Let’s now turn our attention to the right side of our diagram, the “Children” area.
We have already acknowledged that our new responsibility of children will squeeze our other priorities. But what do we do with the time we dedicate to our kids? One thing I emphasize with fathers is that this time with our children is not babysitting or childcare. It is investing. It is investing in their future and our legacy.
There is a verse in the New Testament that gives us great motivation and instruction in what that investment looks like. Ephesians 6:4 encourages us with, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Paul starts with the relationship angle, “Do not provoke your children to anger.” I think this is intentional. The relationship is critical. Without the relationship, all of your instruction, all of your character training goes right out the window.
Let’s take it a step deeper by including some of the key Greek words in the text. “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up (έκτρέφετε) in the discipline (παιδεία) and instruction (νουθεσία) of the Lord.”
- EKTREPHO translated “bring up” means “to nourish or feed“
- PAIDEIA translated “discipline” means “training that regulates character“
- NOUTHESIA translated “instruction” means “putting in the mind“
So an expanded or amplified version of Ephesians 6:4 might read like this, “Fathers, do not provoke, antagonize, or exasperate your children to the point of harming the relationship. Instead, nourish them by establishing a training program that puts into their minds the ways and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our training goal is two-fold. The top line, “do not provoke”, is about establishing a relationship. Your positive influence in the life of your child is almost always directly proportional to your relationship. The bottom line, “instruction”, is about establishing a training program that puts the ways and knowledge of our Lord into the minds of our children. Both lines are important. The top line starts with a sincere interest in getting to know your children. The bottom line starts with examining God’s Word together as a family in a pattern that is regular, planned, everyone involved, and parent-led.
We will look at some specifics of what that spiritual training looks like next time.