Children, 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.”
Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV
Today was definitely one of those days. One child started whining seconds after waking up this morning, two others have been fighting and picking on each other nonstop, someone reached a new high on the selfishness scale, two didn’t want to eat lunch, my youngest got disciplined a number of times for playing in the potty water … the list could go on. Needless to say, I am tired. Today I miss those days before we had children, when I actually had time to brush all of my hair, when I didn’t have to take a shower hoping all of my children would still be alive when I got out, and when I had time to actually do something besides cleaning and disciplining. Being a mom is HARD.
A while back I was struck by Romans 12:1 which says “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It is fairly simple to open your home up for an evening and have people over, or to spend an hour a week helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We should do all of those things but if you want to truly be a living sacrifice have a baby. As a parent you are not simply giving up an hour or two a week for someone else. You are giving up your life for another, taking care of them: training, teaching, admonishing, encouraging, and hopefully always shepherding them towards Jesus. This is part of your spiritual service of worship.
What better picture is there of a living sacrifice? We are often discouraged and obsessed about the physical marks pregnancy leaves on us. Don’t be. Christ carries his scars joyfully because they are the marks of redemption ( Luke 24). They are a sign of his excessive love for another, for us.
And don’t get discouraged when you think of the long list of things you feel you still need to teach or correct in your children. In Ephesians 6:1-3 Paul tells us what we should focus on. Paul is speaking directly to children in these verses which means as parents we really need to pay attention here and teach them to our kids, maybe even help them to memorize them.
So, what are children to do?
1. They are to Obey
Some would say that obedience is to do as you are told, right away, all the way and with a happy heart. But it is equally important for a child to learn that this is what God has called them to do at this stage in their lives. It is their mission, to glorify God in their obedience to you. If we command obedience without connecting it to the glory of God the consequence is, at best, empty moralism that cannot last, or worse, a budding legalism.
2. They are to Honor
Honoring parents means that a child respects them because of their position and authority. It is often most clearly seen in the way a child speaks to his mom or dad. When a child yells at her parents, tells them what to do, or says “no” when asked to do something, she is being disrespectful, dismissing the authority placed over her by the Lord. Make no mistake, a child’s dismissal of a parent’s authority translates to a dismissal of God’s authority.
Why focus on these two?
What I love about these verses is that Paul also tell children why they are to behave in this manner.
1. Because it is right
Obedience to and honoring parents is right because it is God’s way. And doing what is right leads to peace. Not doing what is right leads to dissatisfaction in life and ultimately destruction (Gen. 4:6, 7).
2. So that it will go well with them
There are a number of ways in which this is true. When children obey things go well with them by not having to experience discipline and by being able to receive special privileges. Obedience and respect certainly make family outings much more enjoyable. No one wants to go to the zoo with a child who is constantly running away and who argues with you every time he doesn’t get his way. Ultimately, the character quality of honoring their parents builds for them a solid reputation.
3. That they will live a long life
Paul’s point here is that children who walk in righteousness, who obey the wisdom of their parents and follow God’s direction for them generally live a life of peace and it keeps them out of trouble. For example children who stay away from drugs because they trust and respect their parents do not have to worry about the misery that comes from drug addiction or premature death. This means, as parents, we have to be make sure we are worthy of respect, that we draw our wisdom from the word of God, that we rely on God through prayer and that we are truthful towards our children.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” Proverbs 3:1-2
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” 1 Peter 3:13
Don’t get overwhelmed with all the things you feel you need to teach your kids before they leave home. Focus on teaching obedience and respect to your children so that it will go well with them and with the children they may someday be blessed with as well.
The topic of parenting is huge. Below I have listed some of my favorite parenting books that contain a lot of practical advice.
Looking to Jesus,
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
Instructing a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
Don’t Make Me Count To Three by Ginger Plowman
Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Everyday Talk by John Younts
Teach Them Diligently by Louis Priolo
A Mother’s Heart by Jean Fleming
Get Out Of My Face by Rick Horne (for those who have teens)
Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp (for parenting teens)
The Godly Family (A collection of essays from 17th and 18th century pastors on the duties of parents and children)