Summary: As living tributes to Jesus our lives should always point to Him. All the credit goes to Him. And all the rewards of our inheritance with Christ can be ours. The ultimate reward of course being in the presence of God for eternity, and perhaps hearing, “Well done good and faithful servant.
“I Am Rewarded”
Here’s how our passage begins today, “Children obey your parents, honor your mother and father, this is the first commandment with a promise that it might go well with you and that you may live long in the land”. There’s one promise of reward. Then we see in verse 8 another promise that whatever good you do, this you will receive back from the Lord.
What are we to do with this passage about children and parents and slaves and masters? How is this applicable to us?
Well, the theme of submission continues in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and there is again some metaphor in the groups he mentions, relating to our relationship with Christ and His relationship to the church.
It begins with children coming under the headship of their parents, and includes once again a reminder to fathers. He repeats this in Colossians 3 and it refers to fathers not abusing their power and discouraging their children. Remember God could have dealt with his children much more harshly than he has, so this mirrors the authority tempered with love and self control, that God shows to his children.
Now this first promise to children is clearly not just to the children of human parents. First it says obey your parents in the Lord. Notice in this again as we saw last week, Paul is using a human relationship as a metaphor for a relationship with Christ. The idea again is the design of God. The sovereign God of the universe has created the idea of marriage, and the idea and possibility of creating children within a marriage relationship. All the people in these relationships are to model submission and obedience to God first of all, but then also submitting to the people in their lives whom God has put them under.
Last week, husbands submit to God, wives submit to husbands, and now children submit to parents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The idea of submission to authority is a key factor in the problems we see in our culture, in our families, and in our churches. As we move into the next part of this passage, we will see the same kind of dynamics in the workplace.
So look at what we’ve seen in the past two chapters. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Children obey your parents in the Lord. Bondservants, obey your earthly masters as you would Christ. Masters, remember who your Master is in heaven. Do you see the common denominator there?
Jesus says elsewhere as do unto the least of these you do unto me. Everything about our life and relationships here on earth always needs to come back to our relationship with Christ. We obey those God has put in authority over us as we would Christ (the condition there being that they are not asking us to do something that goes against the commands of Jesus), and we treat those under us as Christ does those under Him. This is all an idealized picture of how Christians and humanity in general was designed by their creator to operate, with everyone in total submission to Christ. This is the recipe for utopia.
Now as we talk about being rewarded, I believe the reason we hear of these conditions is that the greatest rewards come from following God’s will. Why would God have any obligation to reward humanity otherwise? But we need to make sure we don’t do this as a transaction. God is not exactly saying if you do this I will reward you. Rather the rewards come from the natural consequences of living according to His design. He created the universe to be a certain way, and if we operate according to the way, rewards will be inherent. The ultimate reward is not found in this life anyway because of the fallen nature of the world.
To me it’s more like building a model train, or car, or airplane let’s say. It comes with all these little plastic pieces attached to a little plastic frame, and there are instructions for how to put it all together. If you follow the instructions, the reward is a completed model that resembles what it is intended to be, the picture on the box. If you do it your own way, you may end up with something, but it might not be what you hoped it would be. The reward is simply from following the maker’s instructions. If you don’t follow the instructions, you can’t blame the maker for it not turning out the way you wanted, or the way he promised.
So here some people might say, well, I obeyed and honoured my parents, and my life actually hasn’t gone all that well, and I knew this kid who was very obedient and honouring to his parents and he died when he was 12. Where’s God keeping his promises in these situations? He said it would go well with us and that we would live long in the land.