A Word To Children And Parents
Scripture: Ephesians 6:1–4
A Word To Children And ParentsEphesians 6:1-4
Sunday, June 18, 2017 • Father's Day
Pastor Randy Smith
It's evident when a society turns its back on God. Many necessary traits of a civilized and orderly democracy go out the window.
One of them is the loss of the concept of honor and respect. How does that come about? Take the belief that you evolved which makes life without honor, add it the self-esteem movement that teaches you only to honor yourself, add to that no moral absolutes whereby your end goal will justify your dishonorable means and then throw away divine accountability to honor because you believe you are the final say defining right and wrong.
We learned in Ephesians 1:10 that God's primary goal is to exalt Christ as the supreme authority so that He might receive all honor. In doing so He has appointed spheres of authority under Christ. We might not always agree with them and at times they could be wrong, but in honor for Christ we are commanded to honor those in God's chain of command.
That's why before we got to this section in Ephesians we were immediately called "to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (5:21) and to rightly accomplish that it goes without saying we must "be filled with the [Holy] Spirit" (5:18).
For the past five weeks we studied 5:22-33 that spoke of this principle of subjection and honor in marriage. Next week I'd like to cover this principle in the workforce (employers and employees). It's not in Ephesians, but we could talk about this principle regarding governing officials (something that has been completely ignored these days!). Yet today I would like to talk about the family, specifically the relationship between parents and children. That's our main point for this morning.
I gave you five weeks on marriage. You only get one week on parenting - so moms, dads (on this Father's Day!) and children, please pay close attention!
1. A Word To The Children
First, a word to the children. If you look at verse 1, Paul specifically addresses the children. This doesn't necessarily mean little ones. The word speaks of all children still living under their parent's roof.
Children, the command is simple - obey! Wives were called to submit in 5:22 and 24. The Greek word is "hupotasso," which mean to "willing place yourself under." Yet here in 6:1 children are called to "obey," a much different word, "upakouo" which means to do as you are told. It is a command from God and based on the teaching in the Bible, the most prominent command given directly to children.
In other words, if you are a child and you claim to love Jesus, it will be seen in your desire and ability to obey your parents. For in doing so, verse 1 says, you obey the Lord.
Some brief thoughts …
One, obviously children should never obey their parents if it goes against what God teaches in the Bible.
Two, God considers it very offensive and views it as the worst of sins when children are disobedient to their parents. The Bible provides two lists of sins when society turns from God and is given over to the wretchedness of their depravity. One is in Romans 1 and the other is in 2 Timothy 3. The worst sins you can imagine are on these lists along with "disobedient to parents" (Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2).
Three, children are to learn obedience in the home. It will not come naturally. And if they don't, their rebellion will show itself with the other forms of authority they come in contact with later in life - first the school teachers and then civil authorities.
So why is a child's obedience to his or her parents so important? We see some great reasons right here in our text.
First of all the Bible says it is "right." You see that in verse 1? "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." I love that! Children should obey their parents simply because it's the "right" thing to do!
And why is it right? We can never have stable homes or stable societies if people when they are young do not respect what those in authority ask them to do. It's the right thing to do! We can call that natural law.
Another reason obedience is so important is because, verse 2, it's the first of the 10 Commandments is given with a promise. This is divine law. Verse 2, "Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)." That's a direct quote from Exodus 20:12. It is the fifth of the 10 Commandments, but the first one with a promise.
And what's the promise? Verse 3, "So that it may be well with you." Children that obey their parents have a greater chance of having a better quality of life. And they also, according to verse 3, have a greater chance of having a better quantity of life. The verse says, "That you may live long on the earth." Of course these are just general rules, but we have to agree that they do prove true.
You see, children at the time rarely appreciate their parent's instructions. What child thinks his parents are being nice when they force him to go to bed? And then a few years later those mean parents have the nerve to make him eat vegetables. Then the audacity to tell their son to strap on a bike helmet or not cross a street or wear a life jacket or study for a test. Then curfews, selected friendships, forbidding certain television shows and rules if they borrow the car.
Are these rules given because parents just want to be mean? Of course not! They are given because parents love their children, and here it is from verse 3, want to see things go well for them and see them live long on the earth. And if the child disobeys, he does so to his own harm. How much physical trauma, drug overdoses, negative influences, car accidents, poor grades, bad reputations, nutritional deficiencies, trouble with the law, emotional pain, unwanted pregnancies, trouble in school happen simply because children refuse to obey their parents?
Proverbs 4:10, "Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many."
You see, the home is the greenhouse to protect and nurture our children. And when it is done right, children come to appreciate and trust their parent's instruction. After time they come to understand that their rules are intended for good. They begin to see the parallel that the same applies for the rules God gives to us as well. They understand these rules come from a loving spiritual Father that desires our lives to be blessed. Consequences result when children disobey their parents. Consequences always result with people disobey God.
Proverbs 10:27, "The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be shortened?"
2. A Word To The Parents
That was a word to the children. Part two of this message, a word now to the parents.
Verse 4 addresses the father as the head of the home. The Greek word usually refers to fathers, but in a sense there is no doubt that both mothers and father are included.
I think some context will help bring out the force of the words in verse 4. This was radical when it was first read. It was rare during the time of this writing for a father to demonstrate much love and affection for his children. According to Roman law, he had virtual life and death power over his entire household. He could cast his children out, sell them as slaves or even kill them. And in doing so he was accountable to no one. It's said even a newborn baby was placed at a father's feet to have his or her fate determined.
The Bible teaches that the father, as compared to the mother, has a disproportionate influence over the family - not to dominate but to nurture. Studies have proved it. When the father fails to love, support, encourage and provide for his children, not only boys, but especially the girls suffer.
Christian psychiatrist Dr. Paul Meier states that most emotionally stable children come from homes that have a mother and father with a healthy marriage, firm, consistent and fair discipline, consistency of standards modeled by the parents and a father as a true spiritual head of the home.
Children in verses 1-3 were just commanded to obey. Knowing that could promote sinful domination of the children by the parents, right away verse 4 calls fathers to "not provoke [their] children to anger." God already condemned anger in this letter both in 4:26 and 4:31. Here God is stressing that parents, especially the father, not provoke their children to anger. In Colossians we read similar sentiments. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart" (Col. 3:21).
So how can a father exasperate his children, provoke them to anger?
- Failure to be happy, hopeful and confident in God
- Endless criticism/fault-finding
- Failure to listen
- Nagging/deriding their efforts
- Constant yelling
- Failure to spend time individually with children
- Unfair, harsh, inconsistent, or nonexistent discipline
- Conflicting messages
- Unwillingness to admit personal sin/seek child's forgiveness
- Unapproachable disposition
- Deferred aggression
- Lack of encouragement/compliments
- Partiality/favoritism between children
- Setting unrealistic goals/expectations
- Failure to show love/affection
- Neglect (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)
- Lack of standards/double standards
- Unwillingness to model desired behavior.
Now, if not provoking our children to anger was the negative, the two-fold positive is stated in the rest of verse 4. We should "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
Not to rush away our summer, but for a moment let's pretend its September. One of the thrills of the fall is walking out to your garden and picking a lush, bright red, juicy tomato. Slice it up. Add some salt. The thought makes my mouth water!
Yet to get to this point we all know the work required from the time we plant the three inch seedling in May. Beautiful tomatoes do not happen naturally. We need to fertilize and water and weed and chase away the animals and stake up the plants. If we think (as I did when I first planted a garden) that all we have to do is plant and harvest we are woefully mistaken.
The similar rule also applies to parenting. Proverbs teaches us that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Pr. 22:15). In Proverbs we also read that "a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother (Pr. 29:15). It takes much skillful effort if we wish to raise children that come to love God and love others with their lives.
That's why the two primary commands to parents in raising children are both found right here in Ephesians 6:4. Parents must actively be involved in disciplining and instructing their children.
Discipline is correcting wrongdoing. It's not punishing a child as in retribution. Disciple is a form of love (Pr. 3:12; Heb. 12:6). "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently" (Pr. 13:24). It's correcting a child whereby he or she learns to associate unpleasantness with ungodly behavior. As parents, God has placed us in charge. Our children are really God's children and therefore He expects us to hold them accountable to His Word. And He holds us accountable in the process.
I think of Eli in 1 Samuel 3 who suffered God's discipline because he did not rebuke his unruly sons. The goal is to break our children's ungodly will without breaking their spirits. That's why disciple should always be firm, fair and consistent. Anything less will exasperate them. Proverbs 19:18, "Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death."
There is an art to age-appropriate biblical discipline that needs explaining, but exceeds the time we have in this message. If you have any questions regarding this essential topic, please speak to one of the elders of the church. The best advice I can give you is to start disciplining effectively when your children are still young. Don't abuse it and don't compromise it. Put the work in up front and then enjoy your children in their teen years when so many parents are just then trying to figure out how to control them.
In addition to discipline, the other positive command in verse 4 is to "bring them up in the…instruction of the Lord." This is not talking them to church and praying over your meals at dinner. It certainly includes that, but it is so much more. This verse speaks of the need to expose our children to Christian teaching on a regular basis in our homes. This speaks to family worship, personal discipleship and living before them as a godly example.
Here's how I think about it. Satan never takes a break in his effort to win over my child's heart: Unbelieving children all day at school, public school teachers, bombardment of their minds even in the most sheltered home with worldly influences. Add in an unsupervised smart phone, unrestrained television and movie viewing and unhealthy friends and you can only imagine who's winning the battle for your child's heart. Do the math! Hours each day for Satan and at best minutes each day for God. Who do you think is going to come out on top?
Children do not naturally draw closer to God. From the very beginning they have to be taught to consider others and learn they can't always have their own way. All they naturally learn is "me." For instance, unless we instruct them and prepare them and set the example that church is important it never will be in their lives. Also, they won't naturally live by the Word when they are older unless we teach them how to understand God's Word and be in the Word and hide the Word in their hearts.
Godly children are not produced naturally. They are often the product of a lot of blood, sweat and tears from dedicated parents that never take time off through prayer and effort in seeking to produce by God's grace children who love Him.
My friends, there is absolutely no greater goal we should have as parents. I know that is the most loving response. And I know that is God's desire. Is that you greatest desire for your child?
Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it."
When I think of parenting I often consider what I believe God wants my child to be, the goal, and then direct all my parenting to that end. Four general levels come to mind. At the lowest level is a child that is a total burden to society. One level up is a child that is well-mannered, but unbelieving and godless. Another level up is a child who claims to love the Lord, but will never really accomplish anything significant for Christ (like most cultural churchgoers in our society today). And at the top of the pyramid is the child that loves the Lord and lives to make a difference for Christ's kingdom. Thankfully we see much of that right here in this church!
Here is a recent example of the top of the pyramid, the type of children that we should pray God produces amongst us.
"Christian soccer player Jaelene Hinkle has withdrawn herself from the U.S. soccer team after it was announced that the squad would be wearing rainbow colored 'gay pride' jerseys in their upcoming game. She cited 'personal reasons' for her refusal to play, according to The Christian Post. The star proudly declares Colossians 3:23 on her Twitter which says: 'And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.' She said, 'If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection,' She said, 'Jesus didn't come to save those who already believed in Him. He came so that the lost, rejected, and abandoned men and women would find Him and believe. I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. It's not a fictional book. It's not a pick and choose what you want to believe. You either believe it, or you don't. This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will" (Hellochristian.com).
Children, obey and honor your parents when you are under their roof. Then honor your parents for the rest of your life.
Parents, you have been given a tremendous and joyous responsibility. None of us are perfect, but by God's grace there should be no greater desire in our hearts than to produce warriors for Jesus. That takes a lot of skill, a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice. But in the end, it is all worth it for your joy (Pr. 17:21) and God's glory!