The apostle Paul is teaching about how we are to walk worthy of our calling with the new identity we have been given in Christ. Paul is showing us that God cares about what happens in our lives, even behind closed doors. Paul has addressed in chapter 5 what submission to Christ and to one another looks like as husbands and wives. Paul continues to give the directions for godly relationships in the family by turning his attention to submission for children and parents. Christ sets before our eyes the beauty of submission. We see in Jesus the spectacular glory of self-sacrifice in John 12:12-26. Paul is going to help us today to understand how we can be pleasing to God as children and as parents.
Children, Obey Your Parents (6:1)
Children are to listen and obey their parents. Walking worthy of our calling means that children will do what they are told to do by their parents. As children, particularly teenage children, we usually do not like what our parents tell us to do. We do not want to obey them. We want to be independent and go our own way. But Paul does not say that you do what your parents say only when you like what they tell you to do. Children are to obey their parents because “this is right.” This is the way God created the relationship. This is the way God wants it to be. Obedience to our parents is our service, submission, and worship to Christ. You do not obey your parents simply because they are bigger than you and have authority over you. You obey your parents “in the Lord.” You are serving the Lord through your obedience. The HCSB reads, “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord.” Being pleasing to the Lord is obeying your curfew. Being pleasing to the Lord is cleaning your room and doing your homework and all the other chores that are assigned to you. Children, you must recognize that you are not merely rebelling against your parents. You are rebelling against God.
Honor Your Father and Mother (6:2-3)
Paul continues that obedience to our parents reflects our relationship with God. Children are to honor their father and their mother. What is the main way that children honor their parents? Your honor is through your obedience. You show honor when you listen to them, do not argue with them, and do as they instruct you. Paul gives a very practical reason why you need to honor your parents. Like it or not, your parents have wisdom for life. Your life will go better when you listen to the their counsel and obey their instructions. Christian parents have the best interests of their children in mind and heart. Many times children do not believe this or recognize this. But this is true. Parents would give their lives for their children and do not want them to suffer great harm in life. The rules and instructions that are given are for your good. Your parents are trying to keep you from having lots of heartache. They were young at one time too and do understand many of the things you are going through in life. They have wisdom and life experience that can be very valuable for you to listen to and their instructions are from that experience.
But I want to focus on honor our parents as something greater than simply obedience. Honor carries with it the notion of respect. Showing our parents respect, honoring them for who they are in our lives and because “this is right.” Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3-6 (who are adults) for breaking this commandment when they failed to financially care for their parents, saying that all their money had been given to God instead. This example of what not to do teaches us that honor our parents does not have an age requirement. Our respect and care for them does not end. I believe this is what we are to examine when appointing elders and deacons in a local church. Do the children honor and respect the father such that the child is not accused of unruly behavior?
As children I think we can see how this is submissive for the children because parents do not always act in ways that are deserving of honor. Sometimes parents act very dishonorably. We can show a level of respect and care because these are our parents. We can be respectful with people that we do not agree with and people that have hurt us. I believe God is telling us that this is true with our parents also. We do not have an excuse to act sinfully toward them.
Fathers, Do Not Provoke Your Children To Anger (6:4)
Since children are to obey in everything, fathers must not provoke the children to anger. It is important to notice that fathers are directed in this command. Paul knows how to say parents because he did so in verse 1. I do not believe that Paul is saying that mothers are allowed to provoke their children to anger but fathers are not. That is not the point. But we must consider why fathers are singled out at this point. I believe there are at least two reasons. First, we noticed that husbands are declared by God to be the head of the family (Ephesians 5:23) and are therefore responsible and accountable for what happens in the family. Fathers have the ultimate accountability concerning the children. Fathers are not to be pushed to the sidelines. Fathers are to have an active role in the family, particularly in raising the children. Second, fathers are going to be challenged to not act in anger toward the children. There is a reason God says this to the men. The intention seems clear that this is an issue that we must be aware of. Fathers are going to have the temptation to provoke the children to anger.
Children test our patience and test our will. I sometimes liken children to the velociraptors in the movie Jurassic Park who are always testing the fence to find the weakness. Children test your authority, fathers. But the answer to this is not to provoke children to anger. This command rules out excessively severe discipline and consequences, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, being unfair, nagging, being humiliating, and being insensitive. Children are persons in their own right and are not be manipulated, exploited, or crushed. Unfortunately, too often the pendulum is swung the other way where children run the household. The children control the family. What the child wants is what the family does. Children are not the head of the family. The children are not in charge. The answer to the challenge of parenting is not to let the children do what they want. Verse 4 tells the fathers that they are to raise these children. To help preventing provoking our children to anger, let us say, “no” with a reason. Perhaps the most aggravating thing was to be told “no” without a good reason why. Obviously I am talking about an age for children when they can be reasoned with. When they are two years old and younger, there is not any reasoning you can do. Your word must simply be enforced. But that must change with their growth. Explain our thinking for our teachings. Explain our purpose for our rules and instructions to our children. The reason you cannot stay out past midnight is because nothing good happens after midnight. It is dangerous. Sin abounds. The reason you have chores is so that you will learn responsibility and not grow up to be lazy and useless. I want you to have skills for life and not be incompetent. Parents, we have a job to raise our children so that when they turn 18 they can live life and not be dependent on us. Teach them how to live life and to function in this world. Do not shelter them from the things they must learn because they are going to be adults. They need life skills.
Fathers, Bring Up Children In The Discipline and Instruction of the Lord (6:4)
This is where Paul goes with these instructions. Do not provoke them to anger but raise up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The word “discipline” speaks to the activity of the education. Some translations rightly read, “training.” The “instruction” is the verbal aspect of the education. Therefore, fathers must verbally train and instruct children and get up off the couch and train and instruct by our actions. Words and actions. Not just words and not just actions. Both are necessary. How are fathers to raise the children?
The children are to be brought up in the training and instructions of the Lord. What is the most important thing that you can teach your children? The most important thing to teach in words and actions is to love the Lord. Teach them in the ways of the Lord. Our teachings to them must be based on the Lord’s instructions. Teach them to love God. My purpose is to not teach my children to be good students, be good artists, be good athletes, or any other physical design. My purpose given to me by God is to train my children and instruct my children to love Jesus. Teach them what God says. Teach them to obey God. Teach them that God is everything and God is the only thing that matters in life. Words and actions are required to do this. We must teach our children God’s word. We must teach our children by our actions that God is all that matters. Our attendance to Bible studies and worship shows this the most clearly. We tell the children that this is important and we show that them this is important. Can I suggest the critical things we must show our children? We must show them that we desire God and find our joy in God. What we are doing is not an activity as if God is something to do. We desire these things because this is the whole life and joy.
Walking worthy of the calling means honoring our parents and teaching our children in the Lord. God cares about life in the home. God cares about how we handle ourselves as children. As children we serve Christ when we obey our parents and honor them. God cares about how we handle ourselves as parents. We serve Christ when we raise our children, not the way in which we think is best, but the way God says is best. Train them in the most important education: the education of God.