4 Reasons for Kids to Obey Their Parents (not that they’ll listen)

In a previous post I looked at the unmistakable, non-negotiable biblical command for kids to obey their parents.

Of course, as we all know, it’s one thing to know what to do. But usually knowing what to do provides little help in motivating us to actually doing it. If merely knowing what I’m meant to do was enough reason to motivate me then I’d have stopped eating quite so many Mr Kipling Almond Slices a long time ago. Biblical obedience is about doing the right thing for the right reasons. And God motivates us to obedience with reasons. And so Paul provides four of them for kids. Look at Ephesians 6:1&2 again,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

So here are the four reasons;

1. Kids are meant to obey their parents ‘in the Lord’ because it’s part and parcel of being a Christian. It’s what discipleship as a kid looks like – you obey your parents. If Jesus means anything to our kids, if they love him and his ways because of what he’s done for them then they can show their loving response in this way. So kids can’t think that their being faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus if they’re not obeying their parents. But if our kids are serious about following the Lord Jesus, as many of them are, then we need to help them understand that this means doing what their parents say.

2. Kids are meant to obey their parents because it’s right. The Bible doesn’t often use this argument. But God is saying it’s self-evidently what kids ought to do. Let’s put it the other way round. If children don’t obey their parents then it’s wrong. It’s just not the way God designed the world to be. And choosing to live counter to the way the world was designed may be courageous. But mainly it’s stupid.

3. Kids are meant to obey their parents because it characterises the godly lifestyle of God’s redeemed people. Honouring your parents is one of the Ten Commandments. God gave these to His redeemed people on Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. Obedience to those commandments was never intended to be the way to get redeemed. It was too late for that. They were already redeemed. It was meant to be a loving response to God’s redemption. It was part of being God’s new holy people. And so if our kids want to respond to God’s redemption in Christ then obeying their parents is one of ten obvious ways that they can do that!

4. Kids are meant to obey their parents because it’s the way to flourish in life. Paul supported his command to children by quoting the fifth commandment from Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16. In the original Old Testament context, obedience to the fifth commandment resulted in material prosperity and long life in the Promised Land. But when Paul applied it to Christians, he generalised it. I take it therefore that it’s a general principle and not a cast iron guarantee. But, all things being equal and generally speaking, children that have been brought up being obedient to their parents, observing the God given authority over them are more likely to live long and prosper. Think about it for a moment,

  • If your pre-school and primary school aged kids are the wild unruly ones, they won’t get invited to parties, they won’t get play dates and so on – it won’t go well for them in their early years.
  • If they’re the ones who don’t do what the teacher says in their primary and secondary school aged years then their experience of the education system will be unpleasant and they won’t learn what they could – it won’t go well for them in their teenage years.

As parents, we’re tempted to do whatever makes for a quiet life. But this is more important than that. Disobedient children tend to become disobedient adolescents and then disobedient adults. If they remain unwilling to submit to any authority that God places over them, it will not go well for them. Or for us! But if we teach them this essential truth in the short run we’re doing them a massive favour in the long run.

I’m aware that I need to give the biblical rationale to my kids much more than I have. They need to understand the reasons for obeying their parents. Usually they just get the second one communicated at an excessive volume! But it’s not motivating them in ways that are healthy, or Christian. I want them to obey us because they’re persuaded by all four of these reasons. And I want their response to our authority to be fuelled by the gospel and their increasing love for Jesus. I’m not saying we’re there yet. But at least I’m clearer on where I’m heading!

10 thoughts on “4 Reasons for Kids to Obey Their Parents (not that they’ll listen)

  1. Tim Howles August 13, 2012 / 11:25 am

    Nice post.
    Can I throw a quick exegetical thought into the pot? (this is only a thought, not to challenge your conclusions).
    The OT context here is as you say Deut 5 (the famous commandment to ‘honour your father and mother’; surely the context for Paul’s comments in Eph 6:1-2).
    In my limited understanding, I believe there’s quite a bit of scholarly evidence now that the original context of that OT commandment was not quite what we have in mind, namely, young children growing up in a modern day nuclear family). In the ANE, the normal unit of habitation was the clan which dwelt together on inherited land and property: thus, what might be in view here is more the relationship of adults with aged parents who still live with them on the compound (as you might find today in sub-saharan Africa, where whole extended families will live together on the same plot, etc, with the younger generation eventually taking over ‘control’ of the property when they hit maturity).
    If this is so, it throws a slightly different light on the reference of ‘children’ and ‘parents’, at least in Deut 5. What’s in view is more what we would think of as the ‘adult’ and ‘grandparent’ relationship. The commandment (according to this interpretation) is more for mum/ dad to ‘honour’ (not treat harshly, not begrudge charity to, not throw out of the house) grandpa/ grandma as the years go on and the youngies come to take main control of the family property. If this interpretation is correct, it might shed an interesting light on other OT verses to do with the parent/ child relationship like Proverbs 19:26, ‘he who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who causes shame and brings reproach’.
    So is the command more to do with honouring elderly parents who are dependent on you, respecting what they’ve given to you over the years, and so on? The application for us then might be less to do with under-10s (how much can we expect at this age anyway?) and more for all of us to respect those who are our dependents in a family and even broader societal context. We’re the ‘children’ in view here, not our ‘children’!!!

    This is probably wrong. And I’m not sure if it has total relevance to the NT context anyway, especially in the light of the idea of ‘training’ in Eph 6:4.

    But just a thought!
    Tim

    • theurbanpastor August 13, 2012 / 12:47 pm

      Hugely helpful Tim, thanks.
      That provides some ballast to the 1 Tim comments about looking after ageing parents.
      Perks

  2. Lauri Moyle August 13, 2012 / 2:12 pm

    I find it helpful to read the passages in each of these section in Eph in relation to the power relations that they are obviously supposed to include (child/parent, slave/master etc). Do you think that it would be helpful to mention the last part of the child/parent section in your thinking here?

  3. Kip' Chelashaw August 13, 2012 / 7:32 pm

    Great article and I like your illustrations in point 4.

    K

  4. Adam Humphries August 18, 2012 / 3:29 am

    Wow, I’ve been working on a sermon on this passage for the last week and I just came across these posts. Some helpful thoughts that will enable me to sharpen my application. Thanks heaps!

    Hi Tim,
    I found exactly the same thing when I studied the OT context of the 5th commandment.
    But what has struck me in studying Ephesians 6:1-4 is that Paul seems to be talking about younger children that are still being brought up by their fathers. Their motivation for obedience is so they can hear the gospel and own it for themselves. Surely this is for younger kids.
    So then when Paul quotes the broader command to honour parents I think he’s applying just a narrow aspect of it to a specific audience.

    What a great passage for us to reflect on and apply in our homes!

    Adam

  5. MichaelA August 29, 2012 / 5:14 am

    Very helpful. Obedience is in many ways just Love in action, same as mutual submission.

    Good luck in the kids ministry – always a challenge!

  6. spykid kyrian March 8, 2014 / 3:59 pm

    I love this topic

  7. imoh edem October 30, 2014 / 12:31 am

    Nice post. Truly obedience to parents is right.

  8. Sampson Barisuka November 11, 2015 / 7:41 pm

    I wish we take this to the teachers and parents to whom these children grow with/under. Good knowledge.

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