Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Being a child in today’s culture is not easy. There are so many different directions they are being influenced to go. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to get wrapped up in things that will take them further from God and those need to be looked at (1 Corinthians 15:33). However, for purposes of this column I would like for us to consider the benefits promised by God for doing what is good and right.
Consider the first four verses of chapter three of the book of Ephesians, cited above. Does this passage simply mean, “Kids, do what you are told!”…or is there a chance there is more to it than that? Parents, this is typically a passage you read for your children, but is there any parental responsibility involved for you in this passage? The answer is “Yes” to both questions.
Consider the command to “obey.” The Greek word in the original text literally means just that. However, within the definition of the original Greek term there is also the element of one who hears someone knocking at the door and they rush to hear who it is. When you look at the word “obey” in this light you see a child who is eager to find out what their parents are saying and rushes to hear it so they can do it. We also see the word “honor,” which in the Greek simply means “to place a value on.” That is what children are told to do here with their parents: to place a value on them. Within this definition we see love, affection and a deep value for parents. When a child honors their parents by valuing them very highly, obedience will be a natural progression.
The result of doing these two things is stated in verse 3: “…that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” The reward is immediate. It is not something one has to wait until heaven to obtain. Rather, it is a reward realized here on earth within the family when these scriptural principles are put into practice.
The question for parents to consider is this: “How am I doing teaching my children to obey and honor?” Children look to their parents to learn what the terms “obey” and “honor” mean in real life. So parents, how do you treat your spouse, your children, and your Lord? Fathers (and mothers), don’t provoke your children so that they will harbor deep anger and resentment to you in their hearts. This is not saying, “Don’t ever get your kids mad.” Any parent who practices fair and consistent discipline out of love for their children will get their child mad at them sooner or later. Rather, the word in the Greek for “provoke to wrath” has to do with enraging someone, exasperating them, arousing the kind of anger that is hateful and vengeful within them. In other words, parents, don’t treat your children in such a way that results in them harboring real hate in their hearts towards you.
Additionally, parents, if you want your children to take the first three verses of this chapter to heart and apply it, you must first apply the principles of honor and obedience in your own lives. In my experience, nothing accomplishes this better than studying the Word of God on a daily basis yourself (Psalm 1:1-3) and with them (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Parents, if you want your children to grow to become faithful servants of God then you must first be one yourself and also actively teach them on a daily basis to be the same. Leave the majority of Bible instruction for your kids to the church, and they will end up likely leaving the church.
Remember, the family is God’s idea and He gave you the children you have for only a short time. Prayerfully make sure you are raising them to succeed in the midst of a culture that would love for them to fail.