Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 74

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000
Another exhortation for fathers! This time Dr. Barber looks at Paul’s exhortation for fathers not to “provoke their children to anger.” How a father goes about avoiding this problem is the focus of this article.

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Ephesians 6:4

Spirit-Filled Families – Part 5

Look at verse 4 of Ephesians 6: “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Well, Dads, it is back on us again. You know, isn’t it amazing how much of a burden Paul puts upon men in the family? Not only are we to love our wives as Christ loved the church, but we are never to provoke our children to anger.

One of the things I have found in my personal walk with the Lord is there are days when I am not filled with the Spirit of God. Being filled with the Spirit of God is moment by mo­ment, and there are some times when I just don’t want God to fill me with His Spirit be­cause I am hard-headed and I am human! I found when I am that way, my wife has a difficult time submitting to me. I have also found when I am that way, my children have a difficult time obeying me. But I have also found that when I am filled with the Spirit of God, when the love of Jesus is flowing through me, my wife has no problem submitting to me and my children look forward to obeying me. The key is men being filled with the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul says, “Look men, shape up! You are to love your wives as Christ loved the church and you are never to provoke your children unto anger.” So the heavy burden is not on the wife. The heavy burden is on the man, the husband, the father in the family.

When I am filled with the Spirit, when you are filled with the Spirit, guys, that is when everything else seems to work the way it ought to work. It is almost like the Apostle Paul anticipated a problem. He tells the children to obey the parents and then immediately he turns right around and says, “Now, fathers, don’t you provoke your children to anger.” He simplifies the situation by telling them what they are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do. I want you to look at the cause of a child being provoked into anger. Then we will look at the contrast of a child being provoked into anger.

Read it again. Verse 4 says, “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Now this is the commandment in that verse. It is not a suggestion. The verb that is used there is the present active imperative. Present tense means a lifestyle, consistently, not just a one­time thing. Active voice means you do it yourself. Imperative means it is a command. You have no options. Fathers, we will stand before God one day for whether or not we provoke our children to anger. God gives a standard here. It is high, very high, and only attainable by being filled with the Spirit of God.

I want you to understand as we get into this that this doesn’t mean a one-time thing. Children will provoke us. We are human, and we are not always filled with the Spirit of God. By Paul using the present tense here he is not saying that you can’t ever lose it. That is not what he is saying. He is saying you can’t live a consistent lifestyle of losing it.

All of us are going to lose it from time to time. We are going to blow it from time to time. But quickly that can be healed by simply asking for forgiveness and helping your child to realize we are all human. None of us have reached the stage of perfection. But that is not what he is saying here. He puts it in the present tense. The verb that is used there for “provoke to anger” is one word. It comes from two Greek words. One of the words is para, which means alongside. The other word is orgizo, which is the stage of getting more angry and more angry and more angry. Orge is the word for anger. Orgizo is more the process of getting that way. In other words, anger can build. Anger can get worse and worse.

So what Paul is saying is the lifestyle a father lives in front of his child on a consistent basis has the potential of provoking that child to anger. That anger, folks, is a deep-seated thing inside of a child. I imagine there are some adults who are still dealing with anger that they were provoked into while they were being raised by fathers who did not follow the design God has for fathers. Anger is something that we are going to see that perverts a child’s thinking and reasoning perspective. Not only that, it also prevents him from emotion­ally, maturely relating to other people. It is an anger that sometimes he doesn’t even know he has. It is an anger that perhaps has not been seen.

Look over in Colossians 3:21. In Ephesians Paul says, “Don’t provoke them to anger.” It is the kind of anger that makes a child like a time bomb, ready to go off at any moment, ready to simply explode and do things that the father would never dream his child would do. In Colossians he shows another side. In verse 21 it says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” He uses another word there instead of “provoke.” It is the word erethizo, which means to stir up. Sometimes just the attitude of a father stirs up a child. A child is doing fine by himself but the father’s lifestyle is stirring him up. That is the word.

Then it goes on to say in verse 21, “that they may not lose heart.” Now that is a pitiful word right there. That word means that you have broken the spirit of a child and the child doesn’t even have enough inside of him to get angry. So on one side you have a time bomb ready to go off. On the other side you have a lethargic child whose spirit has been broken all because a father did not fulfill the design God said fathers ought to fulfill. They can’t do it except by being filled with the Spirit of God.

This really caused me to do some thinking. What does the word “provoke” mean? One of the first things I do when I find a word that I don’t quite understand is to run it through Scripture. The problem with this word is it is only found one time right here in Ephesians. So I looked at the context. What does the context of this say? The context is “being filled with the Spirit of God.” What have we already said? When I am filled with the Spirit of God, it is going to produce a lifestyle on the outside that is not going to provoke my child to anger. But if I am not filled with the Spirit of God, it is going to produce a lifestyle that has the potential of producing anger in my child, pushing him into a state of emotional anger, deep seated anger either to where he will explode one day or to where he becomes so lethargic and broken of spirit he hardly ever says anything.

So I began to think of Ephesians. What kind of lifestyle would do this? Turn back with me to chapter 4. How does a father provoke a child? Let me tell you, Dads, until you get serious with God, until you get on your face before Him, until you are willing to obey Him in every area of your life, you run the risk of pushing your child into a state of deep seated emotional anger. That anger can pervert every relationship that he ever wants to have. It keeps him not only from relating to God properly, but from relating to others. Look at fami­lies that have been destroyed because of men marrying who still have inside of themselves an anger they have never allowed Jesus to heal and to cleanse. It is a domino effect. One falls, another falls, another falls and another falls.

In verse 22 of chapter 4 of Ephesians it says, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, and put on the new self.” In other words, when I am filled with the Spirit of God, I am going to live differently on the outside than I used to. I am going to appear to be different. I am going to be seen to be different. I am going to make different choices. I am going to look at things differently. I am going to have a divine perspective on things than when I am not filled with the Spirit of God.

In verse 25 let’s see what it is about a wrong lifestyle that could provoke or push a child into the state of emotional anger. Verse 25 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” Paul is saying that a person who has on the old garment lives a deceitful life. Not only would he lie with his lips, he lies with his life. In other words, everything about him is deceitful.

Now you might say: I am a father and I don’t want to provoke my children to anger. You are talking about putting on a brand new garment, a brand new way of behavior. You are telling me that if I am not filled with the Spirit of God that I am going to live a deceitful life. What do you mean by that? I hope you are asking that question because I am going to try to answer it. It is living a double standard in front of your child.

How can I live a double standard in front of my child?” Well, you tell your child never to talk about others but your child overhears you speaking unfavorably about someone. That child looks at you and sees a double standard. You tell your child to read his Bible and love Jesus and go to church, but that child never sees you on your knees in prayer, never sees you in the Word of God, never sees you plow through and try to learn and try to study God’s Word. He sees that Bible sit on a shelf day in and day out. It’s picked up on Sunday and put right back on that shelf. That child says, “Wait a minute. There is something deceit­ful about all of this. You are telling me to do something and you are not even willing to live it yourself. You are never willing to admit that you are wrong. You are always blaming somebody else.” Oh, I want to tell you something, friend, it truly is “like father like son.” When you start watching kids grow up who are bitter or critical, check it out with Daddy and I guarantee you that you will find it right there in that house. Because that is a double standard and a deceitful lifestyle. It is deceitful. Why bring them to church if you are not going to live it yourself? That is provoking your child to anger. That child hears one stan­dard from Scripture and he sees another standard in his daddy. You are preaching a stan­dard that you are not willing to live up to yourself, living a lie before your child.

Look at verse 26 of chapter 4 in Ephesians: “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” In other words, if I put on the old garment, if I am not filled with the Spirit of God, my anger is going to have sin with it. What does that mean? It says in the book of James that the anger of man never accomplishes the righteousness of God. So there are two kinds of anger: righteous anger and my anger. When I am not filled with the Spirit of God, what is wrong with my anger? My anger is directed at the person, not the failure, not what caused the person to do what he did. But if my anger comes from the Spirit of God, it is directed at the sin or the problem. It is never directed at the person.

Now put that in the context of the family. Here is a father who harshly disciplines his child because his child failed. He directs all of his anger towards the child, never wanting to see what the problem is, never looking at the sin, never looking at what caused the prob­lem. There are a lot of men in that boat.

Ephesians chapter 4 verse 27 says, “and do not give the devil an opportunity.” The word “opportunity” means exactly that. In the context of chapter 4, verse 3 says that we are to diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit. You can’t produce it. You preserve it. The first thing you do to destroy it is when you don’t let the Holy Spirit of God control your life. You put on that old garment and what happens is in verse 30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Let me just say this. When a father will not obey Jesus Christ, when a father will not submit and get in the Word of God and live by the will of God, a father opens the door for the devil to play havoc in his family. It starts with that man who is not willing to bow before the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Fathers, do you want to bind Satan off your children? Do you want to cause him to be absolutely unable to reach your children? Then get on your face before God. Get into the Word of God and start living like a godly husband ought to live. That in itself will be protec­tion for your family.” Why do we think it is something we say? Dear Lord, it is how we live. That is what Paul says in 5:1: Don’t talk it, walk it! Mime the love of God and then that love becomes a blanket of protection, an umbrella over your family that is incredible. Yes, the devil can always get to our kids once they get out of the home. But I guarantee you one thing, if the devil ever somehow lures my child into whatever, I want to be sure that I stand honest before God and blameless that it wasn’t in my home. It had to be outside my home. I want to do everything I can possibly do to keep my child from being provoked into anger, from getting into a deep seated emotional state where he can’t relate to anybody and doesn’t have a clue about what real freedom is all about.

Verse 28 says, “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.” There are two things in that verse that we looked at earlier. One is a per­son without the control of the Spirit of God in his life won’t work and won’t share. If a person does let the Spirit of God control him, he will share and work. In other words, one is a taker and the other one is a giver.

Now how does this relate to the family? How can we possibly apply this to the family? Stay in that same flow of thinking. A man first of all who won’t go to work and support his family has just robbed from his child and has caused seeds of anger to grow within that child. You see, God destined us to work. God destined us to be responsible and take care of our family. A man who won’t do that has caused something that could be irreparable in a child if he won’t set the stage and the model for him and do the things he is supposed to do.

Secondly, he refused to share. You see, a person not filled with the Spirit of God, a father not filled with the Spirit of God, has time for nobody but himself. He doesn’t have time to share with his child his love. He doesn’t have time to share with his child his knowl­edge. He won’t sit down with him along the way. He won’t take the Word and explain it to him. He won’t help the child in any way. A child is almost out on his own. There seems to be an indication from God’s Word that this is provoking the child into a state of emotional anger. He is crying out, “Daddy, Daddy, help me, help me!” But Daddy doesn’t have time. Somebody told me the average time a father spends with his child per day is about four seconds now. It used to be about 30 seconds. No wonder! We have dads who are more interested in making a buck than they are in taking care of their own children.

The Apostle Paul looks ahead and sees a problem. He tells the children to obey with honor. But then he says, “Now wait a minute. Fathers, don’t you provoke your children to anger.” In other words, there is a balance here. In verse 29 he says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Oh, folks, there is a contrast here. Unwholesome or edification. Do you know what the word “unwholesome” means? It means rotten, putrid. That is exactly what it means. In other words, it is anything that comes out of the old garment towards a child which is nothing more than rotten words. It does not build that child up. It tears that child down.

The word “edification” is the word used for building a house. So one is constructive, and one is destructive. Remember now, this is not a one-time thing. This is a consistent lifestyle of talking down to your child. A person who has no building up words whatsoever in their vocabulary is always tearing them down. A child makes a B and the father says, “Well, why didn’t you make an A?” He never has anything to encourage that child whatsoever. It is a consistency, and it provokes that child unto anger.

You know, I am glad it isn’t a one-time thing. I was scared of the dark when I was grow­ing up. My Dad worked a lot of overtime in order to get me through school. I remember one night, I was afraid of the dark so I came downstairs and sat on the steps. I had my little teddy bear and blanket. I was crying. I could see monsters in my closet and all kinds of big things under my bed. I could see shadows of things coming in my windows, and I was just afraid. I remember I woke my Dad up. He had been working a lot of overtime and was a little irritable because of it. Obviously I was provoking him. I remember him to this day saying, “Well, alright, you little coward! Come on in here if you need to and lay on the floor. That’s alright if you are going to be a sissy, if you are going to be a coward!”

Do you know what? Did that sting me? Well, I am almost 51 years old and I still remem­ber it. I thank God for a Daddy who didn’t do that all the time. He was a tired Daddy and it was on a night when I shouldn’t have gone downstairs. I should have stayed upstairs. He came to me the next day, put his arms around me and said, “Son, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean that. I was just irritated and I was tired.”

Folks, that is going to happen to me and you until the day Jesus comes back. What I am talking about and what Paul is talking about is the consistency of never building up your child. You know what I am talking about?

You see, a lot of people don’t know how to build somebody up by what they say. Every­thing they say is talking down to them. A child grows up scared to death of mama and daddy. We are supposed to encourage them, grow them up and nurture them in the admo­nition of the Lord. But what we end up doing is talking them down. I want to tell you some­thing. We don’t even know the damage that is doing to our children. We are living in a generation right now from the damage done in a previous generation. We are seeing a monster that has been created that the world has never known before.

Verse 31 sums it all up: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Let me just take a quick run through that. Bitterness. When you get a Dad who is bitter because he got fired on a job or because of something else and he begins to let that attitude seep out to his family, he doesn’t realize there is a tender little life there, little ears that don’t understand everything his daddy under­stands. That bitterness begins to get inside that child. I have seen this in churches over the years. If you get a Dad who is miffed inside of a church, you will find a son the same way. Just give it a period of time and the son will end up exactly like the Dad. Bitter.

Paul uses the word “wrath.” Do you know what that means? That means that you just explode in anger. The word “anger” is the same word we are looking at in 6:4. The word “clamor” means loud shouting, speaking loudly and unruly to your child. The word “slander” means that you are in a place and you actually talk against him. You even say things that would demean your own child in front of other people and the child hears it. All of this is wrapped up in malice. Malice is the house that all of these words live in. Let all of it be put away from you.

There is one more thing that will provoke a child to anger. Look in verses 3-10 of chap­ter 5. Do you know what it is? It is immorality. Dads, let me say a personal word to you. If immorality is in your life at all, somehow, somehow it is going to filter to your child. Some­how it is going to filter to your child. Incest. Oh, dear God, may it never be named among us! The damage that would do to a child. Sexual immorality. Yet in the church of Jesus Christ it is rampant today like never before. And we wonder what is wrong with our generation.

Daily I’ve got to realize that if I don’t walk filled with the Spirit of God, I can produce anger in my children over the years. I can produce something in them that would cause them not to even be able to relate to God or their friends or anybody else. As a matter of fact, it would put them in a state to where they are ready to explode or put them in a state where their spirit is so broken that they are lethargic and can’t even produce a reaction of any kind.

Being filled with the Spirit of God not only is a command, it is a very important part of the Christian life. As a matter of fact, it is the very ingredient of the Christian life. I’ve got to be under the control of God. He has the only design for my family. Until I am under His control, I am going to risk pushing my child into a state of emotional anger that may never be repaired on this earth.

I wish Paul would get off the men’s back, but he hasn’t got off yet. What can we do then? What can we do? What are we supposed to do? None of us have arrived. It scares me to death the responsibility that God has put on us. We take it so lightly. Remember this, that little child is watching you. He is admiring you and you are the hero of his life. Make sure you don’t let him down and don’t let God down. Be filled constantly with the Spirit of God. That means when you are wrong, you confess it to God and you confess it to your child. Keep it transparent, keep it open and that child will grow up as healthy as you ever wanted to see a child grow up. He won’t see Christianity as religion. He will see it as life and that is what you want him to see.

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