4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. ~ Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
By Bro. John L. Cash
When I was a college student, I was asked to fill in for the young-adult-class Sunday School teacher. The appointed text was from Chapter 6 of the Book of Ephesians, in which Paul tells us how husbands and wives, parents and children should conduct their lives. In verse 4, he tells fathers not to “exasperate” their children, but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.”
I don’t remember exactly what I said to the class, but I made some basic comments about how this verse meant that fathers shouldn’t try to make their kids angry but should try to teach them about Jesus. One of the students in the class (a man who had several children) objected to my interpretation and quickly told me so. “I don’t really see how you’re qualified to teach this lesson. You’re not married, and you don’t have any children. What you said is stupid. If you had any kids you would know that you can’t raise kids without making them mad.”
(If I had thought of it at that moment, I would have pointed out to the man that St. Paul wasn’t married and he didn’t have any children, but God still picked him to write the parts of the Bible that give advice about marriages and kids. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, I didn’t think of it until the middle of that night when I was lying awake reliving it. But I digress….)
I tried to shed some light on my previous statement. I told the man I didn’t mean that a father would never make his children angry. What the Bible was saying is that a father shouldn’t try (on purpose) to make his children angry. Then I went on to the next verse….
Well, here I sit, thirty-five years later, and I have a little more experience in these matters. I still stand by what I said in the Sunday School class so many years ago. But, if I had to teach the verse now (in light of what I’ve learned about the Scriptures and what I’ve learned as a parent), this is what I would say: The Bible teaches that fathers shouldn’t be rude to their children.
In parenting, there is a time to be strict. There are times when a parent must be serious and stern. But what the Bible here forbids is rudeness—that basic lack of civility and good manners that leads children to aggravation and anger.
After all, in 1st Corinthians 13, the “Great Love Chapter” of the Bible, Paul teaches us that “Love is not rude.”
My mother said of my sister Cathie and me, “I’ve never seen two children who loved their Daddy any more than you two. You simply adored him.” And that is the gospel truth. We had the best father, such a loving father. When we were little children, we were afraid to purposefully disobey him because he would spank us with his leather house shoe. He wasn’t a big-talker, and he could be stern and strict. But as I think back on my life, I don’t ever remember him being unkind to us. And he was never, ever rude to his children.
Something I’ve noticed lately is that there are a lot of rude parents. Most of the time they believe they are strict disciplinarians, but really all they have is a combination of irritability mixed with bad manners. Usually their kids are rude, too. “Children learn what they live.”
Let’s pray this week that the Lord Jesus will change our hearts so we can become more like He would have us to be. Let’s strive to be more kind to our children.
(And if we have a substitute Sunday School teacher, let’s not be rude to him, either. )
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 31 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (Until recently he had a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the recently-retired-schoolteacher Preacher this week opened a booth at the flea market place.) Their kids include Spencer (age 25), his wife Madeline (age 25), and Seth (age 22), and his wife Leanne (age 21). You can send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.