If I told you that I have a bucket of iron in my car, what would you expect to see upon opening the trunk? A bucket made of iron, or a bucket (say of wood) holding iron ore inside? The difference is important. The grammatical construct creating the confusion (“of iron”) is called a genitive. The question for the reader or listener is to ascertain if the genitive is subjective (yielding the conclusion the bucket is made of iron) or objective (in which case one would have a bucket containing iron inside). The prepositional phrase “of iron” is ambiguous…more information is needed (usually supplied in the context of the conversation or surrounding sentences).
Now…why do I dare to bother you with a lesson in grammar…
…well because it has great bearing upon parenting!
It is true. What are your goals in parenting? For what end are you engaging, training, preparing, teaching, and even disciplining your children? Moreover, what content are you using to accomplish those goals? Those two questions will not only determine your parenting, they will also become your evaluator. How you parent and how well you parent demand you intentionally answer, know, and live out those two questions…what are your goals, and what is your content to achieve those goals?
Paul answers both those questions with ONE Genitive:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Parents (by addressing dads, Paul is calling the one ultimately accountable to action; he is not neglecting the crucial roles of mothers) are to parent their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Here is the same construction that began our conversation. Is this a subjective genitive (in which case God would be the subject of the instruction) or an objective genitive (in which case God would be the object of instruction)? The answer is…yes! In this case, Paul probably intended both (don’t ya love trick questions). Parents are to have as the goal of their parenting God…and God is to be the content of the same. The implications are vast, but one shall suffice for today.
If you have as your goal merely a well behaved child…if you parent for convenience (yours, that is)…you will have trouble. The only proper goal of parenting is God. Your child must not become the center of the universe. You must parent so that God is pleased, not just you…and certainly not just the child. God is worthy to be pursued, pleased, honored, and obeyed. You must parent with God’s glory as the goal of your endeavors…and you must use the content of God’s self-disclosure (the Bible) as your content.
There is much more to say about parenting (as we do in our classes and counseling), but many errors and problems are avoided…and glory brought to God…if we parented with Him as the goal and goods of our instruction.
10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor,
Rod and Staff Ministries