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Giving True Riches To Your Children

Ephesians 6:1-4

Would you like your children (or your grandchildren, as your age permits) to grow up to be rich? Would you be willing to pay for his education in medical or law school to make it come about? Then consider the words of John Chrysostom, as he gave advice on what trade school you should choose for your child:

"You will effect nothing so great by teaching him an art, and giving him that outward learning by which he will gain riches, as if you teach him the art of despising riches. If you desire to make him rich, do this. For the rich man is not he who desires great riches, and is encircled with great riches; but the man who has need of nothing."

Right Relationships

When I first thought about this lesson, I considered skipping it. After all, most of my students do not have small children at home, and they might consider it a little late. But even grandparents have a role to play: that of those who teach the teachers of the young:

(Titus 2:1-8 NIV) You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. {2} Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. {3} Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. {4} Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, {5} to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. {6} Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. {7} In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness {8} and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

So we see that sound doctrine never arrives too late in life. To begin, then, we need to know the root of sound relationships:

(Rom 13:7 NIV) Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we see the progression of such relationships somewhat in descending order, but always with this principle. These relationships have been shown to us in this order:

·         The Trinity itself, and creation

·         Christ and the church

·         The church leaders and the church members

·         Husbands and wives

·         And now fathers and children.


The value of Children

It is difficult for us to conceive of different times and ages being anything but either a) agreeing with us, since we are so wise, or b) being very primitive indeed. This is chronological snobbery. It is instructive to see how children are considered in three different views:

·         The Roman View. Children had an extremely low status in the Roman world. Indeed, when first born, they could literally be thrown out of the house - usually for the fault of being female. This was the Roman equivalent of abortion. Such children were, theoretically, exposed to die. However, it was a common thing for a midwife to take the child to the marketplace and leave it there - to be raised as a temple prostitute or slave. Even later in life the child was still under the absolute power of the father. A father could arbitrarily disown his child at any age, or disinherit him. At least in theory, the Roman father had absolute power over his grown children - and this power was exercised sufficiently often to be noticed. Children were considered a necessary burden.

·         The Modern View. Children today still suffer - a million and more times a year - from abortion. Technology has made it swifter, but the result is almost the same. We, however, have no mercy. We think that children have "always" been abused, and that we have only recently uncovered that fact. I suspect the opposite is true; abuse is growing rapidly. We hold with this idea the contrary opinion that children - especially those portrayed on television - are the fount of wisdom for their stupid parents. Only the young are worthy - and therefore who are we, the old and feeble minded, to attempt to instruct them? And certainly not in things Biblical; after all, the Bible is strictly for preachers. Much better to let them grow up without it so they can make up their own minds when they grow up.

·         The Biblical View. In the Biblical view children are a gift from God. God places them in our care for a little while, but they are very precious to Him. Our Lord himself said that of such is the kingdom. Since they are a trust placed upon us, we must take such care of them as God might command. In this section, Paul places upon fathers just such a duty. First, however, we shall examine the duty children have to their parents.

The Duty of Children to their Parents

Like all the sections we have seen before, there is the element of submission. Paul's writing here is very short; I suspect that this is because he knew the letter would be read aloud in the churches. Therefore, he made the section addressed to children suitable for them. In particular

·         It is very short.

·         It does not deal with high theology, but rather with practical problems and promises - honor to your parents and long life.

"Honor your father and mother" - what does that word mean? The Greek word means to prize, or to value, to give respect to. It does not mean, as Paul does state elsewhere, obey. But the concept certainly includes obedience. The primary idea, however, is not obedience but honor and respect. We note that even Christ was obedient to his earthly parents.[1] This honor is not limited to small children. Hear how Paul gives some practical instruction on the subject to Timothy:

(1 Tim 5:4 NIV) But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

There is, however, a qualifier: "in the Lord." The expectation is that the parents being so honored are indeed "in the Lord." Partly this is to prevent slavish obedience to evil parents. But more to the point, it is also to encourage the parents to be the kind of parents they should be.

The Duty of Fathers

Why is such a thing commanded?

It may seem a foolish question. After all, parents should love their children, and that should be sufficient. But instruction is never without a reason:

·         There is the time honored folly - Chrysostom cited it in his homily - of deciding to wait until they are grown to educate children in the faith. This simply does not work. Parents who do this are uniformly amazed at how unwilling their grown children are to accept such instruction. Perhaps the example of their parents - saying, "this is not important, wait until later" - had something to do with it.

·         The children of this time had heroes, as do ours. These heroes were the ones of classical Greek and Roman mythology, and a poor lot of role models they are. My younger son contends that Achilles would best have been played by Errol Flynn, both being drunkards and womanizers.

·         Finally, there is this: if a man will not honor his parents, how can you expect him to have a sound personal relationship with anyone else? If the man who gave him life and the woman who gave him birth are not respected and honored, who can be?

Why Fathers?

Why not "parents?" After all, we live in feminist, egalitarian times - surely Paul could see that this is the obvious right answer.

·         It may be obvious to us, but someone might try explaining it to God. He intends that authority exist, and that it be exercised properly. His pattern for the family is to have the man in charge. And that places responsibility upon the father.

·         Ultimately, authority must be calm and self-disciplined to be of effect. Consider the police officer who stops you. One of you is calm; one is nervous - which one is in control? And of the husband and wife, which one is most likely to have a fit of temper?

·         My father taught me the principle: the child honors father and mother; father is in charge - and therefore mother takes no sass from her kids. I put it to the women: if the man is truly in charge, and truly loves his wife (and shows his children this) then how can the children fail to respect their mother? And have you ever seen these roles reversed?

·         Finally, there is this: if you will not be disciplined by and respect the father you can see, how can you be disciplined by and respect the Father you cannot?

The principles for Fathers

There are three bits of advice for fathers that Paul gives here, and all are timeless:

First, he says do not "exasperate" your children. The Greek has two words tied together in this. The first is "para", from which we get our word "parallel", which means "to be along side." The second is "orge", from which we get our word "orgy", which really means an outburst of uncontrolled passion. We are to treat our children so that we do not bring them to the point of bursting out in uncontrolled passion.

Next, and note the parallel to the way the Lord disciplines us, is the concept of training. The root of this in the Greek word is the concept of repetition; the King James used the word "nurture," as one would care for plants in a garden. This is not a favorite concept of educators today, for repetition - drill, for the math teacher - is not nearly as much fun as other aspects of teaching. He did not say that it is fun; he said is was required. Remember how the children were to be taught the Passover each year?[2] Indeed, failure to provide such repetitive training is considered a rejection of your children - disowning them:

(Heb 12:7-8 NIV) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? {8} If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

Finally, there is instruction. The word in the King James is "admonition." It is a word which means teaching in the intellectual sense. If repetition drills things into the soul, this is the way to the mind. Proverbs is the book of such instruction (along with James in the New Testament). Interestingly, Proverbs gives us illustrations which indicate that such teaching is not just for early childhood:

·         Proverbs 4:1-9 is a clear lesson on the value of wisdom for the young child.

·         But Proverbs 6:20-35 (and also Proverbs 23:22-35) are clearly lessons to a child who is contemplating adultery!

So we see that even older children are to be instructed by their parents! If you see your grown child chasing after another man's wife, would you not warn him?

There it is: another example of the right relationship. Each has duties to the other; the child to honor the parents, the father to treat the child gently but firmly, training and instructing him. To each as is his due. Next week, we shall see the same principle found in our daily living.

[1] Luke 2:51

[2] Exodus 12:26-27

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