Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
When reading this verse in isolation, it appears to be encouraging the Christian parent to be more liberal in one’s parenting approach. Meaning, “don’t upset your child by over disciplining them.” However, Paul surrounds this verse amongst verses which address obedience to authority, in both the Christian home and beyond. So what’s he getting at?
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye- service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
If obedience to authority is the key theme in this section of the letter, yet we have a verse which doesn’t seem to fit, what do we do with it?
Whenever scripture seems to contradict, we must not assume that God is either cryptic or schizophrenic, but we must assume that we are reading the passage incorrectly. The proper way to exegete the text is to then look to other scriptures that cover the same theme, and then see if more clarity is provided. When writing to the Ephesians, Paul includes virtually the same teaching he gave in the letter to the Colossians, but an additional detail is included in the Ephesian letter which sheds light on what he is saying; which is not given as directly in his letter to the Colossians.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Ah, now it makes perfect sense. Look at how it fits perfectly:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye- service, as people- pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”
God’s Word is not cryptic nor schizophrenic. It is clear and concise. It is our (the Christian’s) ultimate authority:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
May it be handled with care.
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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