Scripture Passage – Luke 11:11, Ephesians 6:4
Description – Fourth sermon in the Summer 2013 Sermon Series, “My Favorite Bible Verse.”
Graduation parties are a common experience this time of year and if graduates, and their parents, are honest, there is great hope that the envelopes which are handed to the honored graduate contain just more than a card!
And this reminds me of the story about the young man who went off to college and about midway through the first semester sent a letter home to his dad which read,“Dear Dad, No mon (or money) No fun Your Son”
The dad thought a moment and the wrote back (this was in the days of actually writing out a note and sending it via the US postal service)“Dear Son,” So sad. Too bad. Your dad.”
“Father… dad… ” When you hear these words, what comes to mind? For just as Mother’s Day causes a host of responses in people so too, does Father’s Day cause similar kinds of responses as well. We need to acknowledge all kinds of responses because the Lord is aware of those responses.
In my reading some books and watching some news shows over the past year I have learned that there are scholars, psychologists, and researchers who are beginning to document a dropping out of men from marriage, college, good relationships in general, and family life. The reasons offered are many: video games and the lack of occupational opportunity are mentioned as causes. But so is a sense that men are beginning to feel second class and that the lack of solid respect is causing them to withdraw and give up on what would have been marker events and accomplishments in other generations.
Is fatherhood under assault as a result of this apparently emerging trend? I think that some would think so.
Does the Bible have anything to say about fatherhood? I think so!
And this morning my sermon title is in the form of a question that I think others, within the Christian church as well as outside of it, are beginning to ask: What is the Purpose of Fatherhood?
Two texts, in line with our summer sermon series, “My Favorite Bible Verse,” form the basis for this morning message. Let’s see if they can answer the question which forms the title of this morning’s sermon.
The first verse is Luke 11:11 which says, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead?
The second verse is Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Now in the Luke passage we are reading the words of Jesus in response to a request by one of his disciples ““Lord, teach us to pray…” and Luke records the words that Jesus uses to teach the disciples to pray and which have become known as the Lord’s Prayer. Yet Jesus goes beyond merely “teaching” a prayer to them. He addresses the issue of persistence in prayer and the desire of God to give the empowering Holy Spirit in response to their praying.
Does God answer prayer? Yes He does! I remember asking God for a certain amount of money not for me but for my family because we needed to move out of the two bedroom apartment we lived in. We got more than I asked for! It helped us by a house. It blew Susan and I away!
Does God always answer our prayers? No… and yes. Sometimes the answer is “yes,” at other times “no” and at other times, “wait” or “not yet.” And I think that we sometimes interpret the silence of God in response to our prayers as a ‘no’ when perhaps it is ‘not yet’ or a ‘wait.’
I want to read verse 11 in the context of the latter part of this passage, beginning with verse 5 and going through verse 13:
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacityhe will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
What I want us to pay attention to this morning is what Jesus says in verses 11 through 13, in the context of persistent prayer and persistence in prayer, about good fathering. For I believe that He makes an assumption of his audience that they know what good fathering is.
“Pastor, Jesus uses the word ‘evil’ in verse 13, how can evil people be good fathers?” Good question!
The word used here includes the definition of what we consider evil. But it can mean someone who is “full of labours, annoyances, hardships; pressed and harassed by labours; diseased and blind.” In other words, they are imperfect, burdened, and flawed. So Jesus affirms that though his audience is flawed and burdened they are capable of giving good gifts to their children.
The other thing to be noticed here is what is being asked for by the son in verses 11 and 12 – a fish and an egg. In other words, daily needs. A good father gives them to a son. Not a snake and not a scorpion, two things that can injure and kill. Jesus knows that a good dad will give their children what they need not what will hurt them.
I think that we can assert this morning that one of the purposes of fatherhood is to do what is right and essential to children by meeting their needs.
But there is something else which dads need to take note of and that is found in our second verse that I now read in the context of one of the most studied, pondered, and quoted passages (often by desperate and frustrated parents) in the entire Bible, Ephesians 6:1-4:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Lots and lots and lots and lots of parents like to quote these verses to their children. But, BUT! The next verse, our second verse of the morning is one that children like to quote to their parents!
4 Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Some of us here remember another translation of this verse that states the main thought very pointedly. “…provoke not your children to wrath.”
I provoked my two boys to “fashion wrath” last fall when I took them to school one morning. I was painting and did not have time to change clothes. So I wore my white T shirt, green shorts with paint all over them, white socks and black dress shoes to drive them to school.
They were sweating great drops of shame and embarrassment all the way there and the car got rather humid for as I drove up I saw one of their teachers standing out watching the parking lot. I rolled up, rolled down the window and said, “They’re all yours!” He replied with a voice that sounded like an evil scientist, “Oh good!”
Paul is telling the community of faith in the ancient city of Ephesus something that we know very well in the 21st century city of Kendallville. Words and actions can cause children to either be empowered to thrive and grow or become angry or withdraw.
How many times have you seen a TV show or have know someone where an angry son or daughter makes a choice that leads them into a head-on meeting with law enforcement and the courts? Why? Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes it is because the relationship with the parent or parents goes sour because dad or mom has consistently berated them or discouraged them in some way.
Children are provoked to anger not just with words but also with actions. I know individuals who have wrestled with tremendous resentment toward their parents because they were treated like the black sheep of the family or told that they would not amount to anything like “so and so” would.
But what I notice in this passage is that Paul’s comments are directed toward the fathers. He is telling the fathers to not exasperate their children. (Yes, the word used here can be translated ‘parents’ as well as fathers.) Dad has a profound developmental impact on his kids. Studies on the effects of father absence prove this point.
But Paul is telling the parents, “Stop doing and saying those things which discourage your kids. Encourage them. Empower them in and through the Lord by teaching them the things of God.”
So a key purpose of fatherhood is to encourage and empower children so that they become productive adults and persons of faith as well.
So I close this morning with a reminder to dads, “Do not, do not, do.not, give up on your kids. Encourage them every chance you get. Empower them by helping them learn to master small tasks such as cleaning their room that pave the way for mastering larger tasks later in life. Help them to learn from their failures and not be discouraged by them. You have a powerful, powerful influence on your kids. Let your words and actions come from a heart and life given to God and His will. ”
Happy Father’s Day!