“Children, obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. Honor and esteem your father and your mother. This is the first of the commandments accompanied by the promise that you will prosper and enjoy longevity on earth. And fathers, do not exasperate your children by overcorrection, but nurture them with loving Christian discipline and instruction” (Ephesians 6:1-4, paraphrased)
From the subject of husbands and wives, Paul now makes a direct appeal to those still under parental care. “Children” (tekna) refers to young children and older children as well. Paul expects the entire family to follow the example of Jesus, who willingly submitted to the authority of Joseph and Mary (Lk. 2:51).
To “obey” (hupakouo) conveys the concept of listening attentively and submitting to one in authority. The apostle is addressing Christian children, for the standards he proposes cannot reach their full potential in the lives of unbelievers. In Christian homes there is a spirit of mutual affection, compliance, prayer, helpfulness, and reliance upon God.
Both Testaments strongly disavow parental disobedience (Pv. 30:17 & Rom. 1:30). This was a major social problem in Paul’s day and will become a chief characteristic of the end times (II Tim. 3:2). During the era in which Paul lived, the Roman law of patria potestas was in effect. A Roman father had complete power over his children. He could kill them, abandon them, or sell them as slaves. The apostle’s comments were revolutionary in first century Rome.
It is the duty of a child is to cheerfully obey parental commands. This is vital for several reasons:
~ Children are indebted to parents for conceiving and rearing them.
~ God has implanted love in parental hearts as normative.
~ The welfare of the child depends on submission to constituted authority.
~ Obedience is vital to the proper development of self-control and temperance.
~ Mutual consideration and respect bring order into the home.
~ A godly parent is qualified by experiential knowledge.
~ Obedient children are more likely to become Christians.
~ God states obedience is an aspect of righteousness.
~ Familial discipline is designed to exemplify God’s discipline.
Even the most rudimentary statistics verify most career criminals were not obedient as children. This eventuates in resentment of civil authority. Children are to obey parental instruction “in the Lord.” This is a restrictive clause, for no godly parent would encourage their child to cheat, lie, covet, steal, or act contrary to the laws of God. However, the loyalty of a child is not determined by the character of a parent. Obedience is “right” or “righteous” (dikaios) because God has deemed it is right. Although children in every culture are expected to obey, each strong Christian family is a channel of blessing to the entire world.
The commandment regarding parental respect was literally etched in stone by the finger of God on Mt. Sinai (Deut. 5:22). To honor (timao) is to accurately estimate the value of someone. Timao in this context depicts an attitude of high esteem, gratitude, courtesy, and respect expressed by a child. There are numerous reasons to obey parents:
~ To honor one’s parents honors the Lord.
~ The Word of God presents obedience as an obligation.
~ Scripture states it is beneficial to both parents and children.
~ The history of the human race consistently affirms the benefits.
That God will bless those who love and obey Him is a general blessing attached to the second commandment. However, the fifth commandment has a specific blessing linked to parental obedience (Ex. 20: 5-12). “First” should be interpreted here as “foremost” or “primary.” Thus Paul refers to the fifth commandment as “the first that has a blessing attached.” This is the only commandment of the ten that directly addresses family relations, therefore this annexed promise is of extraordinary importance.
Filial obedience results in the two-fold blessing of longevity and prosperity. This dual promise should motivate children and teens to be loyal to their parents. However, it is not to be supposed that all obedient children will become wealthy and live long, but that reverence for one’s parents puts the child in the best position to receive these benefits. The book of Proverbs affirms that disobedience tends to shorten one’s lifespan (20:20). The prospect of a long and happy life is a blessing because obedient children are saved from sins that shorten life, such as gambling, theft, sexual sins, and drunkenness. Obedient kids enjoy the security of a loving control that allows them to:
~ discover their talents
~ develop good habits
~ be industrious
~ be sober and free from addictions
~ be temperate
~ avoid numerous temptations
The rights of children are a controversial issue in the 21st century, but God is more concerned with right character.
In a functional Christian family, the Lord Jesus Christ is the true head of the home. Because the visible head of the family is the father, Paul turns his attention to dads. An important duty of a father is presented here in both a negative and a positive form. While frustrating a child is forbidden, admonishing them is encouraged. Children learn best by example, by remarks, by attitudes conveyed, and by parental values. Fathers and mothers who neglect prayer, church attendance, and Bible reading actually encourage their children to do the same. If they fail to teach them what is right, others will teach them what is wrong. Throughout the formative, child-rearing years, no one has a greater opportunity to instruct a child than a loving, godly parent. The task of bending a child’s will without breaking it is a delicate one. It is dad’s duty to establish an atmosphere in his home in which obedience is less stressful.
To “provoke” (parorgizete) means “to cause to become disheartened; to irritate.” This suggests a consistent pattern of abusive treatment which grows into deep-seated resentment in the heart of a child. Exasperated fathers produce embittered sons and daughters. Tyrannical parents breed tyrannical children. For example, a father who swears and spanks his child for swearing does more harm than good. Rules and regulations in a Christian home are to be set forth in such a way that a child will not be discouraged in his/her attempts to obey them.
A child will remember the temperament and fairness of the parent who inflicts punishment long after the incident. Kids become frustrated if a parent uses the giving or withholding of love as a manipulative tool. A child’s spirit can be broken by physical and verbal abuse, such as severe punishment or constant criticism. Outbursts of parental anger can cause a child to feel helpless to meet expectations. On the other hand, the parent who is overly-protective, shows favoritism, or fails to punish when necessary weakens and undermines the strength of the family. God has established a familial order which is not a contest of wills, but by which a child lovingly counseled can understand and repent of sinful actions. Instead of aggravating them, Paul recommends encouraging children to mature in Christ.
They are to be reared in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” for the foundational purpose for bearing and raising children is to prepare them for heaven. “Nurture” (paideia) is a term from which the word “pedagogy” is derived and refers to training through education and instruction. “Admonition” (nouthesia) conveys the more specific concept of appealing to reason, warning, reproving, and punishing when necessary. This is made easier when children are aware of the Lord’s claim upon their lives. Parental instruction in every area of life is necessary, but teaching them what pleases the Lord is essential. In the end, every parent is accountable to God for the way they minister to their children.
Points to Ponder:
1. Paraphrase what Paul states in Colossians 3:20-21 regarding children.
2. Which couple showed favoritism in Genesis 25:28?
3. What is written regarding disobedient children in Exodus 21:15-17 & Lev. 20:9? What punishment was mandated for a child who verbally or physically abused one of his parents?
4. What does Solomon write concerning parental instruction (Prov. 1:8-9)?
5. What does Paul say regarding his own childhood and maturity (I Cor. 13:11)?
6. What is the expected end result of chastening (Heb. 12:11)?
7. What is said regarding a parent who seldom disciplines his child (Pv. 13:24)?
8. Why is discipline and spanking sometimes necessary (Pv. 22:15)?
9. Paraphrase Solomon’s advice regarding one’s parents (Pv. 23:22).
10. What is a characteristic of a wise son (Pv. 13:1)?
11. What does Deuteronomy 6:4-7 tell us regarding parental instruction?
12. What did Eve view as a blessing in Genesis 4:1?
13. What is said regarding Jesus’ attitude toward Joseph and Mary (Lk. 2:51)?
14. Throughout His ministry, what was the consistent attitude of Jesus concerning children (Mk. 10:13-16)?
15. Paraphrase Exodus 20:12.
16. Why is godly child-rearing of such great importance (Pv. 22:6)?
17. List four specific ways in which Christianity elevates and sanctifies family life.