Command with a Promise (6:2)
There were four commandments without a promise, then one with a promise, and then five more without a promise. Of the Ten Commandments, only the command to “honor your father and mother” comes with a promise. What should we make of this? Maybe, God wants obedience to be a reward in itself and we should only minimally incentivize obedience. Possibly, God is modeling the use of incentives for the training of children but expects maturity to diminish our dependence upon rewards.
Paul’s main point in this passage (from 5:21 forward) is the God-designed blessing of living in submission according to one’s role and function. We (like children) get caught wanting to be further along (older). God’s protection comes from finding joyful contentment in our current life role without losing our desire to learn or achieve. When we are child-like in this manner (remember the Ten Commandments were given to all ages) we are living in the blessing of God’s will.
Reflection: How often have you said to a child, “You are getting a little too big for your britches”? As children try to live outside their life role, they enter into arenas of relational and situational danger. They leave the protection of their parent’s and God’s protection. The question we might ask ourselves (as adults) is “Where has pride mingled with ambition so that we have become too big for our britches?” Let us be like good children; ever learning and growing while maintaining trust and honor.
Do Not Provoke to Anger
The New Testament teaching on parenting can largely be summarized in two phrases: train your children in God’s Word and do not provoke them to anger while you do it. As parents we spend a great deal of time asking, “How can we get our kids to behave?” Consider the following answers to the question, “How might we provoke our kids to anger?”
- Take their sin more seriously than we take our own sin.
- Discipline harder when we are having a bad day.
- Mistake our preferences for God’s standards.
- Favor one child over another.
- Dishonor our spouse to/in front of our kids.
- Allow our family to over commit to activities.
- Bad mouth the authorities in our own lives.
- Only talk to our kids when they have done something wrong.
- Fail to show interest in their activities or friends.
- Mistake volume or repetition for godly instruction.
- Make jokes about their weaknesses or insecurities.
- Fail to provide proper instruction for new tasks.
- Act as if resisting sin is easier for adolescents than adults.
- To have expectations that are not age appropriate.
- Allow children to be ruled by their impulses without correction.
What would you add to the list? What would it look like if we created a “behavior chart” for ourselves as parents? More importantly, can you find your characteristic weaknesses and identify the overgrown desires (i.e., peace, comfort, perfection, etc…) that cause you to err in that direction?
As To the Lord, Not To Man (6:7)
Paul emphasizes that we are not to work for man’s approval three times in this passage. It is tempting to see this as a purely guilt-based admonition, but I believe it is also a call to freedom. When we work for man’s approval we are often disappointed when our work is not noticed or appreciated. We feel like our effort was “wasted” if recognition is not given. What could have otherwise been very satisfying is now discouraging.
When we work for the Lord, we are truly free. This seems to be the point of verse 8. Slavery is being forced to do something against your will. So, for instance, students who do not want to learn feel like slaves at school. When we are working for the Lord, we are free and motivated so long as we have a wholesome task.
Application: What tasks do you have to do, but enjoy very little? Does the task insult your pride (“beneath me”) or is it merely at odds with your preferences? How can engaging in this task cultivate more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life and become a point of worship? For me, I dislike proofreading things I write. It feels slow and repetitive. When I “have to” edit it challenges me to grow in peace, patience, and self-control. I gain an appreciation for God’s intricate and daily involvement in creation. Reflecting on that as I edit gives drudgery a dose of worship.