Children, Obey Your Parents

Ephesians 6:1-3


Audio Version

Children, this is a sermon especially for you. I hope that you always listen and try to understand what is being done and what is being said in the worship service. If you listen hard enough, you will hear things that are eternal life for you. But today, since Paul is talking directly to you, I will also speak directly to you.

The first thing I want to say here is that even though you might not particularly like what Paul says here, there is something here for you that I think you will like: isn’t it wonderful that Paul is in fact talking directly to you? Did you children know that in Paul’s day, the father had the power to kill his children if they disobeyed him? Children were not usually seen as good things by the world at that time. However, Paul here sees children as a beautiful thing. That’s why we read Psalm 127 at the beginning of this service. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Paul thinks of you as so important to what he’s trying to do, that he feels the need to talk to you directly. You should be amazed at this. Don’t forget that it is not just Paul talking here. It is God Himself, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is talking to you. How special would you feel if the President of the United States came up to you and shook your hand and started talking with you about what you like to do? I would hope that any of us would feel that it was a great privilege. Then what a greater privilege it is that God Himself has chosen to speak with you, and give you the most important thing in your life right now: obey your parents.

Now, you may be thinking right now: Oh, man, that’s the last thing I want to hear right now! The pastor was going good, making me feel great, and then he has to go spoil it by talking about obedience! Maybe some of you have parents who are fond of saying this verse to you all the time. Maybe you are tired of hearing about it. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is what God says to you. Again, if the President of the United States came up to you, and talked with you, and then gave you a command, would you do it? I would hope you would jump to do it. All the more then with the King of the Universe.

All right, then, what exactly does God tell you to do? He gives you two commands, really. The first is to obey. You need to do what your parents tell you to do. It may not be something you feel like doing, such as doing the dishes, or taking out the garbage, or cleaning up your room. But because God is telling you to do this, you should say to yourself, “When my parents tell me to do something, it is really God telling me to do it.” Your parents represent God to you. We all know that our parents are not perfect. Some parents look a lot more like Jesus Christ than some other parents. But as long as your parents are not asking you to sin, then you are required to obey them.

There are some ways of doing things that may seem like obedience, but really are not. For instance, you should not grumble and argue and complain when you are outwardly obeying your parents. I remember that this was a particular temptation to me when I was a child. My mother would tell me to do something, and I would grumble and complain about it. But I had no reason to grumble. I just grumbled because I felt like it. Do all things without grumbling or complaining. That is exactly what Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or arguing.” In other words, our obedience to our parents is a matter of the heart. You cannot just obey your parents on the outside, when the only thing you are thinking about on the inside is how much you hate doing the dishes, or cleaning up your room, or going to bed when you would rather stay up. Obedience means knowing that this is the right thing for you to do. This is what God commands. Rejoice, then, that you have the opportunity to obey your parents, and by so doing, obey God.

Also, you should obey your parents without arguing. Now, this one is especially difficult for teenagers, I think. Teenagers love to argue with their parents. They want to show the world just how dumb their parents are, and how smart they are. Teenagers always have something to prove. Obeying your parents is not popular among today’s teenagers. Oftentimes they are afraid of what their friends might say if they found out that they are doing what their parents told them to do. They are afraid that their friends will call them goody two-shoes. If you are afraid of that, then you need to remember that people will always try to throw mud on people who are trying to do what’s right. That never changes. And you know why they do that? It’s because they don’t like it when someone does what is right when they’re not doing what’s right. It makes them look bad. So cheer up, and don’t be afraid to do what’s right. All throughout history, people have been persecuted for doing what is right. Never let that stop you. God also tells us that if we are persecuted for doing what is right, then we are blessed. Which would you rather have, the blessing of God, or the “blessing” of the world? Obey your parents.

The second command that God gives you is to honor your parents. How do you talk about them when they aren’t there? Do you tell your friends how much you hate your parents, because they restrict you too much, and because they never let you have any fun? Oh no, your parents are terrible because they won’t let you fry your brains on drugs. Your parents are terrible because they won’t let you ruin your life by doing something unimaginably stupid. You may not think that your parents are very smart right now. But the fact is, they know more about the world than you do. You should not trust your own judgment very much right now. You are learning and growing, and hopefully your parents will see that you are learning and growing. Hopefully they will see that and give credit to you for that. But even if they don’t, you shouldn’t assume that your parents have your worst interests at heart. You should assume that they have your best interests at heart.

Honoring one’s parents will look different depending on how old we are, and how old the parents are. When we are children, honoring our parents means that we don’t sass our parents when they tell us to do something. When we are out on our own, honoring our parents means listening respectfully to their advice. When our parents are old, honoring them means taking care of them in any way they need for us to do.

Notice that there is a promise here. The promise is that you will live long. There are several important aspects to this promise. The first is that people who obey their parents generally live longer. The people who are always trying to buck the system never live as long as those who try to live quietly and at peace. Another aspect of this promise however, is the promise of everlasting life. The Scriptures promise that those who obey the law absolutely perfectly will enter into eternal life. But notice that it has to be a perfect obedience, without one single error. Children have you ever disobeyed this commandment? Here’s a hint as to the answer: if you say that you have never disobeyed the commandment, then you are a liar. No one can possibly obey this commandment perfectly. Nor does God sit up there and say, “Well, as long as thy do their best, that will be all right with me.” NO! NO! NO! The standard is perfection. God also does not say, “Well, as long as they have done more honoring than dishonoring, they’ll be okay.” NO! NO! NO! We have to realize that we have not obeyed this commandment. We have sinned. The only way to avoid the punishment of hell for this sin is trust in the only person who has ever obeyed this commandment perfectly: Jesus Christ. He kept this law perfectly. And He is God. And He is man, both at the same time. And He took on Himself the punishment that you deserve. There is salvation for sinners at the feet of the cross. Jesus was the one who obeyed. We were the ones who disobeyed. And yet, Jesus took the penalty for us. Children, imagine for a moment that you broke a window in your parents’ car. You felt really guilty about, because you knew that you were playing with a baseball outside when you should have been inside doing homework. You know that you’re going to get grounded if your parent finds out. Now, your brother knows that you did this. He was not outside playing baseball. He was inside doing his homework. He knows what you did. Now suppose your father comes home, and sees what happened to the window in the car, and asks his children what happened. And before you can say anything, your brother says, “Father, whatever you are planning on doing to my brother for what he did, do it on me instead.” Jesus would not lie and say that He actually did the sin that we had done. No, but He did say that He would take the penalty on Himself for what we did. It is never too early in your life to put your trust in Jesus. You don’t know for sure that you’re even going to be alive tomorrow. Don’t delay. Jesus is the best teacher, the best parent, the best friend, and the best brother that you could possibly have. If you don’t believe in Him as Lord and Savior, do so right now.

Now, we are not saying here that because Jesus took away that penalty of eternal condemnation, that therefore we can do whatever we want. Jesus did take away the penalty for eternal condemnation for all those who will put their trust in Him. However, God does not keep us from experiencing the consequences of our actions here on earth. The command still stands: obey your parents, and honor them. For this is right.

One word must be said to parents here. It is your responsibility here to enforce this command. You are not being good parents if you let your children be disobedient to your commands. We will say much more about this next week, of course. However, a lot of parents think it is a good thing if the children challenge their authority. After all, they need to stretch their wings. We need to let them fly. There is only one possible objection to this kind of thinking: it will result in brats. If you spare the rod; that is, if you do not discipline your children when they do wrong, then you spoil the child. He will be a spoiled, rotten child. Now, of course, we need to make the punishment fit the crime. We don’t want to be too severe, or too lenient. But we need to enforce this commandment. At the same time, we also need to realize that it is not just about outward obedience. Far too many parents are content with an outward obedience. They don’t care if the child is sulking, and only grudgingly doing what they told him to do. Instead, we should care more about what is in the heart of the child than we do about outward obedience, and we should care about that, too. We should constantly be asking the child, “Child, what is in your heart?” Obedience is most truly a matter of the heart.

So, children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor them. Parents, discipline your children, paying special attention to what is in the heart. Amen. 

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