Our teenagers are in the middle of a 2-week study on “Honoring My Parents” in our Wednesday night class. This study is designed to shed some light on what the Bible has to say about their responsibility to honor and obey their parents.
A cursory reading of Ephesians 6:1-2 will reveal that there are no real “qualifiers” to this command. Children are instructed to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” In other words, this is commanded because it is the right thing to do.
Some think that the phrase, “in the Lord” means that children only have to obey their parents IF their parents are instructing them PROPERLY, and that if they are NOT doing so, the children are free to dishonor and disobey their parents. This seems unlikely, since similar phrases are used in regards to “bondservants” who are asked to obey “as you would Christ” and “as to the Lord” (vs. 5,7). Certainly, bondservants would not have the freedom to pick and choose WHEN they obeyed their masters, would they? The reason for these phrases seems to be to emphasize the relationship that these people have with God as their primary motivation for obedience and NOT to qualify the commandment.
One writer commented, “The idea that children should obey their parents only when the parents’ instructions and wishes are in the Lord’s will is both off the wall and impossible in the context. To argue that children - and children alone of these three subordinate groups – should discern what the Lord’s will is when it comes to obedience is illogical and unbiblical.”
In other words, children seem to have one job, as far as this passage is concerned: honor and obey your parents. Could there be some exceptions to this command? Obviously, there might be extreme situations where a child would be forced to disobey his/her parent in order to obey God (see Acts 5:29), but this was likely not the primary thrust of this instruction.
We are doing our best within the Buford Youth Ministry to teach our teens that God’s commandments are important in this area. We are trying to teach them that honoring and obeying their parents is a critical and foundational part of their obedience to God.
But what about the other side of this coin? What about the parents? We often conveniently place the brunt of the responsibility for “honoring parents” at the feet of our young people, but this passage – and others – has just as much to say to the parents as it does to the children!
Parents, when was the last time you took the words of Ephesians 6:4 to heart as a COMMAND?
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Parents, ask yourselves the following questions as they relate to this passage:
- Do you intentionally agitate your children, just because you’re the parent? Do you “fight dirty” with them, expecting them to follow a set of rules that you don’t have to follow?
- Do you “exasperate” your children with your hypocritical behavior and double standards?
- Do you forbid them to do, say, or watch certain things, and then ask them to turn a blind eye when you engage in those same practices?
- Would the last month of your life qualify as “bringing up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” or do sports, school, entertainment, and cell phones dominate your relationship with your children?
- Do you spend any serious amount of time engaging your children in actual discipline? The word translated “discipline” comes from a word that means, “the whole training and education of children, which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals;” in essence, this is a POSITIVE undertaking that goes FAR beyond the occasional spanking, grounding, or lecture! How are you “discipling” your children?
- Do you “bring up” your children, or do you prefer to “send” them somewhere so that someone else can do it?
- When was the last time you spent more than just a few minutes talking to them about the “instruction of the Lord” in some important area of their life?
- In short, are you holding up your end of the agreement? Are you living an honorable life that inspires respect and obedience from your children?
Yes, children are supposed to obey what God has to say about honoring their parents, no matter what; but would the inverse also apply? Shouldn’t parents also obey the commandments of the Lord regarding the way that they treat their children, regardless of the behavior of the child?
Ideally, both parents and children are striving to obey the Lord in their relationships with one another, creating an environment of honor, respect, discipline, instruction, and obedience; but when this doesn’t happen, God still expects both sides to obey HIM.
Parents, are we holding up our end of the deal?
May God help us to walk humbly and obediently among our families as we strive to fulfill our God-given roles!