C.S. #16 – Are you a marshmallow dad, or a taskmaster?

Campfire Scripture: A dose of man-Bible every weekday for the thoughtful, manful Christian.


One for the dads.


Book Author and Date:

Again, as with most of Paul’s epistles, there’s almost no question of his authorship of Ephesians. Nicknamed a prison epistle, along with other prison epistles, Ephesians was written by Paul in prison in Rome, thus giving a date of 60-62 A.D.



Fathers, Teaching, Wisdom, Fatherhood.



As mentioned Ephesians was written in prison, probably at the same time Paul wrote Colossians and Philemon. This letter contains many sound and straightforward teachings on the Gospel, including its openness to Gentile and Jew alike, and the abundant blessings given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.


The verse above fits neatly in a passage on the family unit, which admonishes children to obey their parents ‘so that it may go well with you’ and constitutes a simple broad statement of parenting advice regarding discipline that is applicable to all believers and is still totally relevant today.


What I Reckon:

I love my son. I also love my yet to be born child.


The hardest part about being dad is undoubtedly being tough.


Up in the night? No problem. Dirty nappies? I’m all over it. Got work to do? Whole other story.


I could sit on the couch with my son and read the same 4 books over and over again for 3 hours straight without breaking a sweat. I could stand on the balcony and watch the cars with my little man until my arms fall off.


But if I’m in the office with the doors closed and he walks up to the big glass door on the balcony, and puts his hands up against it, with that big toothy grin on his face, forget about it… I’m done, toasted marshmallow.


The challenge is, when you know you’re being too soft, it’s tempting to swing the other way and become sergeant dad. It would be so much easier if my boy just ‘understood’ that I was offering instructions in his best interests. But no, he wants to read a book when it’s time for bed. He wants to watch the cars drive by from the balcony all day when I have to go and get writing done. Oh man, he just wants to play with me all day, and I just want to play with him all day, but there’s work to be done.


The above passage exhorts us fathers to be that perfect balance. Not to be either too soft and let our children get away with murder, but also not to be taskmasters to the point where our children come to resent us and rebel just for the sake of rebellion.


MacArthur explains:


“In the pagan world of Paul’s day, and even in many Jewish households, most father ruled their families with rigid and domineering authority.”


In the modern west the state of discipline is now the opposite. Corporate punishment is child abuse (although forcing a child to stare at a wall in total silence for ten minutes is apparently not considered psychological abuse and/or emotionally manipulative, so go figure).


This passage warns Christians that both extremes are unhealthy. Father’s (and mothers) are to exercise discipline and firmness in order to raise their children to both acknowledge and appreciate God’s laws, and the consequences of breaking them. Not to mention the general consequences of not obeying the law in this world too.


Take the advice how you will, this is only a teeny devotional and not the place to go into a thesis on child development.


I just wanted to encourage you dad’s out there like myself that it’s difficult to always do it perfect, but we gotta make every effort. Don’t be overbearing, but don’t be a pushover. The middle ground is the hardest, but the best place to be.


Did you seriously read the whole thing? You're amazing!

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All Campfire Scripture passages are taken from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise stated.


John MacArthur, 2006, The MacArthur Study Bible,  New American Standard Bible (1995 edition).