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. NKJV
My father passed away when I was about 13 years old. We didn’t have a fun life together, and I cannot remember getting a hug, but I loved my dad. He did the best he knew how to do with what he had, growing up as the son of a sharecropper with little education. He provided shelter, food, and clothing for his seven children as a construction worker and stressed the importance of education. Going to church on Sundays was the expectation, and honoring the sabbath with little activity was the norm. It was our life, and I am grateful for the years we had him.
In the photo above is the Susberry family. My father-in-law, his five children, and most of our kids. We were celebrating one of his birthdays. He lived to be 93 years old. Contrary to media reports, some black men love their families and do well by them. I honor the men on both sides of my family tree who have been great fathers and continue to father their children to the best of their abilities.
My niece locked herself in the bathroom when she was about four years old. Her dad was working, and we were visiting from Florida. She began crying and calling out for her dad when she realized she was locked in the bathroom. Her mom tried to coax her into opening the bathroom door, but she just cried, saying she wanted her dad. My husband got a ladder, climbed the bathroom window, and let himself in. When my niece was freed from the bathroom and my sister-in-law wrapped her in her arms, she kept saying she wanted her daddy! Today, as an adult, she is still close to her dad!
Paul gives instructions to fathers as relevant today as they were when he penned them. Paul’s first tidbit is that fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. Children are to honor their parents and obey them, but parents must realize that their children are people and should be handled with care.
When Paul wrote these words, children, like women, were not regarded as they are today. At that time, fathers could sell their children, marry them off to whomever they wanted to, whenever they wanted to, and rule their lives with absolute authority. I remember teaching about the Roman Empire, and when we talked about fathers’ relationships with their children, my students were shocked! They couldn’t understand why a father would be so harsh, with no repercussions and no help for the children. Thank God for Jesus!
That’s why Paul wrote these words: don’t provoke your children to wrath! The rules and expectations fathers have for their children at five should be modified when they become teenagers and again when they are young adults. If we expect them to live under the same rules all their lives, we will provoke them to anger. Even if Paul hadn’t said this, just live long enough, and you will see it! You may have even been that child that rebelled against unfair rules!
Harsh discipline causes children to become resentful. No discipline causes children to feel unloved. Fathers, who love the Lord, will be in constant prayer about their children, responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit and making adjustments in their parenting style as needed.
I heard my father tell my brother one day that if he didn’t get his act together, only two licks would pass. He would hit my brother, and my brother would hit the floor! That’s harsh from my perspective and not the wisest way of handling discipline, but he got the point across. And maybe, just maybe, it was what he needed to hear at that time!
Another way fathers can provoke a child to wrath is by withholding praise. Children thrive on accolades. Hearing a word of encouragement from their dad makes them feel like they can conquer the world. When children think they are doing everything they can to be the person their father would admire or love, and he never tells them they have already accomplished that by just being, they become resentful. Many adults suffer from inadequacies because they could never please their fathers. Paul encourages fathers to realize the influence they have over their children.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4 AMP
The Amplified version gives us further insight into what Paul was saying. After telling fathers what their behavior should not be towards their children, Paul told them what they should do. Don’t be harsh, but be kind! Don’t be indifferent towards them, but show them lovingkindness. Don’t be abusive, but discipline them. Today, discipline is considered harsh, especially if you use a belt or some other object to chastise your children. Paul isn’t talking about the type of beating you do to hurt another person, hospitalize them, or even destroy them. He’s talking about the discipline that says, “if you do this, then the consequence will be this,” and sticking to it with love.
Then Paul instructs fathers to teach their children about God. He hasn’t changed topics. Discipline is very much a biblical principle, but we discipline according to the word of God. When my husband saw that one of our daughters was trying to pull away into her own world, he came up with a solution. Instead of berating her, badgering her, or trying to make her hang out with the family, he pushed into her space and made a point of talking with her. He encouraged her to choose a devotional and to begin having personal devotional time to stay encouraged in the Lord. He lovingly drew her back into what was necessary for her growth, the family! By instructing her through God’s word!
Fathers have a huge responsibility towards their children. As the head of the home, they are to be encouragers and disciplinarians at the same time. Fathers are to set boundaries and expectations while realizing there will be times when their children will miss it. As much as they are to discipline with consistency and firmness, they should also understand when mercy and forgiveness must be extended. A balanced father doesn’t have to be a Christian, but a Christian should be a balanced father, leading and guiding his children to a love relationship with their Heavenly Father! Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers! Wonderful Jesus!