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LIFE > Life in the Family > Children: Blessing or Problem?  


Children are not a problem, but a blessing; the psalmist writes:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them (127:3-5).

Children are described as a “heritage,” a “reward,” and an “arrow in the hand of a warrior”; and the man who has a quiver full of children is “happy.” What do these three descriptions of children imply?

“Heritage” speaks of “inheritance” or “possession”; the word denotes that which can be passed on as an inheritance, an inheritance being a vital and profound factor in the life of the nation. God gave the land to Israel as an “inheritance”; the land was to be divided, and each family was to keep that which was their “inheritance” from the Lord (Deut. 4:21; 19:10, 14; 20:16; Josh. 11:23; 19:51; I Ki. 21:3-4; Ps. 105:11). The land was valuable and was to be preserved and passed on.

The word also denotes the relationship of God to the nation—Israel is His “inheritance” (Deut. 32:9; I Ki. 8:53; Ps. 78:62; Isa. 19:25). In this sense inheritance implies that Israel is esteemed by God; it has been chosen by Him; it belongs to Him; He will care for it.

With these rich theological and national implications of the word, the psalmist uses it to speak of children; they stand to parents as the nation stands to God, and as the national land exists in its relationship to the family. A “heritage” is the source of great pride and thanksgiving.

“Reward” speaks of “wages,” “salary,” or “hire”; the word indicates that which is given for service that is done well. God is revealed as Abraham’s shield and great “reward” (Gen. 15:1; or “your reward shall be very great”); the tithe for the Levites was their “reward” for their work in the Tabernacle (Num. 18:31); “His reward is with Him” is a statement used of God in connection with His end-time work (Isa. 40:10; 62:11).

With this background, children are to be viewed as something valuable or that has worth. As a “reward” should be appreciated and highly cherished, so it is with children.

“Arrow” is used in the Old Testament both literally (I Sam. 1:20-21; Prov. 7:23; Isa. 5:28) and metaphorically (Num. 24:8; Ps. 7:13; 18:14). In Psalm 127:4 the word is used of children, meaning that they are as vital and necessary to parents as arrows are to the warrior; an archer is content when his quiver is full of them—a man is satisfied when his house is full of children.

Responsibility of Parents - Accepting the fact that children are a blessing from the Lord, then what is to be done for the children by the parents. The Scriptures are plain:

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

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Col. 3:21).

Children are to be trained and admonished, that is, they are to be disciplined and taught;  and children are not to be provoked. The responsibility of parents is to teach and spank, and not to exasperate!

“Training” is the Greek word, paideia,  a noun that is derived from paideuo, meaning “to discipline,” “correct,” “beat,” or “whip,” as well as “instruct, train, or teach”; it is to instruct utilizing discipline or correction. The noun appears in Hebrews 12:5, with the verb appearing in verse 6. For the Biblical teaching on the use of physical discipline, see: Principles of Discipline.

“Admonition” is nouthesia, a noun used three times in the New Testament: I Cor. 10:11; Eph. 6:4; Tit. 3:10. Corinthians speaks of those things that were written down for “our admonition,” that is, our instruction—written so that we may profit from what we learn. Titus instructs the believer to reject a divisive man who has received “the first and second admonition,” obviously meaning the first and second warning. In both instances, the word refers to that which can be learned and known, with the hint of a warning to heed (the verb form appears in Ron. 15:14; Col. 1:28; 3:16 and I Thess. 5:12).

“Provoke” is erethizo, a word appearing twice in the New Testament: II Cor. 9:2 and Col. 3:21; the word means “to irritate,” “exasperate,” “to incite,” “to stimulate to anger,” or “to stir up to strife.” Twice (Eph. and Col.) fathers are commanded not to provoke their children, that is, in their relationship with their children they are not to assume an attitude or actions that irritate their children, causing them to come to anger and thus sin. Simply stated, the parent is not to exasperate the child by acting in an unreasonable manner, or by being harsh or unjust. The NIV has “exasperate” in Ephesians and “embitter” in Colossians.

To summarize the above points, it is the responsibility of parents to instruct their children in the proper belief system (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-8; 11:18-21; Josh. 24:15; Prov. 22:6; example of Abraham, Gen. 18:18-19); and to use adequate physical punishment (book of Proverbs) to cause them to behave appropriately. In doing this the parent is not to exhibit a disposition or conduct that aggravates the child, leading the child into sin.

Responsibility of Children – If the above is the responsibility of parents, particularly the father, then what is the responsibility of children toward parents? The Scriptures are plain:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:1-3);

Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord (Col. 3:20).

Note the two words: “obey” and “honor,”; in these words is summarized the responsibility of the child.

“Obey” is hypakouo, a verb which indicates that one is required to do what is expected or commanded. In two epistles is found the responsibility of children to obey parents:  Eph. 6:1 and Col. 3:20. The supreme example of the obedience of a child is that of Christ to his parents (Lu. 2:51). Obedience is to be the response to every instruction from the father and mother.

Disobedience toward parents is a grievous sin, punishable by death in the Old Testament: Ex. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:9; and in the New Testament general disobedience is spoken of in a grave manner: Rom. 1:30; II Tim. 3:2.

Of course, the responsibility to obey is in all things that are not sinful. Parents do not have the authority to compel the child to sin or to go against God’s law; if the child is old enough to discern that this is happening then the child has the responsibility to disobey parents. The New Testament establishes just such a principle in Acts 5:29.

“Honor” is timao, a verb that appears approximately twenty times and indicates the recognition of the worth or position of another; it is to highly esteem another or to place value on someone else. Honor is taught in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; see Mk. 7:6-13), and this command is known as “the commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:2).

An example of honor is from the life of Christ; He provided for his mother (Jo. 19:25-27), thus showing honor for her by discharging his responsibility toward her even in death.  Children are to care for parents in their old age and in this way they “honor” those who have cared for them. But honor is not solely restricted to conduct at the time of old-age and death; it is the practice of a life time.

It is best to understand that these two words, “obey” and “honor,” work together in that the honor of one’s parents is shown by obeying one’s parents; to fail to obey is to show no honor.

Verses for children from Proverbs:

My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother (1:8);

My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands (3:1);

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights (3:11-12);

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law (4:1-2; see vs. 10-13, 20-22; 5:1; 6:20; 7:1-2);

A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother (10:1);

whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid (12:1);

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (13:1);

A fool despises his father’s instruction but he who receives instruction is prudent (15:5);

A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother (15:20);

Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father (17:6);

The father of a fool has no joy (17:21);

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who born him (17:25);

A foolish son is the ruin of his father (19:13);

He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother is a son who causes shame and brings reproach (19:26);

Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge (19:27);

Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right (20:11);

Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness (20:20);

Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old (23:22);

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice (23:25);

My son, fear the Lord . . . (24:21);

Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons shames his father (28:7);

Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, ‘It is not transgression,’ the same is companion to a destroyer (28:24);

Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice, but a companion of harlots wastes his wealth (29:3);

The eye that mocks his father and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it (30:17).

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