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Faith Bible Church, NY
January 5, 1997
God’s Design for the Family:
The Role of the Parents, Part 2
Last week we began our exposition of this verse, but only got as far as the second word, “fathers.” We must take seriously the responsibilities God has entrusted to us in giving us children. The task is something that is utterly beyond me or you, but with His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, our children can be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is also so good to know that when I fail in carrying out all the Lord’s commands to me concerning my children, He, as my loving heavenly father, wants me to learn and do better, so He is ready to forgive me as I confess my sins to Him.
The question for this morning is: How are we to raise our children? In previous weeks we have already seen the importance of us training our children to obey the first time, right away and with a proper attitude. If we do less than that we actually teach our children to sin by disobeying God’s command to them. Is any method of parenting acceptable as long as the children do what you say? What does Paul mean when he commands us to not provoke [our] “children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Paul’s command here has both a prohibition (something we are not to do) as well as a commission (something we are to do).
First, from the negative, Paul says “do not provoke your children to anger.”
Do Not Provoke To Anger
Paul is not saying that we are in sin just because our kids get angry, nor is he talking about the occasional time when our children may be angry because they do not like how we are treating them. He is talking about parenting practices that regularly, consistently provoke and prod the children toward an angry response whether that response is open or hidden. The child is still responsible for his own anger and how he responds, but if our parenting practices are improper and we are provoking it, then we too are guilty.
What kind of parenting practices are improper and cause anger in children? Let me briefly describe a few to you.
1) Your Example.
Prov. 22:14 tells us “Do not associate with a man [given] to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, 25 Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself.” If you are an angry individual, you will pass that down to your children. We often joke about certain ethnic groups being pre-disposed to anger, but the truth is that genetics have nothing to do with it. You cannot blame anger on your blood heritage whatever it is. It is not the blood, but the manner of life that passes anger down from generation to generation. The children learn how to cope with the stresses of life from their parents. If you are a person marked by anger, then you had better learn how to get that under control, or you will pass that to your children. Make an appointment with me and let’s sit down together and learn how to deal with anger.
2) Abuse: Physical and verbal
This is related to my first example because those who abuse are those who cannot control their anger. Abuse, whether physical or verbal, just provokes more anger. Prov. 30:33 “For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.” Prov. 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This is true for adults and children.
The only way we can overcome reacting this way ourselves is to yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit knowing that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20) and that revenge belongs to God, not us. We are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:19,21).
The most simple definition of child abuse I can give you is when someone strikes a child either physically or verbally out of anger. That is never proper for the Christian parent and it only produces anger in the child. The child may not show that anger because they fear you, but the anger will burn internally as resentment.
If you are not consistent in how you treat your children, if the rules of the home change according to your whim, then you are going to provoke your children to some form of anger. Consider it from the child’s perspective. One day you write on the wall and your considered “cute” the next day you’re spanked for the same thing. One day mom says to do something five or six times before she actually comes and make you do it, the next day she says it once and then comes in with a paddle. One meal you play with your food and dad laughs, at the next meal dad is angry with you for playing with your food. The child is confused and is uncertain of what is expected.
This is why we train our children to first time obedience. It is easier on both them and us. They know what is expected and we are more consistent.
4) Parental Selfishness
This is another provocation to anger. This is the opposite the child centered parent, which is a whole different problem. There are those that see their children as extraneous to the family. Their world is themselves and children are an intrusion into it. They take no time to really know their children and what is on their hearts. This tends to be more common in dads because work usually takes them away from the house to begin with, but this can also occur in moms. You may even be physically present, but your mind is somewhere else and only rarely on the children, and then it is only enough to keep them out of your way.
The child will not be angry with you, at least while they are small, but they will become angry at whatever takes you away from them. As they get older that will change to an anger and resentment against you because you did not practically demonstrate that you cared about them. Think of the classic song “Cats in the Cradle” as a good illustration for this – a son who desires to spend time with his father, but whose father is always too busy for him. When his father is older and has the time, the son is now too busy.
This is another cause of anger. Consider the case of Jacob and Esau and the anger and rivalry that existed between them because of their parents’ favoritism. Consider the problems caused by Jacob’s obnoxious favoritism of Joseph – both for Joseph, himself and his other 10 sons.
When you have more than one child, you have to be very careful of this. Each child is different and will need different amounts and types of attention. Add to it that you might just like the personality of one of them more than the others. If you allow yourself to become doting on one and are not fair to the others, you are showing both favoritism and your own selfishness. You will be the cause of anger in the others.
6) Excessive Expectations and Discouragement.
I put these two together because they are so often associated with each other. This is the parent that continually demands more of their child than they are capable of and then castigates them when they fail. They fail to make allowance of childishness and the fact that a child does not have the skills yet to do certain things. It takes practice to learn to hold a cup without spilling it, to color between the lines, to write the alphabet legibly, to throw and catch a ball, or to read. In addition, your child may not develop at the same rate as other children, but that is not a problem except for pride of the parents. But let’s get real, humans are not born completely equal in ablity, they are different from one another from birth. Some will have great intellectual capacity, others will not. Some will have great physical ability and others will not. Don’t compare your children to others, it discourages them.
Col 3:21 tells fathers, “do not exasperate your children, that they man not lose heart.”When your child is learning a skill, continually encourage them in what they are accomplishing, not berating them for what they are not doing yet. Watch out for the put downs and sarcasm. Did we not learn just a couple of months ago from Eph. 4:29 that our tongues are to be used to encourage and build up, giving grace according to the need of the moment. Don’t tear your children down through excessive expectations and discouragement.
7) Using affection to manipulate
Making your affection conditional is a great way to destroy your children. We are to be reflections of God’s love toward us who loved us when we were yet sinners. Certainly, when your children disobey there is a strain in the relationship the same way there is in our relationship with God when we disobey Him, but He still loves us and tells us so, we need to do the same with our children. They need to know that when they have done wrong the chastisement we bring upon them is because we do love and care for them. We do not reject them, but instead are trying to train them for their own good, we always stand ready to forgive and have them reconcile with us. Heb. 12:6 says that is the way God loves us, “He chastens whom He loves,” but those without His discipline are illegitimate and not His sons (12:8).
As Christian parents we have a great responsibility. We must be careful to not provoke our children to anger or exasperate them causing them to lose heart, for in either case the damage done to them is great and will hinder them throughout their lives.
Understand here as well that you as the parents are responsible to raise your children. It is not something you can pass off to other people. Their care, education, medical care, and spiritual development are your responsibility, not that of the government, school district, counselors, doctors or church workers.
This does not mean you have to do it all, and in fact the wise parent will have others help because no one is an expert on everything or capable, even in logistical terms, of doing everything. However, everything is to be done under your direction. You do have to know what is going on when, where and why, and if you are not satisfied with the help you are getting with your children then you find new help.
We have looked at the negative command, now the positive ones. Parents are to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Bring them up
To “bring them up” is the idea of caring for them. The root word here means “to nourish” as in “to feed, provide.” And as we are all aware, feeding is an on going action. It seems we have hardly finished one meal when we are already starting to plan for the next. The same idea is inherent in bringing up a child. It is on going. One task is done and the next one starts and often the first task has to be repeated several times. You get them to crawl and then start on walking. You teach them alphabet, and then putting letters together to make words. They learn simple addition and then you start on subtraction. You teach them to talk, then you have to teach them to be quiet!
Paul speaks of two aspects of bringing up a child: Nurture\discipline and admonition\instruction
Nurture \ Discipline
This is discipline in sense of training. We tend to think of discipline as negative consequences, but properly, most of it is positive training. This is the education of the child in all aspects – morally and spiritually as well as about the world and society around him. It involves example, lecture, reading, observation and discovery. It sets up opportunity for practice, gives reminders as will correct back to the standard to reinforce a lesson. It is both formal and informal for it is to occur throughout the day in every circumstance.
A good explanation and example of what it means to nurture/discipline is seen in Deut. 6 where Moses is concerned about how to teach the new generation the commandments of the Lord in a way that the generations following them will also be taught.
In verse 4,5 he condenses the Law into a succinct statement – “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus called this the great and foremost commandment (Matt. 22:38). Moses took that which was quite complex and simplified it so that it could be easily remembered. He took the law to its general principle, which if adhered to would lead a person back to most of the specifics God asked of them.
Moses then went on in verse 5 to explain how this important lesson would be transferred from generation to generation: “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
We are to teach our children principles by which they can live. This is hard work and involves explaining those principles over and over in many different situation so they will both understand them and have some examples to transfer to their own situations. Proper parenting teaches a child to think for himself according to the guidelines instilled into the child through proper training.
Admonition \ Instruction
This gives more stress on the mental aspect of teaching in that the root word means “to set in mind.” It sets in the mind the truths of life – both spiritual and societal. How to live with God and with man. This would be exemplified by the book of Proverbs which was written, according to verses 2-6, 2 To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; 4 To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, 5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, 6 To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.
But there is also a strong element of correction here which is why the word is translated as “admonition” as well as “instruction.” It is correction given without provoking or embittering the child.
IN THE LORD
Discipline and instruction are to be given, “in the Lord.” The parent’s primary task is really the same as what Moses gave to the children of Israel. Our children are to understand who the Lord is, what He has done for them and what it means to love Him. Taken together raising a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord will encompass all that 2 Tim. 3:16,17 says the Word of God is to do for us – teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. Teaching: This path of life. Reproof: You have gotten off the path. Correction: This is way to get back on the path. Instruction: This is how to stay on the path.
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