As we are reminded, this is the only Commandment which comes with a promise of a good if it is obeyed. Others of course come with a warning and still others are stated baldly as being somewhat obvious.
The author of Ephesians extends this Commandment from “honour” to “obey” and introduces a counterpart obligation on fathers, with perhaps the promise of a long life for both parent and child. There is no mention of mothers, so perhaps the unstated assumption is that the father is responsible for ensuring the good behaviour of the child whereas the unconditional mother love for the child she bore encompasses and ensures its general welfare, so no reward is necessary. As for the child, obeying probably leads to a quieter life all round.
Of course, there is that word “discipline”. Down the years many a father has interpreted this in the light of the aphorism “spare the rod and spoil the child”. But surely that goes against the extended requirement not to provoke the child to anger. Ignoring this has resulted in many a life being blighted by the smouldering anger of resentment built up against a harsh (but not necessarily cruel) father who no doubt felt he was acting in the best interests of the child in the long run.
Society has moved on and it is thankfully not now acceptable to discipline a child harshly either physically or mentally.
But that word discipline remains.
We as a denomination are engaging in Walking the Way – the way of discipleship. Same root. Discipline: discipleship: discipling. Which should be our priority? Fathers (and mothers) what can you do better than try to disciple your children by and in your life so that their days (and yours) may be long on the earth. A good for all.
Author: David Wiggs
I am the webmaster for Purley United Reformed Church and have been involved with the church since my late teens. I work in Croydon and live in Caterham.