“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul spoke to children about their duty before the Lord to obey their parents. He now shifts his attention to parents concerning their duty before the Lord in raising their children.
Paul begins with the word fathers (πατήρ; pater). While the word may refer to both sets of parents, Paul uses the word father because it represents the head of the family.
What are fathers to do, or in the case not do, in raising their children? The texts says, “do not provoke your children to anger,” Do not provoke (μή παροργίζω; me parorgizo) means to not make angry or exasperate. Who are fathers not to provoke to anger? Their children (τέκνον; teknon) or offspring. These would be the same offspring Paul spoke of in Ephesians 6:1-3.
What fathers are to do is bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The phrase bring them up (ἐκτρέφω; ektrepho) means to raise, rear and bring up to maturity. The word discipline (παιδεία; paideia) means training and punishment. The word instruction (νουθεσία; nouthesia) refers to teachings, admonitions and warnings.
A parent’s rearing, training and teaching of their children must be centered solely in the Lord. The Lord Jesus is to be the center of family relationships along with all instruction and wisdom.
Children are human beings made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Parents must not abuse certain boundaries of discipline. In correcting their children, mothers and fathers are prohibited from inflicting serious physical injury (Ex. 21:20, 26–27; Prov. 22:15). Parents are also forbidden to embarrass, curse, or otherwise verbally, mentally, or emotionally abuse their kids (James 3:8–10). Obviously, sexual exploitation has no place in the home (Lev. 18; Deut. 5:18).
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Parents who are not obviously abusive can also provoke their children to anger. A legalistic spirit that emphasizes rules over relationships, making sons and daughters fear for the security of their places in the family, can incite rebellion. Arbitrary disciplinary standards as well as expectations that kids can never hope to meet can also lead to anger against parents and against God — the One whom parents, especially fathers, image to their children. Mothers and fathers who are not overtly abusive nonetheless fail miserably if they wrongly anger their kids in these ways.”
As a pastor, and previously a youth pastor, I have witnessed the legalistic and arbitrary authority of fathers over their children. The result was a deep anger and a corresponding rebellious spirit in their kids. Often, this escalated to a frigid atmosphere within the home. It also led to some children renouncing God’s existence. For other children, it crushed their spirits and caused them to withdraw into their own silent world.
As parents, and grandparents, we must never provoke our children to wrath. If we do, we must seek their forgiveness by confessing our sin against them. This may not be an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.
Soli deo Gloria!