Summary: How are things supposed to work in the family and workplace? Paul tells us.
“How does it work?” When’s the last time you asked that question? You’re going to laugh, but I recently asked that question when someone lent me their cell phone. I wasn’t sure how to turn the phone on, how to place a call or end it. “How does it work?” I had to ask. Pretty pathetic, huh? But I thought it was better to ask than to start pushing random buttons lest I mess something up.
“How does it work?” It’s a question more people should ask about society. How is life in families and life at the workplace supposed to work? But many don’t bother to ask the question and instead push random buttons making a mess out of things. Today, in our continuing study of Ephesians we’ll be given a God’s-eye view of society. We’ll see how life in the family and at the workplace is supposed to work so that we not only honor one another and our God, but so that we also enjoy the blessings that come from living God’s Word.
Paul begins our text with these words: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Before we take a closer look at these verses, let me comment on how Paul simply assumed that children would hear these words which he expected to be read as part of the Ephesian congregation’s worship service. Kids, do you sometimes wonder why you come to church so often? I mean isn’t church really more for adults and since your parents can’t just leave you at home alone they bring you along? No! Church is for everyone—for adults, for children, and even for infants. In fact in the first part of this sermon God will be speaking directly to you children so listen carefully to what he has to say that you may enjoy the blessings that come from hearing and putting into practice his Word.
So back to our text. How is the family supposed to work? Well, we heard last week Paul explain that the husband is to be the servant-leader of the family, and the wife is a servant-helper to the husband (Ephesians 5:21-33). But what role do the children play? Paul says that you children are to obey your parents. Actually, what Paul said was that you are to “bend your ear” to their words. It’s what you do when you can’t quite hear what your friend is saying to you. You get a bit closer and turn your ear to her so that you don’t miss a word.
Is that a posture you regularly adopt with your parents? Do you do everything you can to catch all of their words? That’s often not the case is it? Instead we close our ears to what they tell us because we think they are old fashioned and out of touch. I mean what can you expect from a father, for example, who’s not even sure how to use a cell phone? A father might not know how to use a cell phone, but there’s plenty of other things he does know that his children may not. He knows that being on time for a job interview is important. He knows how life will be simpler if you just memorize your times tables. He knows how crucial it is to save money and not to spend it all on stuff you want right now. Bend your ear to him when he speaks about these things. Because if you do, God says that you will enjoy long life on the earth. That’s not a guarantee that you’ll live to be 80 or 90. It is, however, a general truth that when we listen to our parents we will avoid making a lot of mistakes they may have made and in that way life will be much better for us.
And it’s not just your father that you want to bend your ear to. Paul reminds us that it is God’s will that we honor both our father and mother. So children, don’t take advantage of your mother’s kindness and patience. Listen to her as quickly as you would listen to Dad when he’s in one of those “I mean business” moods.
And speaking of that mood, Paul says this to us fathers. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Although our children are to bend their ear to us, that doesn’t make them our slaves. We are not to make life difficult for them by simply demanding they do what we tell them. That’s especially difficult for children to take if we’re not practicing what we preach. If we tell the kids to help Mom around the house, but then don’t model a servant-like attitude towards our spouse, why should our children listen to us?