Don't Do That, Do This!

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”—Ephesians 6:4 (NKJV)

As the apostle Paul gives instructions to fathers on how to properly parent their children, he uses a teaching technique that he uses elsewhere in the book of Ephesians. I call it the “Don’t do that, do this!” method. Paul will point to something as a negative example, and then point to an opposite, positive example.

Some examples are: “Don’t be drunk with wine, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NKJV), “Don’t steal, but use your hands to be industrious so you have something to give” (Ephesians 4:28 NKJV), and “Don’t speak corruptly, but use your words to build people up” (Ephesians 4:29 NKJV). You see how it works. 

Paul does the same thing here for fathers by giving them a negative example (“Don’t provoke your children to wrath”) and then a positive example (“Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord”). Let’s dig a little deeper to see the full contrast of what Paul is trying to get across.

The negative really revolves around the word “provoke.” In the Greek, it literally means “to agitate or incite without proper cause.” It’s sort of like having a jar filled with insects and shaking it up just to see how they react. Fathers can do that to their children emotionally by embarrassing them, toying with them, or setting them up to fall short in some way. Paul warns that this behavior will only produce wrath in a child. They’ll grow frustrated and bitter in the long run and the relationship will run the risk of being ruined.

The positive example centers on the expression “bring them up.” The Greek word here literally means, “to feed and nurture.” A father needs to be feeding and nurturing their children in the training and admonition of the Lord. In other words, to see to it that they’re raised up with an understanding of the heart and mind of God. It’s the polar opposite of provocation. Instead of breaking a child down, it’s a matter of building them up.

“Don’t do that, do this!” It sounds so obvious. Yet, sadly, it’s something many fathers don’t practice. If you’re a dad, don’t be one of them. Be a father committed to building up, not breaking down. The result will be a rewarding relationship that God will bless for years to come.   

DIG: What teaching technique does Paul employ in instructing fathers?

DISCOVER: What two words embody the negative and positive commands given?

DISPLAY: How can you apply this passage in your own life?