Biblical Parenting Ephesians 6a
Stephen Caswell © 2005
Billy Graham Gives Advice
Billy Graham, evangelist, speaking in Madison Square Garden, offered parents six suggestions on how to curb juvenile delinquency: 1. Take time with your children, 2. Set your children a good example, 3. Give your children ideals for living, 4. Have a lot of activities planned, 5. Discipline your children, 6. Teach them about God.
Because today is Mother’s Day I thought it would be good to look at Biblical parenting. The role of parents has been greatly devalued in our society. Generally speaking, parents spend far less time with their children today than ever before. Day Care Centers have more time with children than most parents do. Ephesians chapter 6 gives us very important instructions about child training. This passage applies to Mothers, Fathers and Children. This morning we will look at the responsibilities of Parents and Children.
a. Obedience Ephesians 6:1: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
This command is addressed to children who would have been present in the Church when the letter was read. The 1st Command deals with a child’s actions. The word obey, ὑπακούω, means to listen, to yield to a superior command or force. A modern version of Ephesians 6:1 would be, Parents, obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home. But this is contrary to God’s order in nature. God is the perfect Father and He has given this command to children; obey your parents.
In our society we are all subject to God ordained authorities. An army has only one general in charge of the entire company. The Lord has empowered Governments to protect society from harm. God has ordained leadership in the Church so it can function smoothly. God has also given parents authority in the home. Trouble always comes when rebellion arises against God’s appointed leaders. The Bible says that when children obey their parents they are doing the right thing. Hosea 14:9: Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Proverbs 20:11: Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right. We all know that a child throwing a temper tantrum is wrong. A child who disobeys his parents offends all those watching on. In Colossians 3:20 a parallel passage we read this: Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. God is pleased when children obey their parents. The Lord smiles on kids when they do what their parents say. He gives them joy. They bring joy not only to themselves but to all those around them. God’s way is the best way; it’s the right thing to do.
Why is it right for Children to obey their parents? Because God's plan is that our parents who brought us into the world should take care of us. Many of the things children like to do aren't good for them. Playing cricket in the street might seem like fun, but you could get hit by a car. Kids should obey their parents who want to protect them from harm.
Our parents are older and much wiser than we are. We should obey them so that we can learn. This will help us to grow up to be wise. In all of creation the young are taught by their parents. Baby eagles learn to fly from their parents. If children want the most out of life they must learn to obey their parents.
b. Reverence Ephesians 6:2a: Honor your father and mother.
The command to honor parents is also addressed to children. The 2nd Command deals with a child’s attitude. Paul quoted the 5th commandment in Ephesians 6:4. The word honor, τιμάω, means to esteem or reverence. It’s good for children to look up to their mums and dads. God wants children to respect their parents. To honor our parents means much more than simply to obey them. It means to show them respect and love, to care for them as long as they need us, and to bring them honor by the way we live.
This means that children are polite when they speak to their parents. Cheeky talk, arguing and complaining is inappropriate behavior for children. Neither is it right for children to grumble about their parents behind their backs. It means that children obey them whether they are present or absent. This command was so important to God that He put in His top ten rules. God wants us to have strong, happy families. Yet this won’t happen unless children respect their parents. When children honor their parents they won’t argue with their parent’s decisions; they will accept them if even they don’t understand them.
Ephesians 6:2-3: Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
Why should children obey their parents? 2 reasons. Firstly, God promises that it will go well with them. I know from experience that the most unhappy children you ever find are those who disobey. Obedient children are happy children! Children enjoy family life far more when they obey. Life is far more rewarding when they don’t have hassles with authorities. Children who obey their parents find it much easier to obey other authorities.
Secondly, He has promised that they will live long upon the earth. Children who honor their parents grow up to be disciplined adults. As a result they enjoy life much more since they keep the rules. Obedience brings God's blessing. This happens because they avoid a good deal of the sin and danger that could shorten their lives. Children who disobey their mum and dad often go on to disobey the laws of the land. They get into trouble with the police and some go to prison. Many die while they are young. These are very good reasons why children should honor and obey their parents.
Children, are you obeying your parents? Do you listen to them and keep their rules? Do you honor your parents by treating them with respect? Would God be pleased with your behavior? God promises a long life to those who do this. Life goes well for obedient kids.
The word fathers, πατήρ, in Ephesians 6:4 can on occasion refer to both parents. This same word is translated parents in Hebrews 11:23: By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command. I think that parent’s better fits the context of Ephesians 6:4. Both parents are clearly referred to in verses 1-3. Consequently both mothers and fathers work together to bring up their children.
a. Don’t Provoke - Discourage
Ephesians 6:4: And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Paul's 1st command to parents is, don't provoke your children to wrath. Parents must not abuse their authority over the children. Instead they are to encourage them and build them up. Paul gives a similar command in Colossians 3:21: Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. In this passage Paul explains children can become discouraged. The word discouraged means to lose heart, to be dismayed, to be spiritless. How can parents prevent this from happening? By avoiding the following.
1. By always blaming them and never praising them. This portrays an impossible standard they feel they can never attain. Children need to be praised as well as corrected.
2. By inconsistent or unfair discipline. Children push the limits so that we will enforce the boundaries. This gives them security. Inconsistency makes the boundaries uncertain. One child complained that his father would use a cannon to kill a mosquito.
3. By breaking our promises. If we promise our children that we will do something for them we need to keep our word. Otherwise our word is empty and can’t be counted on.
4. By showing favoritism. Favoring one child over another creates bitterness and envy. Look at the problems this caused for Jacob and Esau, and for Joseph and his brothers.
5. By comparing a child with their brother or sister. This is unfair, all kids are different.
6. By being a hypocrite; where we say one thing and do another. Children see through hypocrisy very quickly. Children won’t respect parents who aren’t subject to authority.
7. By not being accessible. Our children need to spend time with us. We must be available for them at any time. Otherwise we say to them that they aren’t important.
8. By unreasonable demands and petty rules. This happens when we expect too much from our children. Some parents apply far stricter rules to their kids than they ever had. This frustrates them and prevents them from maturing as they should. It stifles growth.
9. By always saying no! Some parents often say no just for the sake of it. Parents can be overprotective of their kids. They have to grow up. Part of this is learning to make decisions for themselves. This means trusting them; giving them responsibilities. After all we want to work ourselves out of a job. We must teach them to make good decisions.
10. By making light of their problems. They might not seem very big to us but they are important to our children. Over discipline and control is one extreme we must avoid!
b. Do Provide - Encourage
Ephesians 6:4: And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Paul’s 2nd command is positive; bring your children up. The words bring them up, ἐκτρέφω, mean to nourish, feed, rear, bring to maturity. This deals with the physical, spiritual, mental and social needs that children have. God wants us to help our children to grow up into healthy adults. Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
We must feed their bodies, minds, souls and spirits. This takes patience, prayer, love, instruction, correction and example. When Jesus grew up He developed in many ways. Luke 2:52: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Jesus grew mentally, (in wisdom), physically, (in stature), spiritually, (in favor with God), socially, (in favor with men). Bringing up children is a multi faceted job. Paul highlights 2 important parts to this; The Mind and The Behind.
Training – The Behind
The word train, παιδεία, means to nurture, discipline, punish, correct, chastisement for improving behavior. We have a little saying in our home; the board of control to the seat of learning. Proverbs 22:15: Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. Proverbs 29:15: The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Today people view discipline in a negative light. But this is only because it is not exercised with consistency and love. Today, most discipline is applied out of frustration and anger. Yet loving discipline works if parents will take the time. Usually parents go to one of two extremes in this area. They are either too strict with rules about everything, or too lax allowing their children to get away with all sorts of misbehavior. Godly discipline is positive because it seeks to correct behavior that is wrong while encouraging right behavior. It is applied for the benefit of the child more than the parent.
Discussions With Our Kids
I still remember some of the little debates with Lauren and David over smacking. On a couple of occasions they have told me that we hurt them when we smack them. I usually reply, that’s good, now I know its working. If they say that it’s unfair or they won’t do this to their kids; we simply take them to God’s Word. You should do the same. Then we remind them of a temper tantrum they have seen in the supermarket. Or some other situation where a child is out of control. They know that we are right. God commands us to discipline our children for their own good. We need to train our children to be obedient while they are young and soft. Proverbs 19:18: Chasten your son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. Some parents say I love my children to much do smack them. Yet in reality, they don’t love them at all.
Proverbs 13:24: He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. Sam the Spoon talks to our children when they are disobedient. He always gets to the bottom of the matter.
Too often we parents discipline our children out of frustration. I have done this. We call our kids to come in for dinner; but they don’t come. So we call them again. They still continue to play. We call them a third time and still they ignore us. Finally we yell at them and threaten to let them have if they don’t come. This time they come. Kids are smart. They know their limits. They notice when our volume increases and we go up an octave in our voice, so they come to avoid discipline. We have trained them that they don’t have to come until the 4th or 5th call. What we should do is make them come the first time. We must train them to obey the first time by chastening them when they don’t.
Be Calm When Disciplining
We mustn’t discipline in anger. Send them to their room; wait till you cool down. Or ask your wife or husband to deal with it if you are too upset. We must also have our wits about us. A friend was disciplining his 9 year old daughter. He bent over as he talked to her very seriously. She reached up with her hand and pointed her finger into his nose. My friend sent her to her room for about 5 or 10 minutes while he went into another room and laughed. After he’d calmed down he came back to talk to her.
God loves us and yet He disciplines us when we disobey Him. Chastening is mentioned 7 times in Hebrews 12:5-11: And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Chastening Proof of Love
A gentleman saw a dozen boys teasing an aged beggar. The gentleman stepped up to them, and taking one of the boys by the collar, he shook him, and took him home, presumably for further discipline. But the other boys he did not meddle with. Now, why did he punish that boy and leave alone the others? Because it was his own son! The very word chasten, to make chaste, to make pure, has a depth of significance.
Just because Governments have banned discipline in the Schools and discouraged it in the home doesn’t mean they are right. They are wrong! Discipline does work; even though it takes time and consistency. In the long run it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Many individual battles must be won to gain victory in a war. So too in Child training. Time and consistency are needed. Listen to Solomon once again. Proverbs 22:15; 23:13-14: Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart.
Illustration – Kent & Sam disciplining their children. One of their own parents reported them to the Department of Children’s services. A social worker came around with a policeman to check out the situation. The social worker talked to the mum and the kids while the policeman talked to the dad. After finding out why and how discipline was applied the policeman said if more parents did what you are my job would be a lot easier.
Admonition – The Mind
The word admonition, νουθεσία, means a warning, exhortation, instruction, teaching. It literally means to put something into the mind; in this case instruction. Proverbs 1:8; 4:10: My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many.
You will never teach your children anything until you can control them. This is why Paul mentions training first then admonition. Control means that your children live within the boundaries that you set for them. Discipline is an important part of gaining this control. In life there always consequences for breaking the law. Therefore, discipline is necessary to reinforce the rules we must live by.
After Discipline In Our Home
After we smack our children we give them time to settle down. Some take longer to do this than others. Then we talk to them about what they did wrong. We get them to own up to their disobedience and we forgive them. Then they say sorry to us and to Jesus. If they were fighting with their brothers or sisters they say sorry to each other. Then we remind them of the rule they broke. It’s a good time to do this. We have their undivided attention. We have just shown them that there are consequences for disobedience. We then remind them that if they break this rule again we will repeat this disciplinary process. Training and admonition work together. They back each other up.
God has given us the responsibility of teaching our children to love the Lord. We must place spiritual values into their hearts and minds. The meal table is a great place to talk about our Christian faith. We can have Family devotions in the morning or evening or stories at bedtime. Driving in the car gives us another opportunity to share our Christian faith and values with our kids. We are responsible to pass on a Christian heritage. Church ministries can assist in this; but the main responsibility is ours. We have more time.
Let us never be too big to admit our failings. God is a perfect Father; but we are not perfect parents. Some times I have to ask my kids to forgive me. When I have been too hard on them or unfair; if I lose my temper at them. Yet when I ask them to forgive me it draws us all closer together. Let us tell God that we can’t bring up our kids without Him. If we determine in our hearts to train our Children to love the Lord, He will most certainly help us. He wants us to pray for our kids. The dedication service we had 3 weeks ago was a public testimony of this. Jeff and Shalene have dedicated themselves to bring up their children in the ways of the Lord.
I don’t claim to have all the answers for parenting. I am still working at it. Yet God’s word gives us sound instruction to help us. There are also some fine Christian books available to help us. James Dobson, Chuck Swindoll, Tim Lahaye and many others.
Parents do you pray for your kids? Do you provoke your kids to wrath and discouragement? Are you causing them to be discouraged by always rebuking them and never praising them? Do you acknowledge your own weaknesses to your children?
Do you correct your children? Do you tell them that you discipline them because you love them and that God commands you to? Is your discipline consistent? Do you remind them of the rules and consequences when applying discipline? Do you confirm your love to them at this time?
To bring our Kids up in the Lord we must use love, discipline and instruction.
Num 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.