Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 30, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 12
Last week we began looking at Ephesians 6:4 and the role of parents in the family, but we 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 you or me, but with God’s 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, God, 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 today 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 times when our children may be angry because they do not like the consequences we give them because of their own actions. Paul is talking about parenting practices that provoke and prod the child toward an angry response. That response may be open or hidden. The child is still responsible for his own anger and how he responds, but if their anger is due to being aggravated by our improper parenting practices, 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.
It is not that anger itself is a sin, for anger is simply an emotion. The root of the anger could be righteous as in the case of Jesus Christ when He drove out the money changers and merchants and cleansed the Temple (Matt. 21:12f), or it could be sinful such as the strife caused when selfish people do not get their way (James 4:1f). Our concern as parents is teaching our children how to deal with their anger whether its cause is justified or not. Our example in this is critical.
What do you do with your anger? Even an anger that is rooted in righteous indignation can end up with a sinful response if you are not careful. Galatians 5:20 lists anger along with its attending sinful responses as one of the deeds of the flesh which is at war with the Holy Spirit. If you are walking in the Spirit the fruit of that will be demonstrated in a life marked by love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22,23).
Ephesians 4:26, 27 states, “Be angry, and [yet] do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” We must learn to deal with our anger in a proper way instead of letting it fuel sinful responses such as outbursts, enmity, disputing, jealousy, slander, vengeance and even physical violence. Colossians 3:8 tells us to put away “anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth.” James 1:19,20 adds, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
If you are a person marked by anger, then you must learn how to get that under control or you will pass that to your children. There are some good books that are helpful in this including Tim LaHaye’s Anger is a Choice. Or make an appointment with me and we will sit down together and we will develop a program to help you learn how to deal with your anger.
2) Abuse: Physical and verbal
This is related to the 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 kids.
The only way we can overcome reacting this way ourselves is to yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit so that His fruit will mark our lives instead of the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:18-23). We must apply scriptural truths such as that revenge belongs to God, not us, and that we are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:19,21). As I have already pointed out, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
When I speak of child abuse, I am not referring to proper Biblical chastisement nor do I mean you never raise your voice to get your point across. Child abuse is more related to emotion and motivation than it is to force or volume. If you remain calm and truly seek only the benefit of the child, it would be difficult to abuse them. If you strike at a child, either physically or verbally, in the heat of anger or in seeking revenge, then it is most likely that you will be abusing them. That is never proper for the Christian, and it produces anger in the child. You must control yourself first, then deal with your child. Even Biblical chastisement – spanking – should not be done with anger. The child may not openly show their anger toward you because they fear you, but it will be there, and it 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 your little bottom is spanked for the same thing. One day mom says to do something five or six times before she actually gets serious and makes you do it, the next day she says it once and then comes unglued. One meal you play with your food and dad laughs, at the next meal dad is angry with you for doing the same thing. The child is confused and is uncertain of what is expected.
This is a reason why we train our children to first time obedience. We talked about that last week. It is easier on both them and us. They know what is expected, and we are more consistent. We are not to hold back discipline from our children (Prov. 23:13). That is what those who hate their sons do. Those who love their sons discipline them diligently (Prov. 13:24).
4) Parental Selfishness
This is another provocation to anger. This is the opposite of the child centered parent, which is a whole different problem. These are those that see their children as extraneous to the family. Their world is themselves, and children are an intrusion into it. They take little or no time to 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 always somewhere else and only rarely on the children, and then it is only enough to keep them out of your way. This is not an issue of quality verses quantity, for both are needed.
The child will not be angry with you, at least not while they are small, but they will be angry at what ever takes you away from them. As they get older that will change to an anger or resentment against you because you did not practically demonstrate that you cared about them. The pop song “Cats in the Cradle” illustrates this well.
This is not corrected by becoming child centered, but by keeping the proper balance. The child is not the center of your life, but neither is he or she extraneous to your life. They are a very important part of your life, especially in the few years you have them at home. Make plans to spend time with them both as a family and individually. Make yourself open and available to listen to them and have some involvement in what is important to them.
For those that may tend to be work-aholics, remember that no one has every said at the end of their life that they wish they had spent more time at the office. Keep your life balanced by seeing it from God’s eternal perspective and keep His priorities, not those of other people or your personal, selfish ones.
5) Favoritism (example of Jacob & Esau)
Yet another cause of anger is favoritism. Consider the case of Jacob and Esau and the anger and rivalry that existed between them because of their parents favoritism. Isaac favored Esau because he was an outdoorsman like himself. Rebecca favored Jacob because he was more like she was. Jacob then treated his own children the same way showing obvious favoritism to Joseph that was obnoxious to his brothers. What tragedy that caused for both for Joseph, himself and his other 11 sons.
Those with more than one child need to be very careful of this. Each child has different personalities and abilities, and each will need different amounts and types of attention. You might like the personality, abilities or accomplishments of one of them more than the others, but you can never allow that to develop into doting on the one and being unfair to the others. That is favoritism and reveals your own selfishness and it will cause anger in the other children.
Now let me stress here that the issue is not spending the same amount of time or finances on an equal basis with each child. What you give of time and finances toward each child will vary based on many factors including your abilities and their needs at any particular time. The issue in this is make sure that each child knows without doubt that you love and care for them as individuals. This will require some major sacrifices on your part at times to put aside your own desires and interests in order to meet their needs including and especially the mental, emotional and spiritual ones.
You must also work hard to instill into your children a strong sense of family identity. There should be no rivalry in the family, for each member is part of the family team. Each sibling is to be trained to value and care for every other sibling without resentment. It is the same principle that Paul brings out in 1 Cor. 12:26. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. In the family as well as in the body of Christ we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Brothers and sisters should be each others best friends, and not enemies.
6) Excessive Expectations & 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 the child is capable of doing. The situation is then aggravated by the parent castigating the child for failing. The parent must recognize and make allowances for childishness which is the inability of a child to do certain things because they have not yet developed those skills. It is simply a fact that a child develops skills to do things over time as they increase in size, strength, coordination and with lots of practice. It takes practice to learn to hold a cup without spilling it, or color between the lines, or to write the alphabet legibly, or throw and catch a ball, or to read.
The parents must also take into account that different children, even in the same family, will develop at different rates than other children. While this may cause some frustration for the child, the only real problem with this seems to be to a parent’s pride. We all want our children to be better than average in development, but the reality is that we may have a child that is not developing as quickly. I hope you all understand that humans are not born equal to each other. Every human has different capacities and abilities 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 will either discourage them if they are behind or make them proud if they are ahead.
Col 3:21 tells fathers, “do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.”When your child is learning a skill, you need to be continually encouraging them in what they are accomplishing, and not berating them for what they are not doing yet. Watch out for the put downs and sarcasm. Remember that Ephesians 4:29 teaches us 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 very effective way to destroy your children. We are to be reflections of God’s love toward us, and He loved us while we still sinners and at enmity against Him. Our children need to know that we love them at all times including when they misbehave. Certainly when your children disobey there is a strain in the relationship in the same way there is a strain in our relationship with God when we disobey Him, but He still loves us. 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, we are trying to train them for their own good. They need to know that 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 as well that you who are parents are responsible to raise your children. We have talked about this the last couple of weeks. Parents cannot pass off their responsibility to other people. A child’s care, education, medical attention, 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, as I said last week, the wise parent will have others help because no one is an expert on everything or even 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 find new help. Get another teacher, instructor, coach, doctor, counselor or ???
Those are the negative aspects of Paul’s command. Now lets turn our attention to 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” (ektrefw / ektrepho) is the idea of caring for them. The root word here means “to nourish” as in “to feed, provide.” The more literal idea of physical provision is certainly part of this for the Scriptures give many commands stating this. Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:7 that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” It is the parent that is to save up for their children, not the other way around (2 Cor. 12:14), though a child may have to care for a parent who has lost the ability to provide or care for themselves (1 Tim. 5:4). However, the idea of “bring them up” goes far beyond physical provision for it is tied with the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
I think we are all also aware that 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, then they start walking, and then running. You teach them alphabet, then putting letters together to make words, and then words together to make sentences, paragraphs and papers. They learn simple addition, then subtraction, multiplication, division and more math concepts. You teach them to speak, then you have to teach them to be quiet!
Paul points out two aspects of bringing up a child: Nurture\discipline & admonition\instruction
Nurture \ Discipline
Discipline (paideia /paideia ) is 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 including 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 and corrects 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 complex and simplified it so that it could be easily remembered. He reduced 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. Too many parents see this in terms of academics and job skills, but our main task is actually in the moral and spiritual realm. I realize that our society is quickly settling into the new paradigm shift of relativism in which there are no absolutes, but character is still the most important training we will give to our children. Knowledge is important, but character is more important. A person with great intelligence but lousy character may be used for his knowledge, but will have few or no true friends. Someone with great job skills but with a lousy character may get the job initially, but will not be able to keep it without a good work ethic. It is character training that enables a child to learn the academics and job skills. How many people who actually have great intelligence and / or physical ability live mediocre lives because their character was so poor that they never have been able to use their abilities wisely.
Character training is directly related to a person’s understanding and walk with God. That is why we are to train our children by constantly speaking of the Lord and pointing out what He has done and is doing. We continually bring up and explain the principles God want us to live by. We do this over and over in many different situations so that our children will both understand them and have examples to transfer to their own situations. Proper parenting teaches a child to think for himself according to the godly principles and guidelines instilled through proper training. It trains the child to have a godly character.
With all this in mind, let me encourage to place your top priority on the opportunities and activities that will help develop your child’s character. Too often I have seen parents place the priority on academics and sports to the detriment of the child’s character training. Keep your priorities where God sets them.
Admonition \ Instruction
The second aspect of bringing up a child is to do so in the admonition or instruction of the Lord. This aspect gives more stress on the mental aspect of teaching in that the root word, nouqesia / nouthesia, means “to set in mind.” Admonition and instruction sets in the mind the truths of life, both spiritual and societal. It teaches how to live with God and with man. This would be exemplified by the book of Proverbs which was written, according to 1:2-6, “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.”
These principles are to guide the instruction of our children. Instruction is more than just giving out facts. It is helping the child understand those facts in relationship to each other and apply them because knowledge alone is not enough. We want them to become wise. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge, and godly wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge and Biblical principles to daily life.
Note as well that there is also an element of correction in the Greek word here (nouqesiva / nouthesia). That is why it is translated as “admonition” or “warning” as well as “instruction.” Anyone that has ever taught knows that correction is part of instruction. For a variety of reasons, people do not understand part of the instruction given to them. That may show up in an academic test, a physical skills test or in the daily course of life when they fail to apply a principle you thought they should have known. At that point the instruction continues through a correction of what was wrong and re-instruction on what is right.
The correction given is to be done without provoking or embittering the child. That takes us back to all the things we said earlier about not provoking the child to anger.
OF THE LORD
Finally, we must note that Paul very specifically says and emphasizes that the discipline and instruction are to be given, “in the Lord.” The parents 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. It is profitable for “teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness.” Teaching directs you to the path of life. Reproof warns you when you have gotten off the path. Correction tells you how to get back on the path. Instruction informs you how to stay on the path.
This is no easy task. It is one of awesome responsibility, yet we are not alone in it. God has given us His word and the Holy Spirit to direct us. He has also given us one another so that we can help each other in the task of raising up the next generation to be godly young men and women.
Every Christian parent has lots of freedom in the specifics of how they raise their children, yet every Christian parent is commanded to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This means that character is the most important training we will give to our children. Next week I want give you an overview of the six major character traits we want to instill into our children.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verse mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times there is a reference to parents. Talk with your parents about what you can do to make their job of parenting easier.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Are you or your children characterized by anger? If so, what may be the root cause of it? How does God want us to respond to others and what does He want us to do with our anger? What is the basis of abuse – physical or verbal? How can you keep from abusing others? What should our attitude be if we need to chastize our children? What is the danger of inconsistency? How can that be corrected? How selfish are you? What would your children say? What is the position of your children in your family? How do you keep your life balanced? What damage can favoritism cause? How do you keep from showing favoritism? What attitude should you develop in your children toward one another? What is childishness and what consideration should it be given in correcting your children? Why is using affection to manipulate so damaging? What is your parental responsibility? Explain each phrase from Ephesians 6:4 – “bring them up,” “nurture / discipline,” “admonition / instruction,” “in the Lord.”
Sermon Notes – November 30, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 12 – Role of Parents – Ephesians 6:4
Do Not Provoke to Anger
Abuse: Physical & Verbal
Proverbs 30:33; 15:1
Excessive Expectations and Discouragement
Using Affection to Manipulate
Bring them Up
ektrefw / ektrepho =
Nurture / Discipline
paideia /paideia =
Character is the most important training you will give to your child
Admonition / Instruction
nouqesia / nouthesia
In the Lord
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