Father, we pause before we consider the revelation that You have given through, in this case, the Apostle Paul. We're so thankful that every human experience that we could ever go through, You touched upon in this book in some fashion. Through the ages, the great principles of truth are given to us in clear format. Lord as we consider what is part of the marriage process, and that is the bearing and the raising and directing of children. I pray, Father that You give us great grace. Some of us as parents, would be parents or grandparents even, these principles Father extend to all. Help us to understand, to apprehend and to put into practice. In Jesus' name. Amen.
How many of you are parents? Show of hands. Great. How many of you have had parents? Raise your hands. Okay. We'll just want to make sure we cover all our bases.
I want to talk to you today about the world's most important job. I think of all the tasks we could ever be assigned, all the occupations we could ever be engage in, that especially in marriage, the most important is that of being a parent.
My mind goes back to May 8, 1986 when my son Nathan Alexander was born. I remember after he was washed up and they give him to me to hold. The first thing that entered my mind is, "He's so light." Just this little peanut I'm holding and he's just so little and so manageable, so light. As I was thinking that, another thought hit me like a ton of bricks and that is the weight of responsibility for this life as it goes beyond the event of birth all the way through his years to adulthood.
It is estimated that 16% of a child's life is spent at school, 1% of a child's life occupies the Sunday school that is if he or she goes, which means 83% of that child's life will be spent under the tutelage of parents. Psalm 127 says, "Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior so are the children of one's youth happy, is the man whose quiver is full of them."
I remember meditating on that Psalm, because we wanted more than one child. We wanted several, but I thought, "Really, happy as the man whose quiver is full of them?" Not every man would agree that they want to quiver full of children. They quiver at the thought of having a quiver full of children.
There were three men in a hospital waiting room while their wives were in the deliver room giving them their respective children. A nurse came in and said to one of the fathers, "Congratulations, your wife just bore you twins." He smiled and said, "What a coincidence because I happen to play for the Minnesota Twins." So she thought, "Okay. Cool." Came back a little bit later and announced to the second husband, "Congratulations, your wife just had triplets." This guy said, "This is amazing, because I worked for the 3M Company. Isn't that wild that I would have three children, triplets when I work for the 3M Company?" Well, upon hearing this conversation the third guy just hit the floor and started moaning. The nurse said, "Are you sick?" He said, "No ma'am, but I do work for the 7 Up company." The thought that somehow that could be prophetic bothered him.
Being a parent is aside from having a spouse, the most important job in the world, but it's also the toughest job. Here's why it's tough, by the time you're experienced, you're out of a job, you're unemployed, just when you're getting the hang of it and it's all coming together for you and you're firing in all cylinders, they leave the house. It's a tough job, because kids have a mind and that means they're unpredictable. You never know what they might say or what they might do.
I'm talking to a group of people that have various stages in life. Some of you have already raised your kids, you're into the grandparent stage and can I just say once again, that's the best part.
But some of you are there yet, you're still raising kids and you're even at that awkward phase some called it "the rebel force teenage years". You're just sort of managing through that, holding your breathe.
You know what Mark Twain once said? He said, "Things go pretty smoothly until your child reaches age 13. That's the time to stick him in a barrel, put the lid down nice and tight and feed them through a knothole." Then he said, "When they turn 16, close up the knothole." As much as I love Mark Twain, he was the great humorous and a wonderful author. I don't think he knew very much about raising kids, because first of all, things don't go pretty smoothly up until age 13. Then the whole knothole thing, you think you're going to feed a teenage boy who can eat three refrigerators full of food through a knothole, you're crazy.
The whole point of being a parent isn't to be disengage and isn't to checkout by putting him in a barrel or whatever, but rather to let them check you out. That's the whole idea of this scenario of parenting. You're letting young live check you out, what you say, what you do and you're shaping and molding a life for the future. Can I just say, it's much easier to build a boy than it is to repair a man. It's much easier to build a girl than it is to repair a woman. But how do you do that? How do you build? How do you fashion? How do you use those formidable years to give sufficient necessary resource for that person to launch into the future?
Well I'll have you turn to Ephesians Chapter 6, which is of course following Chapter 5 which talks all about husbands and wives. "Husbands, love your wives. Wives, submit to your husbands." In Chapter 5, a good section of that deals already with the marriage issue.
We continue in Chapter 6 and though we're going to look at one verse for the sake of context, let's begin in Chapter 6 Verse 1, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise that it may be well with you that you may live long on the earth. And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
We're going to occupy our time this morning on that single verse, Verse 4. There's enough in one verse to give us a good overall snapshot of the role of parenting in a marriage relationship and you'll notice it's a commandment. It's a negative and a positive command. So, the verse divides nicely into three general principles for parenting.
Number one, parenting can be done negatively. It's done all the time negatively. It could be done positively. Finally, parenting should be done ultimately. So we're just going to take phrase by phrase and work our way through this one verse. Sometimes less is more as we probe the depths of it.
So, parenting can be done negatively. You'll notice the first part of Verse 4, "And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath." Stop there. Why does Paul direct this toward fathers only? Why doesn't he say for example, fathers and mothers or parents? Why just fathers? Because if you know anything at all about parenting, you couldn't keep a mother away from the parenting situation to save your life, right? She's like the bulk of it.
I was on a hospital visiting a couple sometime back. Their child was brought into the emergency room with some respiratory difficulty. I believe if memory serves. The both of them are concerned, mom and dad. But the mother, she like owned the hospital. She was in total control of the welfare of that child. Anybody that would come close, just that look.
So then why does Paul say, "Fathers, don't provoke your children to wrath." I'm going to give you three possible answers. They are all maybe correct, though I think the third one is most correct.
Number one, because if there's an area of neglect typically for a man it would be that of his children. Typically, fathers tend to neglect children. It's not high on their priority list, especially, when this was written 2000 years ago in the Roman world to most fathers 2000 years ago, kids were an inconvenience.
They simply did it to satisfy the requirements of the state of the Government. They did it as their civic duty, but they didn't spend much time raising kids. So because it was an area of neglect, perhaps Paul isolates the fathers, the Christian fathers who would be reading this letter.
In fact even Socrates years ago of course in the Greek times, said to the men of Athens, "Why do you men scrape and turn every stone to gather wealth, but neglect your own children to whom you must one day relinquish all?" So it must have been quite a problem.
Here's the second reason that Paul speaks to fathers only in this verse, because fathers tend to be of the father and mother. The ones that are at least perceived to be the most harsh of the two. When you think of tender and care you usually think about a mother. Our fathers are a little more on the disciplinarian side. I'm just remembering my dad. He was tall, had a big voice and kind of that imposing intimidating figure as compare to my five foot one inch mother.
Here's a third reason and probably the reason. Though Paul would've known that parenting involves of course father and mother, he's speaking to fathers principally because they bare the brunt of responsibility in the home. In other words, I'm dealing with you fathers because I know the buck stops here and you are responsible for setting the pace and the tone, even of childrearing in the home. So though he would have in his mind mothers and fathers, he primarily addresses fathers. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath." So you can see by that negative commandment in Verse 4, that parenting can be done negatively because he says, "Don't do it this way but do, do it this way." Parenting can be done negatively and could be actually detrimental to a child.
One translation of the New Testament renders that, "Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them." The Amplified Bible has even more colorful and I wonder if children didn't have a hand in translating this verse, "Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children. Do not be hard on them or harass them, lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. Do not break their spirit." That's the translation of that one negative command.
It's put in the present tense, this negative command, "Do not provoke," and because it's in the present tense, it suggest a pattern that over time resentment and frustration could build up by that process in a heart of a child. You say, "How?" What ways would possibly be provoking to a child?
Let me give you several. Number one, hypocrisy will provoke a child to wrath. When a child hears what parents say and they watch what parents do and those don't match where they can preach a good message there, but at home, this is what they're really like. That builds up resentment and angers a child. They feel like you've betrayed them.
John Bunyan said, "A man can be a saint abroad but a devil at home." If such is the case, that will provoke a child to wrath.
A second way is by inconsistency. Inconsistency, I'm speaking here of discipline. When a parent is inconsistent in the way he or she deals with the little ones that provoke them to wrath. If you respond one way to them one day, but then the next day respond a totally different way to the same kind of action, it confuses them.
So for example, if yesterday was juniors birthday and he threw a cake across the room and hit Aunt Matilda and you laugh it off, but the next day, he accidently spills milk and you go ballistic, that sends a confusing message. You are not consistent in the way you're approaching his behavior. Also, if one parent is harsh and the other is passive, that's inconsistent and you know what that means? It means that the child is going to find that out really quickly and figure out who to go to, to get his or her will done.
Oh mother is hard, but father is soft. Forget mother, I'm going right to father. So, that's why parents have to talk it through and decide together how their discipline is going to be consistent.
Two Harvard sociologists said, "The number one factor in preventing delinquency in children is the firm, fair and consistent discipline of parents." Did you get that? Firm, fair, and consistent. So hypocrisy and inconsistency will provoke a child to wrath.
Here's the third discouragement. If you criticize more than compliment a child, if a child grows up knowing all the things he does wrong versus some of the things he does right, that will build resentment, wrath, anger.
Proverbs 15, harsh words steer up anger. When a child feels like they can't do anything right, they will get angry. You are provoking them to wrath.
Here's the fourth, favoritism. If a parent plays favorites with one child over another, that was easy in my case. I have one son, but when you have many children and I was the fourth born of four boys. I had three older brothers and I remember what this was like. Have you ever been compared to your siblings remember that growing up? My older brothers by the way, they were like overachievers, valedictorian, varsity this, varsity that, just like hard to compete and I heard that and it would build up resentment overtime, favoritism.
Can you think of a couple of scriptural examples of a father or mother who did this, played favorites and what the fallout was? My mind goes to Isaac and Rebekah. Remember that married couple in Genesis 25? Isaac's favorite son was his first born Esau, whereas Rebekah's favorite son was the second born Jacob. That was a recipe for a family feud.
Another one was Joseph. He was the favorite of his father and all the other brothers saw that, heard that, felt that and overtime they grew bitter against Joseph and sold him into slavery. So hypocrisy, inconsistency, discouragement, favoritism, here's the fifth, overcommitment.
Kids study us and if they see us being overcommitted, so that our job, our occupation, our activities, our hobbies take precedent over them, so that they feel like they're an intrusion into your life whenever they tried to get your attention. You'll provoke them to wrath. They feel unwanted. Kids will understand if you're busy, but they won't understand if they're neglected.
Charles Francis Adams, that probably doesn't ring a bell. He was a politician in our country in the 1800s. Charles Francis Adams, you probably do know his grandfather or you know of him President John Adams, was his grandfather and you know his father, John Quincy Adams. So when grandpa and dad are presidents of the United States, that's a hard act to follow. When he became a politician, he wasn't a president, he was a diplomat, a statesman involved in several different kind of campaigns, very, very, very overcommitted. So much so that on one particular day, when he went fishing with his son, Henry, both of them kept diaries.
In little Henry's diary, the entry said, "Went fishing with my father today, the most wonderful day of my life." But in father's diary it read, "Went fishing with my boy today, a day wasted." You've got to know then Henry grew up feeling that overcommitment of his father to politics and the business, so that he felt like an intrusion. That will provoke a child to wrath.
Let me give you a sixth, domineering. Domineering parents, either by controlling them, the kids or smothering the kids or over-protecting the kids, when a child feels like you are just like hovering and you won't let them out, you won't let them make their own choices, they feel like, well, you don't trust them. You don't trust them to make their own choices or to feel the consequences of their own choices and that will build up overtime resentment. They will grow to be angry. You provoke them to wrath.
Another way, this is way number seven, not to parent. Minimizing what your kids feel or say or what opinion they have. If they share something, they share an idea or an opinion and you just marginalize it, minimize it, it builds up resentment in them.
If her doll breaks or his toy is missing and you go, "Oh, come on, it's just a toy." Without realizing that toy to that child is like your car or your occupation, your business. It's everything to him. If you minimize those kinds of feelings and opinions overtime, it builds up resentment.
I rather report on Child Welfare and state that the primary reason why kids go to foster homes is not because of the divorce of parents, not because of financial issues, but disinterested parents. They just loose an interest in the kids.
Finally, here's the eighth way not to parent, overloading. I don't mean your life, I mean their life. If your expectations of those girls or boys are so high, so that you don't give them approval until they reach a certain goal, a certain grade, a certain cheerleader status or athletic status, you're provoking them to wrath. They feel like they will never please you. They'll grow up frustrated. Why does he have to get the best grades? Why does he have to be number one on the team, why?
Did you know that Napoleon Bonoparte was number 42 in his class? He became a ruler of a nation. Did you also know that Isaac Newton was next to the lowest in his class? Wow! Great scientist! Or what about the six-year-old kid that came home from school with a note by the teacher that said, "Too stupid to learn." That was Thomas Edison. Too stupid to learn, what? Great American inventor.
Parenting can be done negatively. Fathers, including all parents, both parents, mother and father, do not provoke your children to wrath.
Now, we turn a corner. The second phrase of Verse, 4 but there's the positive. "Bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord." The word "bring up" means to nourish your children or better yet move them toward maturity. Bring them up, don't hold them down, don't push them back, don't keep them home, bring them up. How are we to bring them up? Notice two words are given right after that, bring them up, what's the first? In the training, training, teaching.
I read something this week that it was sort of astonishing revelation. The word for parents, plural in Hebrew is the word, "horim". It's related to the word in Hebrew that I already knew "mori." That word means teacher. So parents and teacher come from the same root word and here's the reason why. In Judaism, parents were the first teachers. I don't mean that figuratively. I mean literary. The first three years of a Hebrew boy or girl's life, the mother was in charge of the educational process until that child was wind. Once the child was wind if it was boy, the father would supervise the teaching of the law to the male child and give that boy a trade to follow throughout life. If it was a girl, the mother would disciple that young daughter in the domestic affairs and activities of the home.
So parents were the first trainers, teachers. Why is that? Because they believe literary in the command of Deuteronomy 6, let me read it to you. "The words which I, the Lord, command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up." In other words, mothers and fathers, the training of your children should be as natural as the activities of your day, a part of everyday life.
When I was first reading these series of text in Deuteronomy as a young father, wondering how I could implement that, knowing that my son loved to play dress up all the time.
Anytime there's a new figure, a new movie. He becomes that character.
We invented a little game at home called "Say, play and pray." I've told you about this over the years. But it was something he looked forward to like everyday, say, play, pray. We would say it first. We would play it second. We would pray about it third. First of all, we would say it. We would read in a simplified version of the Bible. A story out of the Bible, say David and Goliath. After we would say it or read it. We would then play it. We would role play it. We would act it out. I would be Goliath, he was always the hero.
If it was the New Testament, he was always Jesus. We would actually dress up in clothing of the time and put on our own little play. So we would say it, reinforced by playing it then afterwards we would pray about the lesson that that story thought us. So every time I came home they would say, "Let's do say, play and pray," never get tired of it. There's lot's of creative ways to train them.
So, parenting can be done negatively, it could be done positively and Paul says you're to bring them up. Move them toward maturity by first being their teacher, their trainer but notice the second word., "The training and the admonition of the Lord."
Now, there's a Bible word, admonition. What does that mean exactly? I'm going to tell you the word in Greek because some of you who have a counseling background or you've been trained in councilors will recognize the word. "Nouthesias" is the word. If you have a counseling background you may know the "Nouthetic counseling," spells by Dr. Jay Adams especially comes from this word admonition or nouthesia. It actually means to place something before ones mind.
It has the idea of correcting, rebuking or warning by even contending with the person like saying, "Now, wait a minute, I want to correct your path, change your behavior, warn you to stay away from this and instruct you in a different way." So it's a little firmer idea. There's training but then there's admonition. Proverbs 29 says, "A child left to himself brings shame."
Admonition brings up the subject of discipline. A word some parents try to avoid, a practice many parents try to avoid, discipline. There are two kinds of discipline. There's corrective discipline, that's corporal punishment and there's preventative discipline. Let me just make a few remarks and based them on the scripture.
Number one, corrective discipline, that means spanking. Corrective discipline expresses love. Corrective discipline, expresses demonstrates love. Now, not everybody agrees, some think it's the most hateful thing in the world. You know who thinks that mostly? Kids. "You don't love me." "No, it's because I love you I'm going to do it." "You hate me," or, "I hate you." So a parent thinks, "They just said they hate me, that seven-year old must hate me I better not do it."
What your seven-year old thinks about you today really is unimportant. What your 18-year-old will think about you after the process is over is all important. It's loving, it's not hateful, it's loving.
In fact, listen to God says Hebrews, the Book of Hebrews, "Whom the Lord loves he chastens and he scourges every son he receives." Corrective discipline expresses love. Also, corrective discipline is fruitful. It bears fruit, it produces fruit. When it's done rightly, righteously and fairly it produces fruit.
Listen to Proverbs 23:13 and 14, this is right out of the New Living Translation. I selected it on purpose, "Don't fail to correct your children, they won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death. It's fruitful when administered righteously." Ever since my era of being raised, there were anti-spanking experts all the way from Dr. Spock, not from Star Trek, different one, all the way through to modern times.
Spanking was decried, corporal punishment was decried as being wrong and unproductive and it will cost your kids to be antisocial so said all the experts and so say some of these experts.
I read an interesting article in the U.S. News & World Report, that say that such experts based all of their findings, "On a body of research that is at best inconclusive and at worst badly flawed." The same article that dealt with these cites more recent studies indicating that spanking will make children less likely to fight with others and more likely to obey their parents. Something else about corrective discipline, it must be timely. You can't start when they're 17. You can't say, "Okay, they're 13 find a barrel." It has to be timely.
Proverbs 19:18, "Chasten your son while there is hope and don't be a willing party to his death." You do not show love by overlooking willing disobedience and neglecting discipline.
I heard about two kids. They were grown up and I said, "Do your parents ever spank you?" They said, "Do my parents ever spank me? My mom has a little whip down by her kitchen sink with the words of the hymn next to it. I need thee every hour." Let me give you one final point about corrective discipline. Corrective discipline requires tools. What is the most frequent tool the Book of Proverbs talks about when it comes to discipline? The rod, right? Some of you, your eyes are widening right now.
The word in Hebrew for rod is the Hebrew word "shebet" which means a staff, a branch or an offshoot. In other words, something that is separate from the human body. Don't use your hand to discipline your child. Don't use your fist to discipline your child. Don't use your foot or a headbutt. I'm just trying to cover all my bases here. I believe that a parent's hands should be reserved for an embrace, a stroke and an affirmation. So when they look at those hands, they don't say, "Those are the things that hit me, but those are the hands that embraced me." There should be an extension and that is in the term of some kind of implement that will get their attention. That's corrective discipline.
The other side of the coin is preventative discipline. You know any good doctor will practice preventative medicine as well as corrective medicine. A good parent will do the same. Do you play with your child? That's preventative discipline. Do you pray with your child? That's preventative discipline. It's the time spent, it's the hours that you sow into their life, because the corrective discipline only reinforces the preventative discipline. If it's all corrective and not preventative, it won't work.
As Josh McDowell was fond of saying, "Rules without relationship will produce rebellion." A Gallup poll, a Gallup survey of 1000 teenagers over a 24-hour period found that 42% of them received no words of praise during a 24-hour period tested. One half had gotten no hug or kiss and 44% of these kids never heard the words "I love you" one time. That shows me that the preventative discipline has not been a part of that family picture.
So back to the text, parenting can be done negatively, could be done positively. Here's the third, parenting should be done ultimately. There's a goal that you as a Christian parent ought to live with when you look at those kids. Here it is in Verse 4, "And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the training and the admonition," what's the last three words? "Of the Lord."
It didn't say, "Just bring them up in training and admonition," period, but, "Of the Lord." That is your goal isn't just too positively train them and if need be admonish them and correct them, but to do so with the intention of saying they become mature spiritually. It's a spiritual goal. Lead your children to Christ, disciple your children in Christ, teach them to love Christ.
In fact, I believe, the best definition of a parent, biblical definition of a parent, putting the principles together is the parent is a partner with God in making disciples of their children.
You are the instrument God wants to use to disciple those children and ready them for the future and you've got to begin young.
Charles Spurgeon used to say, "Before a child reaches seven, teach him all the way to heaven and better still the work will thrive if he learns before he's five."
Dr. Martin De Haan, a medical doctor who became a pastor, came out with these statistics, that after the age of 35 only one person in 50,000 will receive Christ. After the age 45 only one person in 300,000 will receive Christ. The reason he gave an ongoing set of statistics was to show that you begin really young when they're impressionable on their forging choices for the future. They may step away for awhile, but let them make that choice when they're young.
What is perhaps the most common verse you hear when it comes to raising kids whether parents come to dedicate their babies or you talk about child rearing or what is the most common verse you hear? "Train up a child." Proverbs 22, "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he won't depart from it." I think a lot of parents hear that and they think, "What that means is drag them to church, make him sing hymns, say prayers at meal and before bedtime and they might sow their wild oaths for when they're old and gray, they finally come back."
Now, let me put a different spin on it. Here's what I think it means. Here's the role of the parent. That Proverb, Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way that he should go." The word there in Hebrew "train" is a crazy word. It's the word "chanokh," which speaks of a practice when a baby was born and the baby was given to the midwife. The midwife would do something. She would take her index finger deep it in some date mixture like date honey and touch the gums, massage the gums, the soft palate and the rift of the mouth of that infant to stimulate the sucking reflex to get that child ready for breastfeeding.
That's for the word "chanokh" train comes from is to stimulate the taste. So here's what I believe the verse means, "Stimulate the taste for godliness in the life of your child and you stimulate that taste by not only what you say in training but by what you do in giving an example."
One of our great presidents, President Abraham Lincoln, commenting on that verse of scripture said, "To train up a child in a way that he should go, for a man to do that, he must walk that way himself." So here's the deal, a 100 years from now, it won't matter if you drive a cool car today or not. A 100 years from now, it won't matter if you got the iPhone 5 or the newest computer or if you are a fashionista and you really look cool in your clothing. But a 100 years from now, the world might be a better place because you invest it in the life of a child or two or three, or a quiver full.
That's the goal. Fathers and mothers don't provoke your children to wrath. Don't do it negatively. It can be done positively. Train them. Admonish them, but always ultimately with that goal in the Lord.
Father, that's where we leave it, looking at a single text of scripture. There's so much in it. Sometimes less is more and in this case, it's comprehensive enough for us to get a good picture of parenting on a human level. But we also thank Father what an example we have in You. We even call You Father, Heavenly Father.
We thank You, Lord, that You've given us an example through Your love and resources that You lavish upon us to the care as well as the discipline, the chastening. So Lord I pray that we, as fathers and mothers, taking our cues from our Heavenly Dad, that You had train us to train our children. I pray for anyone who doesn't have a relationship with You and they're trying to do parenting on their own without Your resource, without the feeling of Your Holy Spirit or the empowering of the Son of God in their lives. I pray that they would come to the cross and to the forgiveness of their sins become a child of the living God, tapping into the resources that You daily give, that we all need help, we all need strength. We're counting on You to provide all that we need and ask You for. In Jesus' name, Amen.