We live in a cultural context where children are increasingly being allowed not to honour and obey their parents (or anyone else for that matter). For instance, I know of only one or two secondary schools where good behaviour is to be expected and not rewarded. In the majority of secondary schools nowadays it is the opposite. Good behaviour is not expected and so it is rewarded. The distinction is subtle yet has massive implications.
In the fifth week of our sermon series on Faith and Family, we looked at the role of children in our families and saw that Children are to live in the image of Jesus, who loves and obeys his heavenly father (and showed this by loving and obeying his earthly mum and adopted dad). Ephesians 6:1-3 is a key text in setting out the expectation to honour and obey parents, and it gives us three reasons to do this…
#1 God says so, so it must be a good for us
It would be valid to leave the first and primary reason for living out Ephesians 6:1 at simply ‘God says so’. God is God, we are not. God is boss, not us. Our children do not honour and obey us because we say so, they honour and obey us because God says so. We have a simple set of questions that we ask our children every time they are testing the boundaries of obedience. They go something like this: Who’s the boss? (Jesus) And who has Jesus put in charge? (mummy and daddy) For there we go on to say that they should do as we say because it is good to do what Jesus says because he loves us and we love him.
But there is more. Ephesians 6:1 is a quote from Deuteronomy 5:16, where Moses reiterates God’s good commandments to his people after a 40 years spell on the naughty spot for completely disobeying and disregarding them the first time round. Moses essential says, ‘disobeying God’s good commands didn’t quite work out so will, did it? Let’s remember who God is, what he is like, and let’s try again’. Throughout the Bible, God’s commands are always described as good (just immerse yourself in Psalm 119 if you’re not sure!). This makes sense, because if God is thoroughly good then his commands will be thoroughly good, too. If God tells us to do something, then he tells us for our good and his glory.
#2 Life is better when children honour and obey parents
The quote from Deuteronomy 5:16 in Ephesians 6:2-3 finishes with 2 little phrases that are easily overlooked yet massively significant. The first little phrase is ‘that it may go well with you’.
If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Listening to parents and trusting that a) they know more than us and b) they want what is best for us means that lessons get learnt the easy way and not the hard way.
Besides, people who know how to honour and obey those in authority over them are valued and, well, to be honest they’re people that you want to be around. Consequently, life is better and more enjoyable for children when they are respectful and do as they are told instead of being rampant raging brats who are ‘full of beans’ (‘beans’ often being synonymous for ‘unchecked sin’ in most cases…) simply because people like them more.
Children who are actively taught to honour and obey parents will naturally honour and obey other authority figures such as teachers, employers, and other adults generally. This in turn means that they are more likely to have an enjoyable time at school, better career prospects and a deeper sense of appreciation by other people.
#3 Life is longer children honour and obey parents
The second phrase in Ephesians 6:2-3 is ‘that you may enjoy long life on the earth’.
Again, this makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? We have already said that parents a) know more than us and b) want what is best for us. Therefore, honouring and obeying our parents means that we are more likely to avoid danger, difficulty and, well, death.
Picture a child crossing the road with a parent. The parent can see a car coming, the child only has eyes for the sweet shop across the road. The parent tells the child to wait. If the child honours and obeys their parent, then their life will be significantly longer than the child who does not.
Don’t confuse our motivation with the outcome
Dads and mums (and adults more generally) should teach children to honour and obey their parents. But it is essential that we do not swap motivations for outcomes. Ephesians 6:2-3 gives us outcomes – what will happen if we live out what is being said in Ephesians 6:1. But Ephesians 6:1-3, just like Deuteronomy 5:16, comes after a description of what God has done for us – our motivation for obeying. God has chosen us and has brought us into his eternal Kingdom in Christ Ephesians 1:3-14, and so adults teach and children seek to honour and obey parents because he has loved us not so that he might love us.