Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESV)The bible is very clear about admonishing children to obey their parents. In fact, this precept made God's top 10 list. Most people that read this blog may say "Amen" to this commandment, as many of us are parents. But, why is this precept so important to God?
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."
I can think of a couple of reasons. One is that a rebellious heart is a sinful heart and rebellion often starts in the home. While all children of all ages should be obedient to their parents, I think this commandment is especially directed at older children, those that are starting to reach adulthood and starting to think they know more than mom and dad.
God first gave this command to the Israelites. He knew that the new generations would be tempted by the other peoples in their land. He had warned their parents to teach their children about Him and how He led them out of Egypt. However, if the children did not care to listen to their parents, these lessons would be lost. As you read the book of Judges you see this happening on an ongoing cycle.
What about us older children? Do we still honor and obey our parents or are we exempt once we get married and have our own children? I think as mature adults it is easy for us to forget the wisdom of our parents.
The other reason I think this command is so important to God is because if we do not honor our earthly fathers and mothers, we may have a hard time honoring our heavenly Father. How often do we choose our own way over God's ways?
A couple of other points about my thoughts on this passage...
Sometimes, parents can be ungodly parents, even evil parents. It's a sad and shameful reality of our broken world. I had loving parents so it is hard for me to imagine the pain of those whose parents really let them down. I think God would still have us honor our parents regardless of the pain they may have caused. However, I know that is easy for me to say, not having to experience that kind of pain myself.
The other point I want to make about this passage is the commentary added by Paul. He says this is the first commandment with a promise. Just what is this promise?
Some translations like the NIV and even NASB read the promise as, "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." This makes it sound like a promise for a long life if you are an obedient child that honors your parents. However, does this mean that children, teenagers, or young adults that die at a young age were disobedient and dishonoring to their parents?
Paul is quoting Exodus 20:12 here, which is actually being given as the sixth of the ten commandments. The promise is that if the young Israelites obey and honor their parents it will go well for them in the new land. Even in the NIV and NASB the word used is land rather than earth in Exodus. I think this makes the ESV version more accurate and we should assume that Paul is quoting the commandment as stated in the Old Testament.
So the promise is not a long life on earth but a long life in the land. As mentioned above, we find the young Israelites unable to live up to this commandment and all is not well for Israel.
The point is that this is not necessarily a "promise" for every child that obedience and honoring your parents will lead to a long life. An early death does not mean a young person was a rebellious child. That said, I do think this is a Christian principle. A child that obeys and honors his parents will have a life that honors God, regardless of the the number of days on this earth. A rebellious, disobedient child that dishonors his or her parents is more likely to have a life that can lead to an early destruction, again, regardless of the number of days on this earth.