Instructions to Children and Their Fathers
My father was a hard man. He was always a Marine at heart, even though he only served a couple of years in the reserves. He was demanding, loud, overbearing, and was never wrong. My dad loved to argue more than anyone I ever knew. For most of my life, including my adult years, I did not honor my father. I feared him as a child, hated him as an adolescent, and was apathetic toward him as an adult. Then one day I got the news that dad had brain cancer and only had one year to live, he was only 63 years old. I took my family down to see dad several times that year, even though we lived about a thousand miles away. During that last year of his life, I got a chance to get to know my dad. Sad to say, it took the brain tumor’s help, it softened his personality quite a bit. I got to hear about some of the struggles of his youth and some of the events that shaped his personality. In fact, it seemed that his lack of respect for his parents was partly what fueled his personality.
The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. It talks about the relationship between a husband and wife, as we saw last week, it talks about relationships between servants and masters, God and His Church, and many others. Today we are going to look at this relationship between children and their parents, as well as fathers and their children.
Paul starts Ephesians chapter 6 by saying in verse 1, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.” We often focus on the next verse, but let’s take a minute to look at this one. Why should children obey their parents? Because they belong to Jesus, and it’s just the right thing to do! When you truly belong to Jesus, you will want to do what is right. As Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Do right until the stars fall.”
After telling us that it’s just the right thing to do, he reminds us that it was the first commandment given with a promise attached. And, he rewrites that promise in verse 3, “If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” So, God told us from the beginning that, if we honor our parents, we’ll have a good, long life.
Take a minute to look at the 10 Commandments. Honor your father and mother is the fourth commandment. The first three commandments are all about honoring God, then honor your parents comes before don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, and don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff. Here’s the thing, if we honor God, and honor the parents He put over us, all these other things will fall into place.
In my day job, I employ several young people. Let me start out by saying that Millennials often get a bad rap and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in this, although many of them have earned that reputation. As a whole, they can be very demanding and quite self-centered and disrespectful, but I have to say that this doesn’t apply to all of them. I have a couple of teenage sisters who work for me and are a delight. They are extremely well mannered and very respectful to authority, and elders in general. So, what makes these two young ladies so pleasant, well in my observation I can only see one difference between them and the rest of the young people, their dad was career military, so I’m sure they were raised with some discipline.
Here’s the thing. Many people my age and a little younger were raised by parents who followed the advice of Dr. Spock and others who said that you shouldn’t spank your child, you should reason with them. These kids who were reasoned with by their parents have grown up to reason with their kids, and their kids have become entitled, demanding self-centered brats. These kids don’t honor their parents, they look at them as their friends, their equals, not their authority.
Now, look at verse 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Notice it doesn’t say for kids to honor their father unless he provokes you to anger, this is a separate thing. I justified my attitude toward my dad for many years by this verse. I said that I didn’t have to honor him because he provoked me to anger, but that is not at all what this is saying, I was taking it out of context to justify what I wanted to do…sound familiar? Paul has told us to honor our parents, now he is warning fathers not to provoke his kids to anger, then he goes on to say to bring them up in Godly discipline and instruction. Disciplining and instructing are not provoking your kids, it’s teaching them to do right. The Bible never says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” it says, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24. If you love your child, you will discipline them. If your toddler is trying to stick a fork into an electrical outlet, you will smack their hand, so they know not to do that.
Going back to my father, had I done the biblical thing and just honored him throughout my life I would have had a different view of him, and that could have changed his personality. My dad died at 64 years of age when I was only 39 and my boys were 12 and 16. Fortunately, my sons’ relationship with their grandfather was somewhat better. He would play pool with them and he taught them to shoot and use gun safety in his backyard shooting range. But, think how much better my life, as well as the lives of my kids, could have been if I had just honored my dad.
Honor is not conditional. We are to honor our parents no matter what they do or how they treat us. If you are a Christian father, don’t provoke your kids, just lovingly discipline and instruct them in the ways of the Lord.