Tag Archives: fathers

12 Ways to Provoke Your Children to Anger (Lou Priolo)

Where your children angry today? If so, did you stop to ask why? In your search for a solution, did you consider that you may be part of the problem?

Unfortunately, parents and children often make life much harder for each other than it would need be otherwise. I know what it is like. All too easily our homes degenerate into mutual-maddening societies, where the words exchanged sound little better than the trash talk of opposing sports teams or presidential candidates.

Dads, the responsibility for our homes begins with us. Paul gave first-century fathers advice that we can’t afford to ignore today:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

How might I provoke my children to anger? Last spring I attended a homeschool convention talk by Lou Priolo where he answered this question. Today I found my notes from that talk. Parenting isn’t typical content for this blog, but I thought I’d adapt his thoughts here so I can toss my paper notes.

Here are twelve ways we dads (and moms) can provoke our children to anger:

  1. Lack marital harmony with your spouse. (Priolo noted that only marriage partners, not children, are described as being “one flesh”—literally, “one person.” Our children are not “one flesh” with us, and our relationship with them is not designed to be as permanent or intimate as our relationship with our spouse. This leads to the next point.)
  2. Establish and maintain a child-centered home. Allow your children to interrupt, manipulate, dictate the schedule, take precedence over your spouse, demand time and attention, speak to you as to a peer, and require coddling to come out of a bad mood.
  3. Model sinful anger. Show your children what real anger looks like. When life feels out of control, regain control by bitter cuts or dramatic explosions.
  4. Discipline in anger. Discipline to meet your own needs, not your child’s needs.
  5. Discipline inconsistently. Discipline (or don’t) for different reasons on different days—or differently than your spouse.
  6. Have double standards. Expect your children to do as you say, not as you do.
  7. Be legalistic. Raise man’s commands to the level of God’s commands. Fail to distinguish between God’s law (biblically directed rules such as honesty and love) and parental law (biblically derived rules such as curfews or table manners). Don’t allow your children to ever appeal your parental rules—after all, they can’t appeal God’s rules, right?
  8. Never admit you are wrong. Don’t be open to reason (James 3:17). Stick to your guns and never change course.
  9. Have unrealistic expectations. Expect children to want to do what is right all the time, not just do right even when they don’t want to. Expect unregenerate teenagers to act as Christians. Emphasize achievement over character, and perfection over confession.
  10. Abuse your children physically. Be like Balaam: Don’t worry about collecting all the data first. Just strike out of embarrassment, and don’t worry if you lose control.
  11. Scold them. You want to break their spirits, crush their pride.
  12. Train them with worldly methodologies that are inconsistent with God’s word. Talk lots about “the Lord,” but parent based on the “discipline and instruction” of people who don’t know or care about the Lord.

Come to think of it, many of these points are also relevant for others, such as church leaders. May God help us to bring peace to those who depend on our care, not provoke them to anger.

Thanks for reading! Add your insights in the comments below.


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“If anyone does not provide for his relatives…”

(Old Facebook Post)

What does the Bible say about who is responsible to provide for the family? Google that question, and the first website listed will give this answer:

“A father is also to provide for his family. If he does not, he “denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). So a man who makes no effort to provide for his family cannot rightly call himself a Christian. This does not mean that the wife cannot assist in supporting the family—Proverbs 31 demonstrates that a godly wife may surely do so—but providing for the family is not primarily her responsibility; it is her husband’s.”

The next website references the same verse from 1 Timothy, with this commentary:

“1 Timothy 5:8 — As the head of the family (see next point), a man should provide, not just for himself, but for his whole household.”
Here, for review, is the full verse in the ESV:
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

At least six of the first ten Google results1 interpret the same verse in the same way. Only one might disagree. If you base your theology on Google, then you have a pretty strong consensus: 1 Timothy 5:8 teaches that husbands and fathers must provide for their families. But is it correct?

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I think there are two problems with this interpretation. First, the context of the verse is not about fathers or husbands. It is not about caring for wives or children. It is about carrying for widows. The widows are older women, not children and–obviously–not wives. The only caregivers explicitly mentioned are “children and grandchildren” (or perhaps other descendants; the second word is a general term) and “believing women.” (“Believing women” are probably mentioned because the care of widows was generally seen as the responsibility of woman; it was often considered unfitting for a single man to care for a widow relative, and a married man would usually let his wife do the care-giving.)

No direct mention is made of husbands anywhere in the context except in the qualifications for enrolling widows under the church’s care; such a widow must have “been the wife of one husband”–a one-man woman, probably meaning not adulterous. And the only roles of husbands that are mentioned (indirectly) are their roles in satisfying the passions of their wives and helping them bear children. Even when discussing how younger widows will want to remarry, no mention is made of how they might be seeking a husband to provide for them. So nothing in the context suggests that 1 Timothy 5:8 is about the role of husbands.

This raises a question: If 1 Timothy 5:8 is about the care-giving duties of children, grandchildren, and believing women, then why the masculine terms in our verse? The ESV has three masculine pronouns: his, his, and he. Why the masculine language if men are not in focus?

This question leads me to my second problem with the Google interpretation of 1 Timothy 5:8: In the Greek text, there is no masculine subject in this verse! The updated NIV reflects this accurately: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” The Greek text, as I understand it, works like this: The first two times the ESV uses “his,” the Greek text simply has nouns with possessive endings–nouns that show that they belong to an individual, with no gender specification. Where the ESV uses “he,” the Greek has a third-person singular verb, again with no gender specification. So there is no grammatical reason to conclude that this verse is talking directly about males, let alone specifically about husbands and fathers.

Neither context nor grammar indicate that 1 Timothy 5:8 teaches that husbands are responsible to provide for their families. Does that mean they are not responsible? Of course not! I still think husbands and fathers bear a primary responsibility to care for their families. But we must base our teaching on other passages. And perhaps a corrected understanding of this verse will also allow us to hear the strength of other passages that speak of women providing for and managing their families. We men need all the help we can get!

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Shopping for the perfect Bible translation?

I think we can learn a couple more lessons from this investigation:

  1. Gender-neutral translations are helpful. If you understand just a little about how gender works in the Greek, and if you understand the translation philosophies of the ESV and the NIV, for example (one favoring masculine pronouns and the other generally gender-neutral), then you can often guess what is happening on the Greek level just by comparing the two translations. The ESV tells you the Greek is singular; the NIV tells you the Greek uses language that can be–and sometimes, should be–gender-neutral. Comparing a gender-neutral translation can prevent false assumptions. (Of course, the reverse is also true!)
  2. It is futile to search for the perfect translation. “Translators are traitors,” as the famous Italian proverb goes. (I’ve always wondered what that proverb actually means in Italian!) In this case, we could ask, why does the ESV–and the KJV, and the majority of English translations–get this verse wrong? But the problem lies with the English language, not with the translators. In common English usage, we have no gender-neutral third person pronoun suitable for referring to persons2–no word for “s/he.” So translators must choose to either go with a generic (but misleading) masculine singular pronoun (as with the ESV), or else switch to the plural pronoun “they,” which is nicely gender-neutral but wrongly plural3 (as with the NIV).

There is no way to provide a perfectly “literal” and accurate translation. Even if you do this: “Anyone who does not provide for his or her relatives, and especially for his or her own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” then you have the problem of an awkward sentence with more complex syntax than the Greek. So there is no perfect translation. But that’s okay! If we do a little study, compare with other texts, and a possess good theological foundation, our translations are accurate enough to prevent us from adopting serious error.

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So, what should we learn from 1 Timothy 5:8? If you have a parent or grandparent who needs your care–especially if he or she lives in your own house, and especially if she is a widow–then it is your Christian duty to do your best to ensure that he or she receives the needed care. Do you hear this, ladies? (And men.)

First two images courtesy of graur razvan ionut and Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

  1. At the time of this post; results will change.
  2. “It” doesn’t count, because it is used to refer only to non-persons.
  3. The NIV translators would disagree, and history will probably prove them right: “They” and “their,” if I remember correctly, were once commonly used for singular as well as plural purposes before wide-spread attempts to standardize English, and this usage seems to be the wave of the future as well. Currently, however, it still strikes many people as strange or misleading.

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