Devotional # 111. 11/17/14. Ephesians 6:1-4.
Intro: Last week we read the end of Ephesians 5 (vv. 22-33) and saw how husbands and wives were supposed to interact with each other. Wives are supposed to respect their husbands as they would Jesus because it’s Jesus who has declared this is the way it should be. Husbands are supposed to love their wives in the same way that Jesus loved us (by being willing to die for us). But the best part was that although this is true on how marriages should look, Paul made it very clear that he was also talking about Jesus and the church (5:32). Every single point of marriage is God showing us what He’s like and how He loves. So today Paul brings us to the last role in the family: the kids. Remember read the verses above (Ephesians 6:1-4) first, so the devotional below can make sense of what you just read.
vv. 1-3. Just in case you didn’t read the Intro above, the context here is how families are supposed to work. The husband is supposed to love his wife as much as he loves himself (5:28), the wife is supposed to respect her husband (5:31) and here children are supposed to obey their parents. As Paul says “children, obey your parents” is a commandment. It is specifically part of the 10 Commandments from Exodus 20:12, saying “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you”. Interestingly it is the first commandment not having to do with how to treat God but how to treat others. So children respecting their parents is pretty important to God. Why do you think God put in “that your days may be long”? Well, as Paul says it is “the first commandment with promise” meaning it is the first commandment that has a blessing tied to it if you keep it. But interestingly in Hebrew culture training up children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) was very important and if the child was disobedient they were taken out and stoned to death. Now many of us parents may have felt this way a few times but we would never actually want to kill our kids. But imagine the culture if that was a rule! From a young age they learned to respect their parents because their parents were representatives of God and if you disobey God then you die. I have a feeling they turned out a huge majority of spiritual, productive members of society. Are we training our children to respect God in this way?
But are they supposed to respect their parents for no reason? Of course not. With God there is always a reason. He says to respect your parents “as to the Lord.” Remember how I said parents are representatives of God? Kids are to obey with a good attitude, with respect, as if they are respecting Jesus, as always it’s an issue of the heart. Now for you, parents, are you making it easy for your kids to see God through your life? Every parent knows their kids see everything and imitate it. It is on us to portray the Lord in justice, love, self-control, gentleness, patience and truth. If you don’t pray for God to help you with this, you should start because you need it.
I wanna take this chance to talk about how important it is for parents to be united. There is a reason that just prior to talking about kids, Paul mentioned that husband and wife have become “one” (5:31). It’s because kids will purposefully and indirectly do everything possible to divide the two of you! It is crucial that you stand together. The kids don’t take priority. And that you appear united in all situations and if you disagree then talk about it later. The same for fights: don’t let the kids see you do it. Sure, you’ll have disagreements but you must appear united in front of the kids because you are setting an example. In the same way we’ve been talking about the unity of the church being more important than any single person, the unity of the family is more important than one person.
v. 4. I like how the NIV translates this: “Fathers,do not exasperate your children;instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Here Dad’s get a specific command. Why are they singled out? Two reasons: 1. Because as mentioned last week they are the priest of the household, whatever goes wrong God holds them accountable for keeping the house in order. 2. Because fathers have more of a tendency to exasperate their children then moms do. Paul was actually speaking against what was common culture in the Roman homes of his time. The father was the commander of the home and the children were like servants (Source 2). Paul didn’t have to tell them how to lay down the law instead he had to tell them to be compassionate.
The word parorgizo (G#3949) that is used here means to “exasperate” but also means to “arouse to wrath” (Source 1) so actually it’s used for both the arousal and the wrath here. Is that confusing? Look at this comparison:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath”
“Fathers, do not parorgizo your children to parorgizo”
In short don’t be the cause of the wrath and don’t be the wrath itself.
But how do we “exasperate” our kids? “Parents can easily misuse their authority either by making irritating or unreasonable demands which make no allowances for the inexperience and immaturity of children, or by harshness and cruelty at one extreme or by favouritism and over-indulgence at the other, or by humiliating or suppressing them, or by those two vindictive weapons sarcasm and ridicule” (p. 246).
As I mentioned above, kids should obey their parents because their parents are representing God in fairness, in love, in forgiveness and in discipline. The implication here is that God would never provoke us into sin so why would we represent God to our children in that way? True, we’re only human and we will fail at this from time to time but that is the exception and not the rule. You don’t get to use that as an excuse.
Colossians 3:18-22 is very similar to this section. However I’d like to direct you to verse 21 which says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” So now the full picture is that as fathers we can exasperate our kids which causes wrath in them but also can discourage them. I have to confess this is a verse that my wife has to quote to me often. I like pushing peoples buttons. I find something that worries them or annoys them and I keep doing it until I get a reaction. I do this especially with my son (maybe because he inherited that trait from me!) But the problem is that when I take advantage of his being naïve or if he’s already frustrated, I’m actually hurting him. Instead of encouraging Him like God would, I end up frustrating him like Satan would. This is a real issue that I have been working on bit it will only get better when I pray about it, am purposefully conscience of it and practice not doing it.
Lastly, Paul tells fathers to “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The best way to do this is to know the Lord. As a father you must read the Bible, not just devotionals, not sermons on the radio, but the Bible itself. When you read it God will teach you what to do but He will also give you examples of how He is a daddy. When we read the Bible we begin to live it. If you make the sacrifices that no one knows about, like getting up early and reading and studying the Bible or giving a homeless person a coat it changes you. Your children will be trained and instructed not by a schoolmaster but by a loving Father who lives out his faith. Read Psalm 78:1-8 for good fathers and 1 Samuel chapters 1-4 about Eli and why he was a bad father.
Conclusion. I’ve heard it said that God designed structures into the human life in threes* because that is how it works best. The reason is that God is Three-in-One: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the same way a family is the husband, the wife and the children. They are off balance when one of these dimensions are missing. As mothers and fathers we must be united and give our children the best. Not education or wealth but spiritual education and godly wealth.
If you are not a parent then you can learn these things for when you become a parent. If you never have children you can still learn what it is like for parents and how much your Father in heaven loves you.
*other examples are: three primary colors; the atom is made up of protons, neutrons, electrons; matter is made up of solid, liquid and gas; there are three realms: the physical, the spiritual, the social; and of course the Church has Christ as its head, then leaders, then the rest of the body. (Even the U.S. government has three branches: Legislative, Executive, Judicial!)
Source 2: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.