Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:1c “. . .your parents. . .”
Young people, obey “your parents.” Notice the plural. Obey mothers (PR 1:8; 6:20) as well as fathers. Children are to obey, to do what their moms and dads command. The parents’ words should be the children’s law.
This obligation to obey parents has been recognized by all stable cultures in all lands of all ages. A perceived lack of respect for parental authority has always been lamented by wise orators, writers, and social analysts.
The Bible presents obedience to parents as a vital duty. Rebellion against parents is no trifle. Scripture portrays it as a terrible evil (RM 1:30; 2 TM 3:2). If it were trivial, God would not have put it on His black list.
YHWH, once for all time, conveyed His feelings about this matter in His dealings with the priest Eli. God told the child Samuel, “I will judge his (Eli’s) house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (1 SM 3:13). Later–tragedy upon tragedies!!–Samuel committed the same parental sin, wasting his sons (1 SM 8:3).
Disobedience to parents is a grave matter, and gives evidence of a disintegrating society. When a nation does become characterized by children in rebellion, do not blame the younger generation. Disobedience to parents belies a parent problem. Our text conveys an obvious implication. Since the duty of children is to obey, the duty of parents is to rule. Parents must enforce obedience, for there can be no submission where there is no authority.
A society’s existence depends on children learning at home the habit of yielding deference to authorities above self. Young people must at home practice bending their will to a higher will.
Foundations of reverence and irreverence are laid early in life. Vice and crime can often be traced to the nursery. Harry Ironsides tells of an insightful judge in Gary, Indiana, who passed sentence on some young criminals, saying, “I wish it were possible to put the parents of these children in the penitentiary for allowing them to grow up like this.”
Christian parents, our responsibility is to teach our children to obey us. Young people must be taught respect for authority. This is the main purpose of discipline. Parents often punish the wrong things. They get upset if a child spills milk at the table, drops his books, turns over a lamp, etc. Mom and Dad, clumsiness is not a sin. Use discipline as a tool to teach respect for authority.
This training is, at first, mechanical. Children are to be made to obey long before they can understand why they are doing so. John and Becky each got one swing at their mother. I made sure neither ever took a second swipe.
A child who is raised thinking everyone is subservient to his or her own dictatorship will have little respect for anyone in authority. Parents need to teach their children to obey all representatives of authority, including policemen, schoolteachers, and other adults. If an authority figure becomes a problem, parents should not tear down their children’s respect for authority, but rather should go talk privately with the authority figure face to face.
Children must learn there is an end, a limit, to their self-will. They must know they can go only so far and no farther. Many marriages are doomed before they begin because spouses never learned discipline and restraint. They always had a silver spoon in their mouth at home and never intended to sacrifice in their marriage. “He has learned that if he will stomp his foot hard enough, scream loud enough, quarrel long enough, he can always have his way” (Chappel). This attitude destroys a marriage.
Children’s bottoms will survive spankings, but their minds will not survive the yushy-mushy, self-centered, spoiled life-style a lack of discipline instills in them. Such children’s lives are ruined. They are always miserable, never content, everyone views them as a holy terror, and their marriage is jeopardized before it starts. Parents, give children a wonderful marriage and life gift. Teach them to obey.
Eph. 6:1d “. . .in the Lord:. . .”
“In the Lord” is the sphere of parental rule and childhood obedience. Both are done under God’s scrutiny as part and parcel of the life we live in fellowship with Jesus. Parents must discipline well, and children must obey well, because “the Lord” to whom we belong is vitally interested in both.
Because they are done “in the Lord,” parental rule and childhood submission are spiritual matters. Since they are performed in the spiritual realm, the consequences for a Christian family member are significant.
First, this means God’s power is available to empower us to do right. Parents, never despair. No situation can befall you but which God can provide you wisdom to handle aright. Youth, never give up trying to obey. Our perverse nature makes it difficult to do right, but God’s power can enable us.
Second, parents ruling, and children obeying, “in the Lord” means we must command and obey only those things which are consistent with Christ and His Word. Never command or obey lying, cheating, stealing, or anything else in absolute contradiction to God’s Word. Never go contrary to the Bible.
Third, parental authority and youthful submission done “in the Lord” means God is the unseen authority behind the visible parents. Young people, obedience to parents is obedience unto God, and makes Jesus happy. Disobeying parents means one is disobeying God, and grieving Jesus.
Parents, God is looking over your shoulder. Here is your stronghold. You have every right to say lovingly to your child, “I must have you obedient, because I am responsible to God for your being so.”
Parents, take your parenting seriously. Your role is performed “in the Lord.” In the parent-child relationship, the parent stands as God to the child until the child matures spiritually. When parents conceive, they enter the secrecy of God’s creative council. Children exist due to God’s creation through parents. They are His agents. At conception they take on the role, and at birth take on the responsibility, of standing in the position of God for the child.
A parent’s highest honor is not to be a good provider, educator, and moral policeman, but rather to stand before his or her own children as a representative of God. By requiring our children to obey us we teach them to obey God. The habit of submission transfers from us to Him. Making light of parental authority makes it easier to make light of God’s authority. Do not expect a youth who has gone on for years in self-will and pride to easily break the habit as an adult and walk in humble obedience before God.
Parents, as representatives of God, we are to be revelations of God. Children should see God in their parents’ demeanor and deportment. Unreality in parents is eventually detected by children. Youth have very sensitive natures. They may not “see through” the sham, but do eventually “feel” it.
Young people begin to notice inconsistencies like going to a church that advocates tithing, but the family never tithes. The church teaches prayer, but the family never prays. The church speaks of soulwinning and bringing neighbors to Christ, but the family never does these things. The church speaks of the God of Elijah, but at home no one sees any Elijahs of God.
Children inevitably detect this subtle hypocrisy. They eventually gauge the true level of their parents’ commitment to God. To this level, young people tend to rise or sink. Often, when teens or young adults begin to take church less seriously, the problem is not church, but what they saw in their parents.
Parents, what qualities do you hold dear about your own parents? Beauty, intelligence, material wealth, or goodness, unselfishness, character, sincerity, discipline? What qualities about your parents disappointed you? The answer may be painful, but can help define for us what our own role should be.