EPHESIANS 6:3-4b(part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:3 “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on
These words are based on the promise connected to the fifth commandment, as expounded by Moses (DT 5:16). This is not a guarantee that every dutiful child shall be healthy, wealthy, and live to be old. The reference is to groups–families, clans, nations. Bad children usually become bad parents and bad citizens. A breakdown in home-life leads to breakdown everywhere else.
Strengthening family life and teaching children to obey parents builds stable communities and nations. “Well” denotes quality of life, “live long” quantity of life. A society which shows kindness to parents, from whom it derives life, will in this life be blessed with good and longevity. Contented, enduring cultures stress family solidarity as the basic building block of society.
Eph. 6:4a “And, ye fathers,. . .”
Paul, turning to the proper discipline of children, aims directly at men, God’s ordained family leaders. Christian men cannot abdicate child-rearing to women, for God holds fathers primarily responsible for the training of children.
Unfortunately, America has moved toward being a matriarchal society with regard to child-rearing. We too often let men abdicate their rightful role.
About 50% of America’s children live at least a part of childhood separated from their father. One in four (27%) children now lives in a single-parent (mostly moms) home, half with a divorced, half with a never married, parent. This trend is fueled by high divorce rates, more teen pregnancies, and older single women who tire of waiting for a mate to have a child. Annually, a million children see their parents divorce, another million are born out of wedlock.
Of this crisis, child psychologist Wade Horn says, “To my knowledge, this has never happened in the history of human civilization.” Senator Moynihan calls us a post-marital society without historical precedent to guide us.
This absence of dads spells serious trouble in America. Fatherlessness is the piston, the driving force, impelling most of our social problems. When boys must learn on the street what it means to be a man, society has the devil to pay. The consequences are staggering. Some 70% of juveniles in long-term correctional facilities, 80% of drug dealers, and 80% of convicted felons, grew up apart from their fathers. Compared to children in two-parent families, children in single-parent (again, mostly moms) families are six times as likely to be poor, three times as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to drop out of school, be expelled or suspended from school, get pregnant as teens, become single parents, use drugs, or be in trouble with the law.
Unless the trend can be reversed, our social nightmare will become ever scarier. Society must pressure entertainment and music industries, movie producers, television gurus, and commercial makers to stop deifying wanton sex.
Society must also reduce our high divorce rate. Sociologists, psychologists, and children’s workers are screaming that our notion of “getting a divorce for the children’s sake” was absolutely wrong. We thought it would be better for children if their quarreling parents divorced rather than stayed together and fussed. We now know the old-fashioned maxim “stay married for the kids” was a stroke of genius. Divorce is needed to halt brutality, but we must end the days of easy divorces, especially where children are involved. We must make it harder for couples to split up. We have for too long sacrificed our children on the altar of parental quests for freedom, independence, and choice. Fathers, as well as mothers, must be held responsible for rearing children.
(Sources include US News and World Report, 08-01-94 p. 6, 04-12-93 p. 72, 09-12-94, p. 25, and Word and Way, “Absent dads spell trouble,” Dec. 93)
Eph. 6:4b (part 1) “. . .provoke not your children to wrath:”
Avoid harsh, cruel punishment which drives a child to inner bitterness and outer hostility. Our text is a safeguard. Parents do not have the right to act as they please toward a child. Scripture always handles authority/submission relationships with balance and fairness. God protects the submissive by forbidding bitterness and austerity in those to whom He gives authority, including parents (here and CL 3:21), husbands (CL 3:19), bosses (CL 4:1), and pastors (1 P 5:3). God gives authority to all these, but they must not abuse it.
The Bible gives parents two parameters within which to administer discipline: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son” (PR 13:24), “Provoke not your children to wrath.” Do discipline children, but not excessively. Trouble arises when we venture past these boundaries and go to one extreme or the other.
My grandfathers were raised under Victorian discipline. Children were to be seen and not heard. Parents repressively ruled with an iron fist. They were tyrannical, often severe, sometimes brutal. This was wrong, dead wrong.
Over-reacting to this aberration, society swung the pendulum way too far the other way. Victorian discipline was rightly cast aside, but wrongly replaced by a philosophy which downplayed all forms of punishment. This new erroneous ideology toward child-rearing is part of a larger social mind-set that helped foster much of the social morass we find ourselves in today. At least three things are wrong with this “no punishment” child-rearing philosophy.
The “no punishment” philosophy is wrong, first of all, because it is based on a fallacious guiding premise: human nature is essentially good. All that is needed, some say, is to let children express themselves, let them be free. Do not stifle their creativity, do not correct, repress, control, or punish. Most important of all, never never spank, for it will teach the children to be violent.
In this debate, the verdict of history verifies the plain teaching of Scripture. Human nature is evil. Children are rebels and lawless by birth. Their spirits are not to be crushed, but must be corralled and corrected.
The “no punishment” philosophy is wrong, in the second place, because it accepts a false assumption: the opposite of wrong discipline is no discipline. This is wrong. The opposite of wrong discipline is right discipline. We admit, excessive discipline does more harm than good. However, the same is true of too little discipline. Only properly administered punishment benefits children. Stay within God’s two prescribed parameters. To violate either is wrong.
Third, the “no punishment” philosophy is wrong because it was spawned by the wrong circumstance: over-reaction. We tend to over-react to past error. “The ever-present danger is to react too violently. It is always wrong when our attitude is determined by another attitude which we regard as wrong. Our view should never result from a merely negative reaction” (Lloyd-Jones).
This is where the Christian family holds a tremendous advantage. We do not have to be swayed by the passing theories of any given era. We have the unchanging, eternal, dependable Word of God to base our views on.