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)
We are currently studying a passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he is discussing mutual submission in various relationships. This mutual submission is one of the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18] and is something we do out of reverence for Christ [Ephesians 5:21]. After spending quite a few verses discussing how husbands and wives should serve each other, Paul now moves on to discuss mutual submission between children and parents.
Simply put, children should obey their parents. This is the right thing for them to do. To further his point, Paul quotes from the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and mother”, which is command number five.
Notice the phrase in the Lord. Children should obey their parents because obeying their parents means obeying God. God has established all authorities on earth. And while we may not always understand or agree with their decisions, when we practice obedience we are honoring God. But just like we learned with husbands and wives, we are under no obligation to obey authorities (including parents) who ask us to do something that goes against God’s will. This would include something that is illegal or violates one of God’s commands in the Bible.
When we consider that in their early years children are too young to read and understand this verse we see that parents have an obligation to teach their children the importance of obedience. If parents wait until their children are old enough to understand it will be too late. Obedience, and the value of obedience, need to be taught at an early age as we are all predisposed to rebel from the time we are very young.
The Greek word for “children” in this verse is τέκνον (pronounced: tek’-non) which means “offspring”. Notice that it doesn’t necessarily mean “young child”. No matter how old we are, we are all someone’s offspring as long as one of our parents is alive. Certainly as we get older we don’t have to “obey” our parents in the sense that they make our decisions for us. But we should always honor them. This would include the way we interact with them throughout our adult life regardless of how they treated us as children [Proverbs 20:20, 23:22] as well as how we live our lives once we are on our own [Proverbs 10:1, 17:25]. Adult children who lead troublesome lives dishonor their parents.
Sacrificial living in relationships – the context of these verses – is always better than living for self. God promises that one who honors her parents will experience quality of life (it may go well with you) and quantity of life (you may live long in the land). When a child submits himself to his parents he brings honor to them and benefit to himself.
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