The Bible is very specific about God’s intention for fathers. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
This verse provides instructions for what not to do, as well as what to do.
The first part, “do not provoke your children,” indicates that a father should endeavour not to deal with his children by inappropriate use of authority, unnecessary harshness and severity, or unfair and prejudicial treatment.
The word “provoke” means to irritate or rub the wrong way. This sort of provocation can lead to the alienation of affection, hinder communication, and promote rebellion. When discipline is administered, it should be done with consistency and compassion. Martin Luther said, “Spare the rod and spoil the child; that is true. But, beside the rod, keep an apple to give him when he has done well.”
The flip side, permissiveness and/or paying little attention to children, is equally destructive. The story is told of a young man about to be sentenced and sent to jail. The judge knew him from childhood through his association with his father. The father was a well-known lawyer who had authored an exhaustive study entitled, “The Law of Trusts.”
The judge, hoping to obtain a positive response from the defendant, so that he might lighten the sentence asked, “Do you remember your father?”
“I remember him well!” he replied. The judge continued saying, “You’re about to be sentenced and as you think of your wonderful dad, what do you remember most clearly about him?”
There was a pause and then an answer that surprised the judge. “I remember when I went to him for advice. He looked up at me from the book he was writing and said, ‘Run along. I’m busy!’ When I went to him for companionship, he turned me away, saying, ‘Go away son. This book must be finished!’ Your honour, you remember him as a great lawyer. I remember him as a lost friend.”
The judge said to himself, “Hmm! Finished the book, but lost the boy!”
The positive side of the admonition, “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord,” could be summarized by saying, “Teach them!”
The father is a vehicle in God’s hand for dispensing biblical truth to his children. This teaching and admonition process entails commendation of good deeds, constructively addressing errors and encouraging the fulfilling of responsibilities.
I personally see nothing to imply that this will always be an easy task. There is, however, much to suggest that it can be a blessed and productive one.
“Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.” — Author Unknown
Happy Father’s Day!
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.