Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4 ESV)
Yesterday we read that children should obey and honor their parents. Today we read about parents’ responsibility toward their children. All of this is part of a broader teaching on how believers should submit to each other in their relationships [Ephesians 5:21].
The first thing we notice about this verse is that it is addressed to fathers. The Greek word here is πάτερ (pronounced: pat-ayr’) which means “male ancestor”. While some will claim this verse is speaking to parents in general, we see from the Greek word that it clearly is meant for the father. This is consistent with what we’ve studied recently and what God says elsewhere in the Bible.
We know from the story of Adam and Eve that it was Adam who was held accountable for the spiritual development of his family [Genesis 3:6, 9-12]. And we just recently read how the husband is responsible for the spiritual development of his wife.
While child rearing should be a shared activity between husband and wife, God has appointed fathers to be the family leader and as such He gives them responsibility for ensuring that the children are taught the discipline and instruction of the Lord. With responsibility comes accountability. God will hold fathers accountable for the spiritual development of their children.
It’s interesting that, by the use of the word but, Paul presents this as the alternative to provoking children to anger. The Greek word for “provoke” here is παροργίζω (pronounced: pä-ror-gē’-zō) which means “to stimulate an unwelcome emotional reaction in someone else”. In other words, fathers should not give their children any reason to become emotional (e.g. angry, depressed) because doing so is the opposite of providing godly instruction.
A father who has temper issues or is impatient or who ignores his kids will make his kids angry. A child’s relationship with their father often affects how they view God. Children tend to grow up attributing whatever values they saw in their earthly father to God. A father who exhibits godly characteristics towards their children will, understandably, draw his children closer to God.
We know that God is love [1 John 4:8]. We also know what love looks like [1 Corinthians 13:4-8]. Love is patient. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love always protects. These words describe God perfectly. They also describe the manner in which earthly fathers should love their own children.
When a father raises his children according to God’s truth those children will stay on that path [Proverbs 22:6]. It is therefore imperative that fathers teach their children the word of God (the Bible) daily [Deuteronomy 11:19]. Doing so is the most loving thing a father can do.
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