Over the last few months we have been looking into Ephesians and how Paul exhorts all of us to ‘subject’ ourselves to each other as to the Lord is we are truly believers. He Also moves from the body of Christ to the marriage relationship and there are many things there I would love to focus on.
I want to look at the role of a child in the home. As parents of four children, Robyn and I find that being ‘good’ and effective parents is the most trying job we have. Looking at Paul’s teaching in Ephesians has opened my eyes to several things that all parents, grandparents, and friends of those with children need to consider.
Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV)
- Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
- “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),
- “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Often times we take for granted the instruction here. First, Paul is talking directly to children. This is obvious as he states, ‘children’ – then tells them what he wants them to know. This in itself may not seem that important but it gives an idea of the environment of the early church. Children were a part of the doctrinal and biblical teaching. Paul didn’t say, “Parents, tell your children afterward to Obey You…” He told the children directly. Why is it then do we usher children to leave the adults to ‘our’ business? Often in our culture, we want children to be silent and invisible until they act like children then we require of them the attitude of adults. Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually wants children or if we would be better being born adults. Anyway, to this point I come: Children should be honored and allowed to be a part of ‘adult’ life in all things especially in the teaching of Scripture. Some of the greatest memories are the ‘corrections’ and input from my children during our in-home bible studies.
The instruction given to the children is to ‘obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ This doesn’t say, “Obey your parents boy or else” nor does it say that obedience is ‘required’. It is teaching that allows the child the ‘choice’ of obedience, just as Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey me.” In this sense, Paul is saying that “loving Jesus is shown when you obey your parents.”
I think as a parent, often I desire of my children a strict robotic obedience. This is a huge mistake for several reasons. First, it denies the child any real personality or thought. When this takes place we teach our children that their feelings, although immature, are not important. Second, it makes obedience a requirement rather than a gift. Jesus willfully submitted to God’s will because His love and desire to Glorify the Father allowed His gift of submission. Jesus even says that giving at all is a gift and that we should do it only as we are compelled by the Holy Spirit, not feeling pressured or obligated. Finally, it teaches children that obedience is required in order to receive acceptance or love. If we ‘force’ our children to obey – not saying that sometimes we shouldn’t in things of urgency – we, in turn, are causing them to harbor resentment and it could turn them from the truth of the Gospel.
Paul continues by quoting one of the ten commandments to ‘remind’ the children that by obeying their parents, they are in fact, obeying God and that just as God knows what is best for us, parents, as stewards, know best for them. The ‘promise’ of a long life stems from the protection of the world, poor choices and hurtful situations that parental guidance offers. A child who obeys has a better chance of avoiding those things that can cause death, sickness or harm.
The next ‘person’ receiving instruction here is the fathers. Paul could be talking to the ‘parents’ collectively and I believe that it applies, but in the Greek, Paul is dealing specifically with fathers. Several reasons I believe. Fathers are usually the main disciplinarian in the home. They also have a tendency to ‘set’ the temperature of the home in regards to attitude. Fathers also are esteemed by children and spouses as a provider and someone who ‘does’ have the best interest of the family at heart. Unfortunately, fathers have failed to live up to their role and are non-deserving of their honor. However, a child who obeys is honoring the Lord.
To the fathers, Paul warns NOT to provoke your children to anger. What does this mean? Some would say that if your child gets mad when you discipline or correct them then you are guilty of this. No, it’s purposefully or indirectly causing a child to have a reason for bitterness and rage. Here a just a few things we discussed during our studies on how parents can cause their children to be enraged:
- Overprotection – if we don’t allow our children to experience anything in life, we will smother them and in turn, this will cause great resentment and an inability to cope with reality.
- Favoritism – having a child that is ‘better’ in one’s eyes than another or showing special favors for one child over another. This is a horrible parenting flaw.
- Neglect – not providing for them in all ways or ignoring them all together. Often fathers neglect their children’s emotional and spiritual well-being.
- Discouragement – never allowing the child to dream or quenching their spirit through constant negativity or down-playing their ambitions.
- Little Adults – we should let children be children and not expect them to be adults. Honestly, do we really have it all together anyway? We can learn a lot from a child – let them be.
- Abuse – this is verbal and physical. There is a time to say the right thing that may be harsh to accept and there may be a time to administer physical discipline but at not time should these be done in anger or with harmful results. Your children should not ‘fear’ your correction because of harm or pain but fear your disappointment.
Finally, Paul says to raise your children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. There is MUCH that needs to be said here, but to keep it simple, this instruction is BEING like Christ so that they will see Him in us as parents and also teaching the Word of God at all times. Not nagging, but honestly teaching.
Paul tells Timothy in his second letter to never forget all the teaching of the scripture he had as a child and to remember what he, Paul, had taught him through example.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
If we take seriously God’s Word in our lives, we WILL teach it to our children. They don’t need games or entertainment in order to learn or want to learn the scriptures, they just need loving and Christ-centered adults who are willing to teach them. (Nothing wrong with fun and games, but it is not required.)
So let’s learn from this and share it with someone else in regards to training our children in righteousness. They are precious to Christ, they should be precious to us.