What Does 'Do Not Provoke Your Child To Anger' Mean in Ephesians 6:4?

"Do not provoke your child to anger" comes from the sixth chapter of Ephesians, in which Apostle Paul instructs the children and parents of Ephesus.

Bible opened to Ephesians

"Do not provoke your child to anger" comes from the sixth chapter of Ephesians, in which Apostle Paul instructs the children and parents of Ephesus.

Do Not Provoke Your Children

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." ~ Ephesians 6:1-4

Children are expected to obey and respect their parents. The meaning of the Greek word for obey (hupakouo) begins with the idea of listening attentively. The caution regarding the fathers puts a restraint and a requirement of godly instruction on the parent. 

According to Matthew Henry's Commentary, The great duty of children is, to obey their parents. That obedience includes inward reverence, as well as outward acts, and in every age, prosperity has attended those distinguished for obedience to parents. 

The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgments and work upon their reason. Bring them up well; under proper and compassionate correction; and in the knowledge of the duty God requires. Often is this duty neglected, even among professors of the gospel. Many set their children against religion; but this does not excuse the children's disobedience, though it may awfully occasion it. 

God alone can change the heart, yet he gives his blessing to the good lessons and examples of parents and answers their prayers.

Bible Meaning of Ephesians 6:4

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible provides an in-depth breakdown of this verse's meaning and application:

And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath
"Neither by words; by unjust and, unreasonable commands; by contumelious and reproachful language; by frequent and public chidings, and by indiscreet and passionate expressions: nor by deeds; preferring one to another; by denying them the necessaries of life; by not allowing them proper recreation; by severe and cruel blows, and inhuman usage; by not giving them suitable education; by an improper disposal of them in marriage; and by profusely spending their estates, and leaving nothing to them: not but that parents may, and ought to correct and rebuke their children; nor are they accountable to them for their conduct; yet they should take care not to provoke them to wrath, because this alienates their minds from them, and renders their instructions and corrections useless, and puts them upon sinful practices; wrath lets in Satan, and leads to sin against God; and indeed it is difficult in the best of men to be angry and not sin; see (Colossians 3:21) . Fathers are particularly mentioned, they being the heads of families, and are apt to be too severe, as mothers too indulgent."

But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;
instructing them in the knowledge of divine things, setting them good examples, taking care to prevent their falling into bad company, praying with them, and for them, bringing them into the house of God, under the means of grace, to attend public worship; all which, under a divine blessing, may be very useful to them; the example of Abraham is worthy of imitation, (Genesis 18:19), and the advice of the wise man deserves attention, (Proverbs 22:6).

Importance of Christian Fathers

Parents, and especially fathers, play a crucial role in representing God to their children. Just as "the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Hebrews 12:6), mothers and fathers should discipline their children, with love as their central motive. "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)

Raising a Christian family is meant to be loving, foundation-setting, and encouraging for children. Fathers are to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). Children need to see God’s love and virtue represented in their parents. Such examples will make it more natural for them to live by the proverb “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9).

Bible Verses about Parenting

Colossians 3:21
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

1 Peter 5:3
Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Psalm 127:3
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Proverbs 29:17
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

Psalm 103:13
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Read more Scriptures about Parenting

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