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Children Obey Your Parents

Of all the commandments given in the New Testament, one of the most important is found in Ephesians 6:1-3.  Consider this passage:

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  2Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

The same commandment is given in the parallel passage of Colossians 3:20, which says, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord."  The substance of this commandment is essential for the well-being and success of children and adults, but there is even more to this commandment than meets the eye.

The imperative parts of this commandment are simple and direct: children are to obey their parents and honor their fathers and mothers.  Obedience is strict adherence to another's commandments.  This concept has fallen out of favor in modern society, but it is essential for believers of God.  God has expected man to keep commandments since the beginning of time, and that has not changed.  In Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20, children are commanded by God to keep the commandments of their parents.  This was right and well-pleasing to the Lord when Paul wrote it in the first century, and it is still right and well-pleasing to the Lord today.

Concerning children's honor for parents, Paul quoted the fifth commandment from Israel's Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.  By doing so, he showed that it is a part of Christ's covenant with Christians.  The Lord requires children to honor their parents by giving them respect simply because of who they are.  This honor begins with a respectful attitude toward parents, but it is manifested in behavior that is obedient and considerate of a parent's will.  A child who honors his parents will not behave in a way that brings shame to them.  The commandment to honor parents extends even beyond childhood and throughout adulthood.  When adults leave their parents' oversight, such as when they marry (Gen. 2:24), their honor toward their parents must continue.  The Lord expects adults to honor their aged parents by supporting them and caring for them (Matt. 15:3-6; 1Tim. 5:3-8).  Even after parents are deceased, their children should speak well of them (Prov. 20:20; 30:11, 17).

The commandment to obey and honor parents is given with a promise for us just as it was for Israel.  For the Israelites, it was a promise for well-being in the promised land of Canaan that they were receiving.  Similarly, we are promised well-being on the earth by keeping this commandment.  This is not a promise of health, wealth, and a life of ease, but rather it is a promise of providential blessings that naturally follow those who learn obedience and honor in their childhood.  Adults who were trained in obedience and honor toward their parents as children are more likely to practice obedience and honor toward God and in the world wherever appropriate.  They will submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-4), respect their employers (Eph. 6:5-8), and honor all men (1Pet. 2:17).  Such behaviors generally lead to good lives on the earth.

Beyond the obvious substance of this commandment and its promise, there is an implicit expectation for children in Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20.  Both of these passages are addressed directly to children, so the expectation is that children should be reading them.  Even if a child has not yet learned to read, he should be hearing these passages from his parents.  This expectation is not that children should read only these particular verses, but rather it is that they should be reading all of the epistles in which these verses are included.  To put it simply, the Lord expects for children to be reading the Bible.  They need the word of God as much as anyone, and the best way to get it is by reading.  The study of the Bible is a lifelong endeavor, and it should begin in childhood as the Lord expects (Deut. 6:6-7; 2Tim. 3:14-17).

Finally, notice that while this commandment is addressed to children, the burden for enforcing it falls on parents.  In fact, both passages that give this commandment are immediately followed with instructions for fathers to follow.  Parents must teach their children that it is right for them to be obedient, and then parents must require obedience from their children.  Likewise, parents must teach their children that honor for parents pleases the Lord, and then they must require honor from their children.  Not only should parents teach their children these things, but they should also require their children to read the Bible so they can see God's words for themselves.  God's expectations for children are high, and parents' expectations should be the same.  This is for the children's own good, for godly training in childhood will set them on a course to please God throughout life (Prov. 22:6).

Stacey E. Durham




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