Wisdom For Wee Ones And Big Ones!
Reading Ephesians Ch. 6v1-4..
It really seems like only yesterday when my wife said that it was time to go to the hospital. The occasion was the birth of our first child, Anne. The memories are still very fresh. I remember some things vividly, as if it had happened yesterday. That was many years ago. It was three o'clock in the morning; the snow was thick on the ground. I could not get the van out of the driveway so set out to walk about one mile to the doctors who opened his window and told me to go home and not get so excited as this kind of thing always happens with a first baby, its too early he said so confidently. On returning home, things were at an exciting point, so, I had to dig the van out of the snow and make my way to hospital, Oh yes, I took Isa with me. Our daughter was born at 2-30pm in the afternoon.
How quickly time passes. Our children grow up right under our noses, and before we know it, they are married and on there own and are having children of their own. To those of you who have young families and it seems as though they will never grow up and become mature, let me tell you folks, those little tikes running around your feet just now and driving you mad will one of these days be up and gone. Now, what an amazing opportunity to prepare them for this world and for the next, and Listen! Listen! You only get one shot at it, make sure you aim well.
The only thing that parents can take to heaven is their children. Billy Graham's daughter Gigi, quoted by John Maxwell in "What Children Owe Their Parents (and themselves)," Preaching Today, Tape No. 140.
Because of these reasons, it is so very important that we heed the wisdom found in Scripture concerning raising our children. Now it does not mean you will always get it right but you had better try and try hard.
Our text today addresses this issue. We will look at the advice found in our text, but there is much more that the Scripture says than we will be able to cover in this one message. The book of Proverbs is full of sound advice for both parents and children. We need to be familiar with what God says in an age where values are so muddled, and a “normal” family almost doesn't exist. The wisdom we need is not the wisdom of the so-called experts that has led to a culture that doesn't even know how to define family anymore. The wisdom we need is the wisdom from a God who designed the family in the first place.
1. Children Should Respond To Parental Authority! Eph.6v1-3:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
For those of us who have children, the problem is, we don't always know what to do with them after we get them. When you buy a washing machine, at least you get a manual. My children didn't come with a manual, did yours? We all get lots of advice from time to time. Some of it is good, and some is worthless. How do we know what advice to take? Well, as in all advice, we should always check it out to see whether it lines up with Scripture. Our text gives us two words of wisdom. It is so interesting that the first word is to the children. God's word of wisdom to children is simple: Children, obey your parents in the Lord!
It is a simple and straightforward word. How it is needed! I know this might be a shock to you, but children don't always obey their parents! I heard of a mother who was asked by her three children what she would like for her birthday. She answered, “Three well-behaved children.” One of the children thought about her words for a moment and said, “Great! Then there will be six of us.”
It should be no surprise to those of us who know the Lord that our children come into the world with a natural tendency to sin. All of us do. We do not have to learn how to disobey; we must learn how to obey. Obedience is a learned behavior.
Let me say this to children, especially to those of you who are older grown and have reached the age of understanding, you give your parents a hard time and continually be disobedient, remember what you sow you will reap and when you have children you will have a price to pay.
It is essential that this behavior be both taught by parents and learned by children if God's order for the home is to be established. If that order is not established, then there will be constant strife. That is why both parents and children must heed this word.
Sometimes our children's disobedience is kind of funny. I heard of a confrontation between a young boy and his mother that went this way.
Mother: “Young man, there were two cookies in the pantry this morning! May I ask how it happened that there is only one now?” Boy: “It must have been so dark I didn't see the other one.” While we laugh at that sort of thing, generally disobedience is not a laughing matter. The fact is that disobedience can lead to some serious consequences. That is why God commands children to obey their parents.
The Greek word which is translated “obey” comes from two words, under and to listen. A rigidly literal translation could be to listen under. What is in view here is a conscious and deliberate listening, listening so as to really hear.
All too often our children practice what I call “selective listening.” In truth, they really hear everything; they simply choose to ignore what they don't want to hear. I have proved this by an experiment. You might want to try it. When your child is in another room, speak in a normal voice and ask the child to clean up his or her room. Generally, you will get no reply. The child wants you to think the request was not heard. Then speak in a very soft voice and ask the child what kind of ice cream he or she would like. I have found you will get an immediate reply! Selective listening!
There are several good reasons why God commands children to obey. The first reason He gives is for this is right. Someone has said that this accords with natural law. Almost every culture would agree that it is right for children to respect and obey their parents. Society is built upon such a premise as this. Even in non-Christian societies, this kind of social order would be recognized. It is right for children to obey their parents.
A number of important benefits result from this obedience. An obedient child is warned from harm's way. If the child is obedient, he or she will avoid accidents and physical trauma. Parents will warn them of things that will hurt them. An obedient child will also be spared bad friends and bad habits. Many of us could have been spared those situations had we obeyed our parents. Children need to understand that there is generally a good reason why we don't like a so-called friend.
I remember landing in big trouble because of a few “friends” I should not have chosen. There are positive benefits to obedience.
There is one condition placed on obedience. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. Just as wives are not called to submit to their husbands, when their husbands ask them to do immoral or unchristian things. Likewise children are not required to obey parents who ask them to do unchristian things. This would most often be applicable to a child trying to live for Jesus in an unchristian home. Non-Christian parents, employing the situation ethics popular in our society, may encourage the child to lie, cheat, or steal in order to get ahead. In those cases, a Christian young person must choose to obey God. Generally, however, that will not be the case.
There is another reason why children ought to obey their parents. This reason is in accord with divine law. Paul refers to the Fifth of the Ten Commandments: Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. It is not only right in the eyes of society to honor and obey your parents; it is right in the eyes of God. He has commanded it! And He has given us a promise for obedience to His command.
The promise is two-fold. The first aspect of the promise is that it may be well with you. The second aspect of the promise is that you may live long on the earth. In other words, if you honor and obey your parents, life will be less a hassle and they won't kill you. Quite a promise! Seriously though, God does promise that life will be easier if we obey our parents. Hassles at home will be fewer, and life will have a more peaceful and joyous quality to it. Generally, this will result in a longer and healthier life.
Children, the command is clear. But you have the choice. It really boils down to your attitude, and your commitment to Christ. If your heart is right toward God, then you should want to honor and obey your parents. They are not perfect. They are far from it. They will even admit it. But you will never make them perfect by rebelling against them. And you will only make life more difficult for yourself. Don't you think that the God who created the family knows how the family should be operated? Take His advice. Obey His command. Take time to study Psalm 127!!!!!!!!
Everett Koop, former surgeon general of the United States and a vocal opponent of abortion on demand, tells of a family whose severely handicapped child he delivered and helped to keep alive after birth. He writes, "I asked the child's mother, 'What's the worst thing that ever happened to you?'" "She said, 'Having our son Paul Born with defects that required thirty-seven operation to correct.'
"Then I asked, 'What's the best thing that ever happened to you?' "She said, 'Having our son Paul born with defects that required thirty-seven operations to correct.'" Koop goes on to explain: "I know what she means. It's been terribly hard on them, but, through the experience, they've grown enormously as a family. They've had a remarkable spiritual reawakening. One of their sons is now in law school planning to defend the rights of the handicapped. Paul has now had fifty-five operations, with one more scheduled. Despite the hardships, it's been an overwhelmingly positive experience for them." - Ben Patterson, "A Faith Like Mary's," Preaching Today, Tape No. 87.
2. Adults Should Respect Parental Position! Eph.6v4:
“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
We now come to the message to the parents. Actually, it is specifically addressed to fathers. It would be addressed to fathers, since they are considered the head of the household. But do not attach too much significance to it, since it is obvious that what is in view is the relationship between parents and children. Children are told to honor and obey both parents. Fathers, however, should set the tone for the biblical order of the family. Paul addresses the one responsible for the welfare of both wife and children. The general exhortation should be heeded by both.
The counsel which God gives to parents has both a negative and a positive dimension. There is a behavior to avoid and a responsibility to assume. Let's begin with the behavior to avoid. Again, the message is simple: do not provoke your children to anger. Children have a responsibility to obey their parents, and parents have a responsibility to avoid provoking their children.
What are some of the ways in which we provoke our children to anger? One way is through unreasonableness. If we fail to consider what our children are capable of and load them down with too many demands, then we will give them a burden, which they cannot bear. This will inevitably lead to frustration and anger.
Fault-finding is another way in which we can provoke our children. By this I do not mean that we never point out what is wrong, but that we take special care to point out what is right. We all have a tendency to point out what is wrong, and I must confess this is one of my greatest shortcomings as a parent. It's so easy to criticize. And just as obedience must be learned, so the art of encouragement must be learned.
Our children will respond much better to our criticism when we take the time to compliment them on what they do well.
A real cause of provocation is inconsistency. When the ground rules change all the time, children become frustrated. If we react one way on Monday and a different way on Thursday to the same situation, our children are rightfully provoked. It is not fair to change the rules without letting them know in advance. This is one reason why both father and mother must be united in dealing with their children. One parent cannot tell the child one thing only to have the other parent shoot the child down for doing it. Children respond to consistency. They are frustrated by inconsistency.
One final observation on what provokes our children to anger. I believe one of the leading causes of angry, rebellious children is a parent who does not demand obedience. There is a fascinating dynamic at work here. A subtle deception is perpetrated on parents who lead us to believe that if we capitulate to the demands of our tantrum-throwing kids, they will be happy, not angry. After all, they do seem very angry when they are throwing their tantrums. Don't we just add to their angry behavior when we don't let them have their way? But this is the deception. When we do not demand obedience from our children, and let them have their way every time they throw a fit, we simply reinforce and encourage angry behavior as a means for them to get their way. Anger becomes a good thing for them, because it produces the results they want. You are actually developing an angry, rebellious child. And while that kind of behavior might work with mom and dad, when they enter the real world they will be in for a rude awakening.
On the positive side, we are to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We are to train our children to be the kind of people they need to be. The Greek word translated as discipline has to do with training and correction, even punishment. Pilate used this word when he was speaking of Jesus in Luke Ch.23v16, “I will punish him and then release him” (NIV).
Proverbs Ch.19v18 reads, “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death” (NIV). Hebrews 12:11 reads, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (NIV). Discipline produces both righteousness and peace. Do not be deceived into believing that capitulation produces peace. Children need boundaries, and those boundaries need to be enforced. A child will be at peace when they are, confused and angry when they are not. A child trained by consistent discipline will develop a character of righteousness.
We're not only told to discipline our children but that we should give them instruction of the Lord. What is meant by instruction is both verbal information and verbal warning. The word literally means “to place before the mind.” Instruction contains the idea of teaching and also the element of confrontation. We must share with our children both the blessings of serving Jesus and the hazards of failing to do so.
In 1 Samuel Ch.3vv11-13 we read, “And the Lord said to Samuel, `See, I'm about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family --- from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them'“ (NIV).
This passage is interesting because the Greek word for “restrain” in the Septuagint is the same root as the word for “instruction” here in Ephesians Ch.6v4. Instruction means that at times we must aggressively confront our children with the truth.
Whatever we do, however, it is our responsibilities to nurture, train, and instruct; our children in what it means to follow Jesus. The greatest gift we could ever give our children would be a desire to know Jesus. To do that, we must use every opportunity to share with them by our lips and lives just how important Jesus is to us. As we live before them, honestly admitting our faults and mistakes, genuinely seeking to be all God would have us be, then we will be doing all we can do to assure that one day they will come to know Jesus. Our lives only intersect for a fleeting moment of time; it is so very important that we make the most of it.
Character is distilled out of our daily confrontation with temptation, out of our regular response to the call of duty. It is formed as we learn to cherish principles and to submit to self-discipline. Character is the sum total of all the little decisions, the small deeds, the daily reactions to the choices that confront us. Character is not obtained instantly. We have to mold and hammer and forge ourselves into character. It is a distant goal to which there is no shortcut. - Sidney Greenberg.
Out of parental concern and a desire to teach our young son responsibility, we require him to phone home when he arrives at his friend's house a few blocks away. He began to forget, however as he grew more confident in his ability to get there without disaster befalling him. The first time he forgot, I called to be sure he had arrived. We told him the next time it happened, he would have to come home. A few days later, however, the telephone again lay silent, and I knew if he was going to learn he would have to be punished. But I did not want to punish him! I went to the telephone, regretting that his great time would have to be spoiled by his lack of contact with his father. As I dialed, I prayed for wisdom. "Treat him like I treat you," the Lord seemed to say. With that, as the telephone rang one time, I hung up. A few seconds later the phone rang, and it was my son. "I'm here, Dad!" "What took you so long to call?" I asked. "We started playing and I forgot. But Dad, I heard the phone ring once and I remembered." "I'm glad you remembered," I said. "Have fun."
How often do we think of God as one who waits to punish us when we step out of line? I wonder how often he rings just once, hoping we will phone home. - Dennis Miller, Antioch, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 2.