As we continue our look at the Bible’s book of Ephesians, it’s time to check out another important element of family relationships. Our next topic is one that should be particularly interesting to youth because it involves the relationship that exists between parents and children…
“Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God’s Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
Even though we’ve talked about this subject before, it’s always good to revisit this topic and review what the Scriptures have to say about this important issue. Now for some people, a phrase like “Children, obey your parents “ may conjure up the image of someone who is responsible to robotically follow every parental command that they receive. However, a close look at the original language used for the word “obey” there indicates that this word involves a responsibility to pay attention to someone in authority and to act on what that authority says.*
So this Scripture doesn’t say that you should become some sort of pre-programmed teenage android that unthinkingly follows instructions. However, it does say that you have a responsibility to listen carefully to your parents, do what they ask you to do and not “tune them out” when they speak to you.
Although God doesn’t have to tell us why He has given us these instructions, He has generously chosen to do so in the part that comes next: “…this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you.” Remember that God has personally given parents this authority and they must answer to Him for the way that they have used it. This tremendous responsibility may help to explain why parents are sometimes more strict with their children than their children feel they should be.
You see, something that a youth may see as an unnecessary restriction on their freedom may be viewed by a parent as part of their God-given responsibility to protect their children and help them become everything that God wants them to be.
Now if “Children, obey your parents “ sounds like a command that’s impossible to follow, you should know that Jesus also had to follow this very same rule when He was a youth too. Here’s the account right from the Book…
“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. And when Jesus was twelve years old, they all went there as usual for the celebration. After Passover his parents left, but they did not know that Jesus had stayed on in the city. They thought he was traveling with some other people, and they went a whole day before they started looking for him.
When they could not find him with their relatives and friends, they went back to Jerusalem and started looking for him there. Three days later they found Jesus sitting in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was surprised at how much he knew and at the answers he gave.
When his parents found him, they were amazed. His mother said, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!” Jesus answered, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he meant.
Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and obeyed them. His mother kept on thinking about all that had happened. Jesus became wise, and he grew strong. God was pleased with him and so were the people” (Luke 2:41-52 CEV).
So listening to your parents and doing what they tell you is the right thing to do in God’s sight. Jesus did it when He was a youth and in doing so, He provided everyone with the right example to follow too.
You should also notice that the word “honor” is used in connection with parental relationships as well. This word “honor” carries the idea of a relationship that’s centered on things like value, dignity, and respect towards your parents. Now the way that you honor your parents may change as you grow older but the principle remains the same.
For example, a younger teen can honor his or her parents by doing things like following the rules, being respectful and taking care of the responsibilities that they are given. For an older youth who isn’t subject to the same rules and regulations as a younger teen, it can mean showing parental respect by giving strong consideration to their advice or by helping to take care of their needs.
Now it’s easy to say that the Bible teaches that children must obey their parents and leave it at that. But what happens in a situation where one or both parents haven’t been very good role models? How can we apply this Biblical teaching in a circumstance where one or both parents haven’t acted in a way that honors God?
Unfortunately, it’s true that some parents have not behaved very responsibly and this can often result in feelings that make it difficult for their children to honor them. However, it’s possible to show respect for a parent even when you can’t approve of the choices that they’ve made. You can still honor your father and mother even when they are not acting honorably by asking God to help you speak to them courteously, show them good manners, and treat them politely. You can also show respect for a parent who is making ungodly choices by praying for them and asking God to help them be what they should be in every area of life.
As with any relationship, they may be times when your parents will disagree with the choices you make as you seek to follow God’s direction in your life. Nevertheless, you can still honor your father and mother even when they disagree with you- it’s the right thing to do. And don’t forget that God’s commandment to honor your parents also carries His promise to bless you if you do it.