to God … often learning what “not to do” as well as “what to do” from the role models we had in our lives. So, again, when all else fails (I hear my wife now), men need to read the directions that our perfect Father has provided to guide us on this journey into fatherhood. I believe the more we attempt to implement what God has revealed to us, the better fathers we will ultimately be in service to His Kingdom and for the children He has called to salvation through our roles as earthly fathers…. With this preface in mind, we will look at our Verse of the Day and put it into the relational contexts in which Paul shares this admonition:
Ephesians 6:1-4 (NRSV)
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: 3 “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Notice how Paul begins the discourse with a covenant context – the fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” I will mention that this is the first commandment that is not focused in reference to our relationship with God; rather, it initiates the remaining six commandments which deal with our relationships with other people. Is it not awesome that the first commandment for human relationships is connected to the first relationships we have after birth … with our fathers and mothers? In other words, I believe the context and order of the commandments indicates the importance of this human relationship above all others … the one we are born into as we enter the world.
So, to me, Paul’s commentary points out a concern that greatly impacts the ability and willingness of us to observe this particular commandment; namely, the leadership role of fathers in the development of a covenant relationship with their children. We are to bring our children up (raise them) in the discipline (teaching) and instruction of the Lord. This is an imperative upon us to do so, along with our wives, as the spiritual leaders of our homes! If we are not actively, intentionally pouring the Word of God into our children’s hearts, then we are not fulfilling a key function of our roles as fathers. I might even refer to this as the “office” of fathers. For it is clear from the Scripture that we have been given the “authority” and “responsibility” to fulfill what God has commanded us to do as fathers. How do you think children will honor their fathers and mothers if they do not take the lead in creating the bonds that foster honor and instill the concept of obedience?
Another observation of this verse, it that the text implies that our children will be “provoked to anger.” Some translations render the phrase “do not exacerbate or frustrate” your children. So what does this mean? Well, to me, it means that children desire and need “boundaries” for their lives. There is something innate within each of us that “knows” good and evil … right and wrong … pleasing and displeasing. Is it not very frustrating and exacerbating to have a relationship with someone but to not know the expectations for that relationship? For example, employers hire (enter relationship with) people to accomplish a greater good that can only be achieved through the pooling of talents and teamwork. Yet, how difficult is it to be an effective employee if you are not told what to do or given a clear assignment within the team? Yes, it is responsibility of fathers to teach and train their children the “parameters” for functioning not only within the family but within the human community as well. So God instructs us as fathers to be actively, spiritually engaged with our children because the failure to do so will leave them exacerbated, frustrated, in confusion, and eventually abandoning the guidance of moral conduct God has given us in His commandments. Indeed, if fathers do not commit to take the lead role in the assimilation of their children into the family of God, they will become quite frustrated and angry over time.
This leads me to an often-quoted verse – because its truth is timeless and proven:
Proverbs 22:5:6 (Self-Amplified)
Train up a child … yes train up all of your children … in the way they should go … the right way … in the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Cf. John 14:6); because even when they become old, they will not depart from their training … they will not stray beyond reach from the instruction you instill in them while children. It will continue to resonate within their hearts. It will continue bring conviction to their inner beings. They will be restless when they do not live according to the Truth. They will come to see the Light of God and His wisdom. Yes, do not neglect to teach your children … be diligent to disciple them and to instruct them in the Word of God. For God has declared that His Word that goes forth shall not return to Him void; rather, it shall accomplish what He desires … what pleases Him. It shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it. (Cf. Isaiah 55:11)
To you who are fathers (and to men who will become fathers), your role and mine … a distinct assignment given to us by Father God … is to be spiritual priests over our homes! Yes, we are to be providers. Yes, we are to be protectors. And, yes, we are to be priests over our children. We are given this charge to bring them up in the training, admonition, and instruction of the Lord as revealed through His Word. To neglect this role, to be disobedient to this charge, will leave your children frustrated and exacerbated with trying to understand who they are … not only in relation to you but with their Heavenly Father as well. So I urge you to take these Scriptures to heart … to put them into practice. As Jesus taught, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the Rock. (Cf. Matthew 7:24) So, I pray we will all be wise men … and do what the Lord has commissioned us to do in our roles as fathers….