Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PROVOCATIVE PARENTING”

Ephesians 6.4

 

Tonight’s message from God’s Word is not directed to unsaved parents, to men and women who have not been converted to Jesus Christ and whose lives and families are not dedicated to glorifying God. Neither is this message from God’s Word directed to Christian parents who have any doubts about the utter depravity of their children, parents who think that getting their kids a good education and seeing them involved in careers they enjoy is the be all and end all of parenting. I suppose I should also make sure you understand that this message is not for parents who think parents who seek to influence the friends their children have, and who seek to influence the values, goals, and hopes of their children are intrusive, and that as they made their own mistakes and sins in life so their children should be given full reign to in turn making their mistakes and committing their sins.

This message is designed for parents who understand that their children’s unwillingness to reasonably and rationally discuss issues is a sinful ploy. This message is designed for parents who will bear any burden, spare no effort, and even be willing to anger their children from time to time that they might see their children someday converted to Christ.

My text for this evening is Ephesians 6.4, from the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesian congregation while he was imprisoned in Rome, and a portion of the larger passage that illustrates what kind of behavior is to be exhibited by people obeying the Apostle Paul’s command to be filled with the Spirit. The verse reads, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Moms and dads typically approach the task of parenting by using their own parents as standards. If they liked their parents and approved of their parenting style, then moms and dads will emulated and imitate their parents in the way they try to raise their children. But if they disapproved of their moms and dads, then their approach to parenting will be governed by the principle, “Not like my parents did it.”

I submit that neither approach to raising children is the correct approach, because neither approach focuses on the Bible as the proper guide to parenting, and because both approaches tend to set up the children as the most important consideration for parents, rather than the will of God as it is revealed in the Bible.

Three types of parenting for you parents who are committed to doing it the Bible way, and who are committed to evangelizing your children, to think about, even if it means being somewhat more intrusive than others in your family think is appropriate.

 

First, THERE IS INDULGENT PARENTING

 

Indulgent parenting is hardly parenting at all. Indulgent parents are actually servants to their children rather than parents of their children. Think, with me, about those indulgent parents we all know. Are they not servants to their children, rather training their children to be servants, as Galatians 4.1? When you observe this parent with a child, which one is exasperated? Which one is running this way and that? Which one does the chores, while the other one does what he pleases, what he wants, what he likes doing? If a child has a problem, the indulgent parent succumbs to the temptation to feel sorry for the child, and yields to the temptation to treat the child like a victim of his illness, or disability, or problem. However, rather than excuse a dyslexic child from working hard at being a good reader, a mom or dad ought to get behind the child and demand that he work hard to overcome his difficulty, recognizing that victimhood destroys a child’s character. Some moms feel sorry for their children because dad is not around. Other parents feel sorry for their kids because they have asthma, or because they are dyslexic, or because they have Down’s Syndrome, or because they had some other ailment. Such an approach does no child any good because such an approach indulges a child and ill suits them for adulthood and the challenges that must be overcome to ensure successful adulthood.

Indulgent parenting produces children who have a sense of entitlement, children who quickly label themselves victims in some way, and children who see themselves as the peers of their parents who have no obligation to either honor their parents or obey them. Does any explanation of how difficult it is to deal with such people about their sins in an effort to bring them to Christ need to be made? Only sinners who see themselves as responsible, such as those who grasp the concepts of authority that are related to honoring and obeying parents, are likely to ever seek Christ to be saved from their sins.

To illustrate just how bad this problem of indulgent parents can be, let me point you to three examples of indulgent parenting in the Bible:

First, there was Isaac’s son, Esau. You remember that Isaac had two sons, one who was a rugged outdoorsman and hunter, named Esau, and the other who was a momma’s boy, named Jacob. The father indulged Esau, while the mother indulged Jacob. Let me deal with God’s remedy for his mother’s indulgence another time, but Esau, the child indulged by his father ended up so bad that he is labeled in scripture as a “profane person.”[1]

Second, there is Adonijah, one of David’s sons. Listen to what is said about David’s treatment of this son who was mounting a rebellion against his father’s rule, in First Kings 1.6: “And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” Need I remind you that a father who does not displease his son from time to time is a pretty lousy father?

Third, there was Manasseh, the child of good king Hezekiah. God afflicted Hezekiah with a fatal boil. Hezekiah pleaded with God to extend his life, and God did extend his life by fifteen years. When Hezekiah finally did die his son, Manasseh, became king of Judah at the age of 12. There can be no doubt that Manasseh, pronounced the wickedest of all Judah’s kings, had been indulged by his aged father. It was only after he had killed a number of his own children that God humbled him by means of an Assyrian captivity and shackles.

Children of indulgent parents frequently become gods unto themselves, thinking it only right and proper that everyone around them bow to their wills, yield to their impulses, and gratify their desires. Why are parents indulgent? Perhaps it is pure laziness. It might be fear of the disapproval of others. Or, it might be plain old ignorance about the proper way to raise a child. Whatever the reason for it, indulging children is harmful to them and ends up being discouraging to parents. After all, who wants another little dictator running around the house?

 

Next, INVOLVED PARENTING

 

Parental involvement is implied in our text. Notice that the second half of the verse reads, “. . . but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The Greek text shows that children are to be raised in a sphere of influence characterized by the two general aspects of parenting, the first being instructive and the second being corrective.

As to the instructive aspect of parenting. The word Paul uses is “nurture.” This word nurture translates the Greek word paideia, referring to the education, the training, and to the discipline of a child.[2] Thus, it is easy to see why this aspect of parenting is said to be instructive. Turn to Proverbs 1.8, where we see this instructive aspect of parenting in the words of Solomon: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” The whole of Proverbs deals with this instructive aspect of being a mother and a father. As you read through Proverbs you will see that nothing is out of bounds to the mom or the dad, be it the deeds of the child, the thoughts of the child, or the decisions the child makes. You have a father warning his son about the dangerous influences of women, and a mother warning her son about giving his strength to women. Do not forget the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 12.13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Therefore, you see, from Old Testament to New Testament, parenting involves thorough and detailed instruction. Being a father is not limited to being a good provider and being your kid’s buddy. Fatherhood involves every aspect of your son’s or daughter’s life, from external behavior to internal thoughts, values, hopes, and dreams. Motherhood is no less involved. Some would call that kind of parenting intrusive. While those people would be in the majority of opinion, they would also be the ones with the smallest number of children genuinely converted, and the least informed about Bible truth as it relates to raising children.

As to the corrective aspect of parenting. Paul uses the word admonish. This word admonition is a very interesting word, pronounced nouqesia. Jay Adams, the father of nouthetic counseling, really dug into the meaning of this word, and arrived at this definition: To confront with a view toward correction. Also interesting is that this word is derived from the Greek word nouV, which means mind. Implicit in the meaning of this word admonish are matters and affairs of the mind. Moms and dads, the case for you actually being involved in the thinking of your children, to train them to think, to correct errant thinking, and to raise them to be wise, gets stronger and stronger. Let me show you another place this word admonish is used. Turn to Romans 15.14: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” In other words, if a Christian has the right motives, and is knowledgeable enough to know what he is talking about, he is qualified to confront people with a view toward correcting them. Hello. Does that not sound like a job description of parenting? Thus, the case has been made against indulgent parenting, and for involved parenting. Moms and dads are supposed to be involved in not only the behavior, but also in the thinking, of their children. Why so? Because kids do not know how to either think or behave as they ought to.

 

THIS BRING US TO THE FIRST HALF OF OUR TEXT, WHAT I CALL IMPEDIMENT PARENTING

 

It is possible for parents, usually fathers, to do more harm by their involvement than good. Paul warns, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” In Colossians 3.21, a parallel passage, we read, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” The idea is a harshness that produces such irritation that the child loses heart, and ends up with a moody and sullen frame of mind.[3]

This is the dad, and sometimes the mom, who ignores the law of unintended consequences. The guy bears down on the child so harshly that he pays no attention to the fact that he is producing the opposite of what he should be seeking. He now has a kid who has all but given up. He feels so downtrodden that he is terrified or expressing his thoughts. He so buries himself that he is virtually unreachable, so the activity of engaging him that you might correct him becomes impossible.

We had several dads here at Calvary Road Baptist Church who were like that when I arrived as pastor. There was such a heavy-handed approach to fathering children that the personalities of the kids were stomped down by their forceful fathers. Did it work? It depends upon what you mean. Did the children comply with the wishes of their parents and dutifully do exactly what they were told to do at all times? Just about. But though the fathers won all the battles, they lost the wars for the hearts and minds of their kids, as is presently evidenced in their children’s lives today.

The important thing to keep in mind is not what the father does when he instructs and admonishes his child. The important thing is how his child reacts. In other words, fathers and mothers have to tailor their parenting to the strength or weakness of their child, the tenderness or the toughness of his spirit. There is no one size fits all kids. And there are no two children in any family who are the same.

However, there is a great danger to be avoided with this warning against provoking your children to wrath. It is the danger of mistakenly thinking that a good dad never makes his son or daughter mad at him.

Excuse me, but I am persuaded that a head butting contest with a child is a contest no mother or father should ever lose. Neither am I persuaded that anytime your child gets mad at you is there anything terribly wrong. There is a difference between making your kid really mad at you and so habitually smashing him down that you knock the spirit out of him and he has a sense of defeat that will only be cured by someday leaving home. Turn to Proverbs 18.19, which illustrates the difficulty a father has with a child he has provoked to wrath and discouraged: “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Have we not learned that the key to bringing a child, or anyone, to Christ is success in tearing down the mental obstacles Paul refers to in Second Corinthians 10.4-5? How, then, does motivating a child to strengthen such barricades by unwisely pounding down his personality help anyone?

 

My friends, being a father or a mother in these last days is a terribly difficult undertaking. In many ways, it is like walking a tightrope. Do you lean harder or back off? Should you trust the child’s wisdom in this case, or assume the worst? Your life is full of these kinds of crucial decisions, which will affect how your child is raised.

In general, you have to have your child’s good will to raise him. You cannot raise your child against his will. You must do your best to secure his cooperation . . . most of the time. And those times you do not have his cooperation you have to judge how hard and for how long to lean, when to discipline, and when to back off.

As I understand the process, there are four crucial factors in successfully raising your children: First, you and your spouse must be men and women of God’s book. Unless you are people of the book, reading and studying the Bible, you will fail. Second, you and your spouse must be men and women of the church. Unless you are church people, raising your kids in this atmosphere and doing everything you can to invest their life in the life and ministry of this church, you will fail. If they look outside this church to live their lives, such as to the well watered plains of Jordan, as Lot did, they will do what Lot did and will move away. Third, you must be men and women of counsel. Who is wise enough to raise children without seeking counsel? Who has enough experience that you cannot benefit from the wisdom of others? Finally, you must be men and women of prayer. God should hear the names of your children rolling off your lips in prayer every day of your life. Without God’s intervention in your parenting, and without God intruding in your children’s lives, there will be no success, with success defined as conversion to Christ and living for God.



[1] Hebrews 12.16

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 540.

[3] Ibid., page 582.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org