Summary: Honor or "give weight to" parents. Children should a) obey, b) respect, and c) surpass, their parents. Positive and practical for all ages.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR FAMILY—Deuteronomy 5:16
Read Deuteronomy 5:16. (Preacher: a few extra words in Deuteronomy, rather than Exodus, lend clarity to the commandment.)
The Apostle Paul points out that this commandment is the first commandment with a promise attached, and study after study confirms the truth of God’s word in this area. Parents have a significant impact on educational success, as well as obesity. They are a source of respect for authority, and they provide a secure environment for resisting drugs, gangs, and teen pregnancy. Parents pass on moral values, which support safe communities, good government, and even a healthy economy. They teach practical values, such as hard work, delayed gratification, and money management. They teach relationship skills that help children become healthy adults, such as choosing a mate, handling conflict, raising children, and empathy for others. And of course, Christian parents are key to passing on faith to children.
That raises some anxiety. Families according to God’s perfect plan are rare. Statistics in America show that only 67% of children under 18 live with both biological parents. About half of the children in America will face divorce or separation.
In this kind of environment, liberals and conservatives agree on what is sometimes an “ecological approach” to family stability: a healthy environment involves the nuclear family, extended family or mentors, church, school, and community. This too fits into God’s plan! By God’s grace, the church becomes the family for some. Psalm 68:5-6 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”
Most of us did not grow up in perfect families (Duh!) Most of us did not establish perfect families. If children are not perfect (Duh!), is it all the fault of the parents? No—but we want our families to be as healthy and helpful as they can be.
HOW DO WE MAKE THE MOST OF FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS?
The essential thing for families is, “Honor your father and mother.” The word in Hebrew means “give weight to.” Children and adults must “give weight to” their parents.
• Children must OBEY their parents
The Apostle Paul makes the obvious connection between honor and obedience: Ephesians. 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’--which is the first commandment with a promise.”
There are practical reasons for obedience. Children who obey may be protected from harm, when they obey their parents, looking both ways before crossing the street, or not staying out all night. They will be trained in healthy and godly habits, such as brushing their teeth, doing chores, and going to church.
There is a deeper reason as well: We learn as children to submit to all kinds of God-given authority, at school or work, obeying the law, and ultimately, obeying God. Hebrews 12:9 says, “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!”
God’s plan is for obedient children, and it depends on responsible parents. Studies of parenting styles have shown that the best parents are neither autocratic nor permissive. They exercise warm, firm authority.
A confident parent is willing to talk things over, but is not afraid to answer question of “Why?” with, “Because I’m the parent.” A parent obedient to God exercises discipline, not from anger or frustration or fear of losing control, but because that is their God-given responsibility.
Wise children obey their parents. Even teenagers! In fact, here is some advice for a wise teenager: If you think your parents are being unreasonable, the first words out of your mouth should be, “Yes, I will do that, if you really want me to do it. But can we talk about it? Try it; it might work for you.
There is an exception to obedience, of course. Obedience to God comes before obedience to parents. If parents are advocating sexual abuse, lying or stealing, cruelty or covering up sin, children should not go along with that. Obey God first.
When parents and children work together, according to God’s plan, he promises, “It will go well with you.”
Now, at some time in the late teens, obedience seems like the wrong word. It is not just an age thing, like when the child turns 13 or 18. It is more of a responsibility thing, like when they move out on their own, and support themselves. (That tends to be later these days!)
Young people in their 20’s can benefit from guidance and direction, and even limits. Scientific studies indicate that judgment is still forming in the brain in the late 20’s! (If you are 25 you probably don’t believe it; if you are 50, you wonder how you survived youthful decisions.)