Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV
In Ephesians 5, we read of instructions for Christian households. Chapter 6 continues these instructions. I especially like to think that it is not just a coincidence that the first verse in a chapter that ends by speaking about spiritual warfare is this one which is about obedience and honour [for parents] mainly because I think we all need to be more conscious of how much disobedience compromises us [Joshua 5:6 NIV; Daniel 9:10-11 NIV]—after all, the sin that brought separation between man and God in the Garden was largely the sin of disobedience [Genesis 3].
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
To whom is this instruction addressed? CHILDREN.
I’ve often caught myself thinking that I’m more in a position to tell others [usually younger than I] what this verse says than actually heeding this as an instruction from God.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘child’ as a son or daughter of any age. In this sense, this instruction is to all of us. But also, if we consider ourselves members of God’s family and all other people of faith as members as well, then we ought to consider that we have parents just about everywhere.
We live in a time where so many struggle very very much with accepting authority but the instruction is clear: obey your parents in the Lord.
We can think of “obey your parents in the Lord” in two senses.
1. Where the prepositional phrase “in the Lord” qualifies the verb ‘obey‘.
In this sense, the instruction is to “obey…in the LORD” so that their instructions should be heeded within the boundaries of what pleases the LORD. Like the disciples said in Acts, we ought to obey God rather than men [Acts 5:29 NIV].
2. Where the prepositional phrase “in the Lord” qualifies the noun phrase ‘parents in the Lord’.
In this sense, the instruction is to obey all who qualify as “parents in the Lord”, in which case, the instruction stretches beyond one’s biological parents to all who qualify as able to nurture you in some way on your journey of faith. Hebrews 13:17 AMP encourages us to:
Obey your [spiritual] leaders and submit to them [recognizing their authority over you], for they are keeping watch over your souls and continually guarding your spiritual welfare as those who will give an account [of their stewardship of you]. Let them do this with joy and not with grief and groans, for this would be of no benefit to you.
Who then are “your parents”?
Your actual parents, pastors, teachers, any authority figures that we recognize as instituted by God.
Also, if you fall in any of these categories, you owe it to the people God has blessed you to lead to make sure that whatever you are asking of them aligns with God’s Word because you don’t want them to be in that very uncomfortable position of disobeying you because what you want them to do doesn’t honour God.
And whichever sense you apply, the call is to obey because of God.
Also, we obey because it is RIGHT!
Whoever is [spiritually] wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is [spiritually] discerning and understanding, let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble and fall in them.
Hosea 14:9 AMP
“Honour your father and mother”
What does it mean to honour someone?
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘honour’ as regard with great respect.
The instruction here is to regard our parents with great respect…
> Give due regard to them as people with authority.
In my experience, this gets a little more difficult to do the older you get. You begin to see that your parents and older folks are fallible, you realize that you disagree with them on a number of things and you begin to see flaws in some of their arguments. Maybe it’s because of the generational gap or the change in times or because you see things very differently than they do or because you believe you’re better educated than they are. Regardless of these, the instruction to honour them is clear.
We would expect to be respected regardless of how old our children get to be. If anything, I think that growing up and recognizing these ‘flaws’ in our parents should make us more understanding as we realize that we just might have to deal with similar feelings from our own children some time in the future.
The power [our parents and other authority figures have] is manifested in the things they say and in the fact that those things have weight and can come to pass. We know the “accuser of the brethren” works daily [Rev. 12:10 NIV — “the accuser of our brethren who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down”]—trying to get especially negative things said concerning you to come to pass.
Do your best not to give your parents and those in authority over you cause to speak negatively about you. Remember the Bible calls the earth beneath and the sky above us WITNESSES [Deut. 30:19 NIV]. Even stones can be witnesses. [Joshua 24:27 NIV]
Do not empower the accuser by your own actions or words.
Don’t justify rudeness or cheekiness; they are not the same as eloquence or assertiveness or self-expression.
Another way we can honour our parents is to behave in the way they expect…
Another definition of honour in the dictionary is: fulfil (an obligation) or keep (an agreement). This is in the sense of honouring a pledge/promise. This means that you do what you said you would. So to honour someone is to do what they expect you to do even in their absence.
So for people in school, a way to honour your parents or whoever pays your fees is to make good use of their investment and do your best to present them with results they can look at and praise God for!
Honouring our parents therefore, is knowing and doing what you know you ought to do!
Why is it so hard to honour our parents?
There is a saying: familiarity breeds contempt. I think, sadly, it applies in our relationship with our parents, we are so close to them we become very conscious of their faults and lose sight of all the amazing things they do and how amazing they have been and are to us. Some of us are even shocked/surprised when people express to us how great they think our parents are.
This makes me wonder… shouldn’t familiarity breed awe instead? Seeing such sacrifice… such dedication to our well-being… such consideration for our shortcomings… etc… Isn’t it sad that many of us [will] only understand everything our parents did when we’re also doing it and not being appreciated for it?
—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
- It is REWARDING to obey and honour your parents.
What are the rewards??
● It will go well with you…
● You will enjoy long life…
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty.
Numbers 5:5-6 NIV
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
Genesis 39:9 NIV
Let’s take a few points for prayer:
- Let’s thank God for the gift of parents—even for those who have lost one or both biological parents, thank God that He gave them to you [for however long you had] them and thank Him for the gift of people who have been blessings to you like your parents might have been.
- Thank God for your spiritual leaders.
- Pray for grace to make them delight in being to you what God has appointed them to be. [Hebrews 13:17 NIV]
- Ask God to forgive us where we have expressed ourselves in disrespectful ways and justified our words/actions as self-expression or assertiveness.
- Ask for mercy for anything we have done so that:
i. it may not go well with us…
ii. we forfeit this promise of long life…
- For those of us who are parents or authority figures, some of us are guilty of giving the accuser something to hold against the children God has blessed us with.
- Let’s repent of things said in anger; ask God to forgive us and wipe those negative things we’ve said in anger by the blood of Jesus.
- Call back any of those negative proclamations that we remember; ask that God would strike them all from the record.
- Pray the blessing of God over your children; speak positive words over them.
- Cover them by the blood of Jesus.
- We have a witness in the blood of Jesus according to Hebrews 12:24 NIV.
- Pray for grace that from now on, we will not speak the opposite of what our witness is saying!
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, [you have come] to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV
Today is Mother’s Day; give your mother(s) the gift of obedience and honour!