Parents, Obey Your Father

By Jason Jackson

Children are the most vulnerable creatures on earth. In the Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, the following astute observation is found:

“The human infant is by far the most helpless of all young mammalian life and consequently requires an inordinate amount of care if it is to be nurtured successfully” (R.K. Harrison, ed. Revised Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992. p. 302).

Sadly, many are not nurtured successfully. Some are the consequence of procreative irresponsibility, and many more are left to rear themselves. They are plugged into the social engineering of a godless pop culture where adolescent sex symbols are encouraged and the popular TV sitcoms represent a lifestyle of self-indulgence — an “ideal” bed-swapping environment in which the motto is, “Oh my God, let’s have a baby.”

When Paul addressed a “Greco-Roman” culture in which child-rearing left much to be desired, he revealed that which transcends time and is divine truth. God’s plan for parents will always meet the needs of children — in any age and culture.

Human wisdom does find, however, its way into the hearts of even Christian parents. Let us evaluate our thinking in light of God’s Word.

The apostle wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). In this clear statement, Paul conveys the divine will that there is a specific relationship between children and parents. Children are to obey their parents, because God has designed the home with this order. “Children” are those who need nurturing, for they are developing; they require instruction and correction (Eph. 6:4). They are not peers at this stage. There is an authority—subjection relationship in God’s family plan.

This authority is delegated by God, and a parent must exercise that authority with respect to God who gives it. No parent can demand, with intrinsic authority, this or that of a child. Too many parents act as if they are “the Creator” and the child is “the creature.” Parenthood is a gift from God (Ps. 127:3); faithful parents exercise limited, God-given authority for a God-given purpose.

Paul also taught that God’s domestic arrangement involves a special role for parents — authority in action. This is the communication of instructions and the application of correction; children are to listen and obey. Parents must assume the role decreed by God. They must provide instruction and correction, training their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; cf. Matt. 15:19). When parents are not parents, children still grow up, but their spiritual development is compromised.

Paul reminds us that the Christian family includes spiritual responsibilities. The parent-child relationship, and the exercise of the parental role, are designed by God to mature a person who is sensitive to spiritual realities — a person who accepts his own spiritual responsibilities. Children need to learn “what is right” (Eph. 6:1). They must learn that obedience to the Lord is the ultimate motivation for all behavior (Eph. 6:1). This is accomplished by parents who regularly teach their children to obey out of a sense of duty to the Lord.

Obedience is not mere compliance. Obedience means listening and doing what is required for the right reasons. According to the Lord, this is best taught early. Wouldn’t you agree?

So that we may help our children learn to obey the Lord from the heart — the seat of behavior — we must teach them obedience from the earliest of years.

This spiritual quality is taught by the parents who:

  1. Give clear expectations, some of which are morally inflexible.
  2. Provide consequences to disobedience that are fair and clear.
  3. Show consistent follow-through with rewards and punishment.
  4. Demonstrate a concrete example in that parents themselves are obedient to the Lord.

Parental responsibility means helping your kids go to heaven. It takes time, attention, and divine insight. Be there for your children — be a Christian parent.