Honor Your Father and Mother
“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). In my teaching I have probably emphasized Ephesians 6:4 and the responsibilities of parents more than I have those of children, but in this article I want to consider four things children owe their parents.
The first responsibility a child has is to render respectful obedience (Ephesians 6:1, 2). In both Romans 1:29-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-4 disobedience to parents is lumped with some of the most notorious of sins, including envy, violence, and even murder. Under the Law of Moses one who cursed or struck his parents was to be put to death (Exodus 21:15, 17), and in the New Testament Paul described disobedience to parents as a sin worthy of death (Romans 1:30, 32). As a child growing up under your parents’ care and authority you must realize that you are not on an equal footing with them when it comes to establishing rules and making decisions; instead, you are required by God to submit to their authority unless it clashes with the teaching of Scripture.
While no one likes the idea of having to do what someone else teaches, this is referred to as the commandment with promise. No, God does not promise that no obedient child will ever have his life cut short, but obedience can be a lifesaver. At a very young age the obedient child is less likely to be injured than the child who refuses to listen, but even greater is the application to the obedient teen. Though the best of children may suffer fatal illnesses and be the innocent victims of another’s wrongdoing, think about some of the leading causes of teen deaths in this county. Drunk driving, drugs, speeding, and gang violence are four of the leading causes of premature death among teens and the obedient child is far more likely to live long on this earth because, at his parents’ instructions, he will refuse to be involved in these dangerous, illegal activities.
As children age they realize their parents cannot watch them as closely as they once did, but children should always and in every circumstance take their parents’ teaching with them. “My son, keep your father’s command,and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck”(Proverbs 6:20, 21). When your parents talk about places and people you should avoid, things you should and shouldn’t do; when they give advice on work and marriage; when they give parental counsel, take it with you wherever you go, even when you are no longer living under their roof and direct control. When their counsel does not involve right and wrong you have the right to choose a different option, but even when sin and righteousness are not involved it pays to weigh their counsel carefully.
“A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent”(Proverbs 15:5). If obedience is not always easy, how much more difficult is it to receive correction? When your parents rebuke and chasten remember that though it is unpleasant, they are seeking to produce in you the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:5-11). Do not ever make the mistake of thinking their punishment means they don’t love you, for the exact opposite is true. If your parents will not restrain and correct you, it is proof they do not have a love for you that is genuine. “He who spares his rod hates his son,but he who loves him disciplines him promptly”(Proverbs 13:24).
Care for Them as They Age
“Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). In a society still searching for the Fountain of Youth aged parents are often neglected, and not infrequently resented for the attention they demand. The obligation to honor father and mother does not end simply because we are no longer under their roof, and perhaps even have children of our own. Though it is right to leave father and mother so that we might form our own family unit, we are still obligated to honor and provide for our parents if such becomes necessary. When Paul wrote that failing to provide for one’s own made him worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8), the subject under discussion was not one’s children but the care of widows. As children we must realize that while Social Security and Medicare may help, it is not the United States government (or the church) that is charged by God with the care of our aged parents—that is our obligation!
Render obedience; accept correction; provide for their physical needs when and if it becomes necessary; and then don’t forget their emotional needs. Of the virtuous wife it was said, “He children rise up and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28). Most parents gladly make sacrifices for their children and hope that their financial planning is sufficient to prevent them from ever being a burden on their children, but all parents do want the repayment of being appreciated. Whether living at home or many miles away, make certain your parents know you appreciate them for all they have done and still are doing for you.
“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice.”
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Nelson Publishing Co.