Children Obey Your Parents

Mankind is at a stage where everyone is clamoring for their rights. Even children are demanding the right to sue their parents for divorce. The traditional family is seen as a violation of the rights of children. Certainly Paul’s views would be rejected as archaic. He wrote, “children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

However, during the time of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the Roman law called patria potestas gave absolute power of the father over the life of the family. William Barclay explains, “A Roman father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves; he could make them work in his fields, even in chains; he could take the law into his own hands, for law was in his own hands, and he could punish as he liked; he could even inflict the death penalty on his child. Further, the power of the Roman father extended over the child’s whole life, so long as the father lived. A Roman son never came of age.” In fact, when a child was born, it was taken to the father. If he accepted the child he would raise it up. If he turned away, he rejected it. One Roman father wrote to his wife form Alexandria: “If – good luck to you! – you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” In context, Paul’s commands to children and the reciprocal duties of the parents are far more humane.

The recipients of this Command are the “children” of the household. The term denotes relationship to parents instead of chronological age. However, considering verse four as part of the context it would seem children who are still learning are in mind.

Paul gives children two responsibilities. First, he commands them to “obey your parents” and second, he instructs them to “honor your father and mother.” Obey has to do with action and honor has to do with attitude.

To “obey” comes from the Greek hupakous which is a compound term involving the ideas of under and to listen. Children are required to put themselves under the authority of their parents and listen to what they are telling them. Parents demand this of their children when they tell them: “listen to me.”

Obedience does not come easy for many children. Parental authority has to be enforced. Fathers and mothers need to be mindful of the fact that their authority has been delegated to them from God. They are stewards of the children He has given them as a blessing. The Law of Moses makes a strong connection between respecting one’s parents and respecting Him. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. ‘Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God’” (Lev. 19:1-3). Children have to be trained to obey. Solomon wrote,  “my son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands” (Prov. 3:1). “The easy way out would be to allow the children to do as they wish with parents going on their own way without having to be bothered.” (Caldwell 288).

Disobedience to parents is at heart a spiritual rebellion. Rebellion against parents is to rebel against God. It is indicative of Gentile depravity which is “disobedient to parents” (Rom. 1:30). Paul warned that in the last days: “for men will be …disobedient to parents” (2 Tim. 3:2).

Are Children to obey absolutely everything their parents tell them to do? The command to obey one’s parents comes with a restriction. They are to obey them “in the Lord.” This does not mean the parents have to be in the Lord or Christians. Children must obey their parents regardless of whether or not the father and/or mother are faithful Christians. Just as wife submits to the husband “as unto the Christ” (5:22) and citizens obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) so a child’s obedience is limited to the will of the Lord. Children should not be forced by parents to lie, steal or hurt others or themselves. Many children are being raised by parents who are inconsistent, ungodly and ignorant of the will of God. Jesus Himself knew there would come times in the child/parent relationship when obedience to God would come in conflict with obeying and honoring one’s parents. He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:34-39). Non-Christian parents have often forbade their teenage children from being baptized into Christ or worshiping God. Obedience to parents is not blind obedience. God’s law supersedes parental authority when the parents demand the unscriptural or immoral of their children.

Remember, children are not told to obey parents because it pleases the parent, but because it pleases the Lord. In a parallel command to the saints at Colossae, Paul wrote, “children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20). However, disobedience to parents should be the rare exception.

Next Paul gives the reason for children obeying their parents: “for this is right.” It is part of the law of nature that offspring obey their parents. This is part of societal norms throughout the ages in just about every known civilization. However, it is still God who is the standard of right and wrong. He says obeying parents is the right thing for children to do.

– Daniel R. Vess

500 Family Counselors Say..

According to a study of more than 500 family counselors, the following are top traits of successful families:

• Communicating and listening
• Affirming and supporting family members
• Respecting one another
• Developing a sense of trust
• Sharing time and responsibility
• Knowing right from wrong
• Having rituals and traditions
• Sharing a religious core
• Respecting privacy

– Focus on the Family Bulletin

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