You might think I am skipping a verse, since this article is focusing on the role of the father, rather than talking about the importance of children obeying their parents (Colossians 3:20). But the reason for me doing so is rooted in the statistic from last week, the one that said almost 1 in 4 homes are without a father. Before I venture into this the topic of fatherhood, let me say thank you to all those moms, especially the single ones who worked, sacrificed, and labored to raise children without a father present. It must be so difficult! Understandably so, because the home was never meant to have only one parent, mom or dad. That said, today we look for God’s guidance in understanding the important role of the father in the home.
It was Billy Graham who said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” Some research has shown that children raised with an involved father are nearly 40% more likely to earn mostly A’s in school, 45% less likely to repeat a grade, 60% less likely to be expelled or suspended from class, 80% less likely to spend time in jail and 75% less likely to have a teen birth. So, at the very least we can see just how important the role of an involved father can be to a child. Although such information is helpful, as Christians, we want to know God’s thoughts on the matter? Although the words are few in the letter to the church in Colosse, they are truly powerful.
Fathers, do not provoke your children… (Colossians 3:21a)
Because of our society, the temptation is to modify this verse to include mothers. There are a few translations (Aramaic Bible, Contemporary English Version, Good News Translation) that use the word parents, instead of fathers. Still, by a large margin, most use the word fathers. This is not to say that mothers can’t learn from this, because they can. The fact is though, the Greek word fathers is masculine plural, meaning, it is directed towards the dad. It is a warning that was real then, and equally real today, “Fathers, do not provoke your children…” Paul would say almost the exact same thing to the church in Ephesus, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath…” (Ephesians 6:4). Once again, the masculine plural Greek word is being used. The first part of this exhortation to fathers is sobering, “…do not provoke your children…”. The New American Standard says, “do not exasperate,” The ETRV says, “Fathers, don’t upset your children…” The word provoke (NKJV) comes from a Greek word (nu 2042) meaning to stir up, arouse with anger, irritate, incite. This same word is found in 2nd Corinthians 9:2, only there it is used in a positive way. Paul writes, “…for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.” So, what is meant by its use in our text today? The Expositor’s Greek Testament says that it means to “irritate by exacting commands and perpetual faultfinding and interference for interference, sake.” Still another speaks of “unwise, unloving, parental despotism, exacting, needless chiding” and so on. Those words, perpetual faultfinding is especially powerful to me. This might be why the ETRV continues by saying, “If you are too hard to please…” Ever had a boss too hard to please? Family member? Neighbor? It can be so frustrating, right? Imagine what it is like for a child. Maybe you don’t have to imagine at all, for you were once that child. It has been said that on average a child hears 432 negative comments or words per day verses 32 positive ones. If that is true, we have work to do as parents, especially us fathers. But why is this so important? The Holy Spirit explains with these words.
…lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21b)
Once again, the ETRV says it so simply, “…they might want to stop trying.” The Greek word translated discouraged means to lose heart, be disheartened, be despondent (i.e., in low spirits from loss of hope or courage). Have you ever been discouraged? Crazy question, right? But what caused it? In many, if not most situations, it is probably something said to you, in this case, the father. One person writes, “[I]n other words, his spirit is broken, and since what he does leads to constant blame, he loses hope of ever being able to please.” Such a setting will often lead a child to wrath (Ephesians 6:4, NKJV). What about this idea of wrath? The NIV reads, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children”, leaving out the word wrath or anger. The majority of translations use the word anger or wrath in this verse. The question is, why? It is the Greek word that is used here (nu 3949), which is different from Colossians 3:21. It means to provoke to anger. The Amplified Bible reads in part, “do not exasperate them to the point of resentment.” This may help us to understand that unrelenting provocation will lead a child to some emotional response, and in many cases, it will be anger. I know this all too well. Anger begets anger. Proverbs 22:24-25 in the ETRV, “Don’t be friends with people who become angry easily. Don’t stay around quick-tempered people. If you do, you may learn to be like them. Then you will have the same problems they do.” Children don’t have this option. They are a product of their home environment, and it is imperative for the father to nurture his children in a way that encourages and brings hope to the child. This is evident in how Paul concludes Ephesians 6:4, “…but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Fathers, we have work to do!
As I close this article, I feel compelled to make sure that this does not minimize the role of mothers. The call to parental duty is clearly seen in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 where it says in part, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (v7). This is the task of both parents. That said, the Holy Spirit, knowing the unique role the father plays as head of the household, emphasized their role when it comes to their children. A role that is as important today as it was some two thousand years ago. Be blessed.