1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV)
The Apostle Paul continues with his instructions for the family, addressing husband and wife in the text yesterday, and addressing the kids today.
Notice that Paul did not tell children how to disobey – they come into the world, just as we did, knowing how to do that on their own, just as we did. Paul said for children to obey their parents.
That implies that parents have the greater role, that of teaching their children. I am not speaking about education here, but rather, about parents instructing children, by both word and example, what it means to follow the Lord and live in community with others.
If we don’t teach our kids, they follow their natural bent, their sin nature, and grow up to be wild, selfish, grown-up versions of their little selves, unable to function in a family or in community. The lessons only get harder as they get older.
Paul quotes the fifth of the Ten Commandments (given the first time in Exodus 20:12, and the second time in Deuteronomy 5:16), reminding the kids that this is the only commandment with a promise attached.
Solomon reiterated this same command with his son, reminding his son to “keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 6:20).
It’s important here to see that Paul used a generic word for “children” – there is no expressed or implied age range. Basically, in Paul’s culture, children lived with their parents until they got married. So this really speaks to kids of any age still living under parental care and support.
So what do we teach our children? The list is so long, where do we even begin? It starts with simple things like obedience, attitude, and the difference between right and wrong, about the Lord, how to live in community… the list is endless.
Solomon captured a lot of his thoughts and instructions on raising children in the book of Proverbs. As parents, we do well to heed Solomon’s advice on walking with the Lord, and teaching these things to our kids. Our best instruction for our kids, as always, is our lives as an example.
Paul reminds the fathers to be students of their kids, and not exasperate them, not make them give up. Are we to teach our kids, and reinforce lessons until they get the point? Of course. Are we to always be in “teach” or “tell” mode? No. We need to have times of instructions, and also times of listening to our kids’ hearts, to understand what is going on in their minds and lives.
Kids are especially sensitive to knowing when they are being “told” vs. when they are being led. They want a heart connection with their parents, just like God wants a heart connection with us, and we want a heart connection with God. We, like our kids, are made in God’s image, and desire a deep connection with Him. As dads, it’s our responsibility to connect with our kids and hear what’s on their hearts. And that takes time, gentleness, and a sensitive spirit toward the Lord, and toward our kids. Often the best thing we can do is ask for forgiveness when we blow it, when we mess up.
If you are a young parent with small kids, don’t give up or give in, and remember to listen to their hearts. If you are a parent with kids out of the house, remember to still be a parent, to listen well, to be a resource for your kids, sharing what you did right as well as mistakes you made, and wish you had a “do-over” to try again.
As my father told me when our kids arrived on the scene, “You never stop being a parent, even when your kids are grown.”
The choice is ours… I choose like Joshua: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
What is your choice?