And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4) The word “provoke” is sometimes used in the Bible in the sense of stirring up or encouraging, causing to grow. The idea is that fathers should not over correct their children, but patiently nurture and promote them, bring them up in the Lord. Within this short verse is a wealth of information from the God who created the concept of fatherhood. It points out to us some crucial principles we need to remember.
Fathers love to see their children advance and grow. To quote one of my screen heroes, “Every man wants his children to be better than he was.” A father is designed to get a sense of gratitude from seeing his children put into practice the life lessons he has taught them. He wants to see them prosper in their own lives. Our heavenly Father wants all of this children to “long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that [they] may grow thereby unto salvation,” (1 Pet. 2:2). Fathers see the importance of being “breadwinners” not only of physical food but spiritual. They want their children to be well nourished and prepared for a successful life.
Fathers pass along to their children things they have learned throughout their own lives. How to build a sandcastle, catch a baseball, climb a tree. How to prepare for a test at school, or outline a public speech. How to talk to people with clarity and confidence, how to get and keep a job. Fathers may overflow with suggestions about what kind of car to get, how to maintain it, how to buy or build a house. It’s because they want their children to have the benefit of what they have worked hard to acquire. Fathers understand the hard work that goes into building a collection of tools, and a collection of wisdom. They don’t want their children to have to “reinvent the wheel,” but to start farther ahead of where they themselves began.
Fathers want to stay in touch with their children, and they want their children to stay in touch with them. They don’t want to have to ask or plead with their children to call them. They want to think that their children love and respect them, that they want their thoughts and input on what they are doing. Rightly or wrongly, fathers have the idea that they can save their children money, and save them mistakes—mistakes that they themselves may have made. Fathers may not force their ideas upon their children, but they are happy to share them if asked. The ultimate insult of disrespect for one’s father is not to ask.
Fathers do not over-expect. Unreasonable expectations or inordinately high standards placed upon children can do great harm. They can cause a child to feel like a constant failure, a disappointment to the very one he or she wants so much to please. Fathers need to correct their children, but not over-correct them. Discipline is necessary, but it must be consistently administered with love and fairness. Anyone who has driven a car on an interstate highway knows the importance of constant course corrections, and the danger of over corrections. The process should be smooth and gradual, loving and far-sighted. This is not a time to panic or go to extremes.
Fathers set the spiritual tone for the family. “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Fathers lead family prayers, devotionals, spiritual discussions, and the plans for church involvement. They foster a home in which Christ is welcome and noticeable. They are sure to allot money for plenty of Bibles and Bible literature in the house, and learning resources by which the entire family can grow spiritually. Vacations and trips are planned to include a spiritual emphasis. Modest dress and respectful speech is always encouraged by dad. Fathers provide growth and learning resources so that their children can reach their fullest potential. This may involve encouraging or admonishing. It may involve teaching and warning, the giving of fatherly advice, or providing for a Christian education.
If you are a father, you need to recognize that God has placed you in a very sobering position. It can be daunting, even frightening at times, but God has also given you the resources needed to faithfully perform your duties. He expects you to nurture and bring up your children with proper chastening (discipline) and admonition. He expects you to be realistic, not over reactive. And he expects you to set the spiritual tone for your family.
Studies and experience continually show that it is difficult or impossible for children to excel in a fatherless home. When fathers are absent, everyone pays. But when they are present and accounted for, active and godly in their work, the world is a better place for everyone.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.