What’s a Kid to Do?

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Ephesians 6:1-3

INTRODUCTION: Our series is called “Christian Home Fixer Upper and we are looking at God’s instructions for a Christian home. So far we have looked at mothers, husbands, wives and singles. This week we look at the role of children in the home. Let’s listen to Ephesians 6:1-3 together. [Read and pray.]

Kids, I want you to pay special attention today , because I am going to be speaking directly to you throughout the message. Everyone else, you listen too because these principles affect all of us. But this message is especially important for any children here today who are still being raised by your parents at home. And so I am talking to both the younger children here, and to the older children, to our teens as well. This is a vitally important message for you to hear today, because how you respond to it can truly impact the rest of your life.

Do you want to live a good life? Do you want to live a long life? Most people want to live long and well. But what most people don’t understand is that the patterns you develop in your lives as children can have a huge impact on the rest of your life.

As children we often feel that we do not have a lot of control over life. A lot of other people seem to be making all the decisions for us, and we don’t always like those decisions. What’s a kid to do?

Well, God tells you what you are supposed to do in his Word. The one decision that no one else can make for you is this: will you choose to follow God’s instructions or not? Everybody has an important role to play in the family, and God tells you what your role is as well. The best part is that when you do what God tells you to do in the family, you are opening up your life for God’s blessing – both now and for the rest of your life.

So, what are God’s instructions for children in the home? I can give it to you in three easy words. Ready? Obey, honor, enjoy. That’s it! Obey, honor, enjoy! Sermon’s over, everyone can go home. No, we’re not really done yet. Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible says about each of these instructions.

I. Obey. (Ephesians 6:1)

   A. Obey your parents in the Lord. (Proverbs 1:8)

And so we will begin with the first instruction: obey. We see this in the very first verse of our passage. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1) The word “children” here is the general word for children and really applies to children of any age, both young and old, but the context refers to non-adult children still living within the home – so, in our culture, that would mean especially pre-school, elementary, middle school and high school age. There is really no specific cut-off age, so there could also be some overlap with older children still living in the home.

But I think it is neat that Paul addresses a word to children in this letter. These letters in the Bible were originally read out loud in the churches. So when this letter was read out loud in the church at Ephesus, I like to think about all the children in the church suddenly snapping to attention when they got to this part. “Whoah, he’s talking to us!” That’s right! God is talking to you this morning through his Word.

And God specifically says to you in this verse: “Children, obey your parents.” The word “obey” here carries the idea of listening. In fact the word “listen” is actually part of the word “obey” in the original language. So obeying your parents means listening to your parents and then doing what they say. That’s where obedience starts, doesn’t it, with listening. Some of us are not very good at listening, and so we need to work on that. Proverbs 1:8 says: “Listen . . . to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” God is saying, “Listen to your parents. Listen to their instructions, and then do what they tell you.” Obedience begins with listening and then follows with action.

Notice the Bible does not just say, “Obey your parents,” but “Obey your parents in the Lord.” The Bible uses many different names for God – God, Father, Creator, God Almighty, but this word “Lord” refers especially to God’s authority. God is Lord, which means that he is our ultimate Lord and Master. So what does it mean to “obey your parents in the Lord?” It means that you should realize that God is the one who has given your parents authority in your life. It means that when you obey your parents, you should understand that you are really obeying God. It means that when you obey your parents, you should do so not because they are bigger than you, not because they could take away the TV or computer or ground you, but because you love and respect God and you want to obey him. That’s what it means when it says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.”

   B. It is the right thing to do. (Colossians 3:20; 2 Tim 3:1-4)

Why should you obey your parents in the Lord? Why should you recognize their God-given authority in your life? We find the answer right here in the same verse. Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The word “right” here means more than just appropriate or fitting. It means right in the sense of “righteous” or “in keeping with God’s commands.” It is right for you to obey your parents because God is the one who has established your parents as the authority in your home. Obeying your parents is a right response to God.

We find a similar verse to this in Colossians 3:20 which says: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” First of all, I want you to notice the words “in everything.” That means we don’t get to pick and choose when to obey and when not to obey our parents. God says to obey them “in everything.” And then I also want you to notice the reason Paul gives in this verse for obeying your parents: “for this pleases the Lord.” Obeying your parents is not only the right thing to do, it also pleases God. That makes sense. It always pleases God when you do the right thing. And so God wants you to obey your parents because it is right and because it is pleasing to Him. It’s very simple. When you obey your parents, you please God. When you disobey your parents, you displease God. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Did you know that the Bible tells us that one of the signs of the end times will be an increase of children who disobey their parents? Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:1-4: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Now there are a whole lot of ugly behaviors listed in those verses, but right smack dab in the middle of them is disobedience to parents. God takes this command for you to obey your parents very seriously.

God is the ultimate authority in your life, but while you are in your parents’ home, he has made your parents the main authority in your life here on earth. Why did God make your parents the main authority in your life? God knew that you needed someone to guide you through your childhood years of life. God loves you, and in his wisdom he gave your parents that authority. They are the ones who gave you life. They are the ones who are raising you. They are the ones who love you more than anyone else on earth. They are the ones who want the very best for you. They are older, wiser and more experienced than you. There are so many good reasons why God made your parents the main authority in your life during these years before you become an adult. You need to trust God and obey your parents – listen to them and do what they say – because this is right. And it pleases God when you do that which is right.

II. Honor. (Ephesians 6:2)

   A. Honor your mother and father. (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 23:22; Matthew 15:3-6)

That is God’s first instruction for you as a child in your parents’ home: obey. The second instruction is this: honor. Listen to verse 2: “‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise.” Paul is quoting from the Old Testament here. In fact he is quoting from the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. And the fifth commandment is this: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12) The fifth commandment occupies a unique position in the Ten Commandments between those commandments relating directly to God and those commandments relating directly to other people. God has put our parents over us as the main human authority in our lives. Therefore we should honor and respect our parents.

Honoring your mother and father is a broader command than just obedience. You can obey your parents without honoring them, but you cannot honor your parents without also obeying them. When you honor your parents, you value them for who they are, and you show them proper respect as your parents and as God’s designated authority in your life. Obeying your parents is an outward action, but honoring your parents involves an inner attitude. It is possible for you to obey your parents and have a bad attitude. But you cannot have a bad attitude and still honor them.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say your parents ask you to take out the trash. And you grumble, and whine, and complain, and you keep putting it off, but eventually you get the trash out just as your parents said. You could say, in a sense, that you obeyed them, but you could not say that you honored them. Now that doesn’t mean that you have to like taking out the trash, but it does mean that if are going to please God, you must honor your parents as well as obey them. Obedience means that you do what your parents say, honor means that you do it with a smile!

Notice the fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother.” God has placed both parents as authorities in your life, and you are to honor and respect them both equally. This sometimes gets confusing in our day when unfortunately Mom and Dad don’t always live in the same home. Kids, if that is your situation today, I want you to know first of all, that it is not your fault. That is our fault as grownups, and we are sorry that we have confused the issue for you. God still calls you to honor your parents as your parents, though, and to give them your respect. But it can become very confusing when Mom and Dad are not together.

By the way, this command to honor our parents still holds true even when we grow to be adults. We are no longer commanded to obey our parents in the same way that we did when we were under their authority in their home, but God commands us to honor them always. Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” Proverbs 23:22 says, “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”

Jesus spoke to adult children about their parents and specifically told them that the command to honor their parents still applied to them. Matthew 15:3-6: Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Jesus himself, when he was on the cross, took measures to provide for his own mother. When we grow to be adults, we are no longer under our parents’ authority as we were when we were younger, but we must still honor and respect them, listen to them, and provide for them in their old age.

   B. It is the first commandment with a promise. (Exodus 20:12)

Ephesians 6:2 goes on to say that this “is the first commandment with a promise.” The first four commandments did not have any promises attached to them. The first commandment simply says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) The second commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol.” (Exodus 20:4) The third commandment says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.” (Exodus 20:7) And the fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) None of these other commandments had any promises attached to them. In fact, some of them actually had warnings or threats attached instead.

But when God gave you the command to honor your father and your mother, he gave you a promise along with it. God could have provided the motivation to keep this commandment through a threat or a warning – “Honor your father and your mother – or else!” But he chose instead to provide the motivation through a promise. And what a wonderful promise it is!

III. Enjoy! (Ephesians 6:3)

And that brings us to our third instruction this morning: enjoy. Obey. Honor. Enjoy! Notice that honoring and obeying come first, and then comes enjoy. Because here is the promise that God gave along with the commandment. Listen to Ephesians 6:3: “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” What is the result when you obey God by honoring and obeying your parents? You will enjoy a good life and a long life.

   A. You will enjoy a good life. (Proverbs 3:1-2)

First of all you will enjoy a good life. God gives us a very simple principle here. Things go better for you when you honor and obey your parents than when you rebel against your parents.

First of all, things go better at home. How many of the arguments in your home are your fault, or at least partly your fault? How many times have you either started an argument at home or made the argument worse because you were not honoring or obeying your parents? You see, God wants you to enjoy peaceful relationships at home. Now, parents and brothers and sisters have their responsibilities too. I already spoke to moms on Mother’s Day, and I am going to speak to dads on Father’s Day. But children and teens, guess what? This is your day! And things will go better for you at home when you honor and obey your parents. You will enjoy more peaceful relationships when you honor and obey your parents.

You will also enjoy greater privileges when you honor and obey your parents. Have you ever heard about the relationship between privilege and responsibility? It works this way. Everybody wants more privileges. But privileges usually come along when we show ourselves responsible. The greater the responsibility you show, the greater the privileges you usually enjoy. One of the greatest ways you can show yourselves growing in responsibility is to be responsible for your attitudes and actions towards your parents. Children who honor and obey their parents will enjoy greater privileges at home.

So things will go better for you at home. Things will also go better for you outside of your home. When you honor and obey your parents, you honor God, and you place yourself under God’s protection and under your parents’ protection. When you rebel against your parents, you are rebelling against God, and you remove yourself from both God’s protection and your parents’ protection.

Things will also go better for you outside the home because you will be learning to respect authority. Your parents are the first authority in your lives outside of God, and if you do not learn to respect their authority, you will probably not do well with any authority – which means you will constantly be getting into trouble with teachers, coaches, principals, and any number of authorities outside of the home. If you do not learn to respect authority before you grow older, you will eventually have trouble with other authorities – such as bosses, policemen and the court system.

Here’s the bottom line. You cannot have God’s blessing on your life when you are rebelling against your parents. But when you honor and obey your parents, God promises you will enjoy a good life, and you will enjoy a long life too.

   B. You will enjoy a long life. (Proverbs 6:23)

You might wonder, how does that work? How does honoring and obeying my parents give me a longer life? Well, this is not a promise that you will live to be a hundred years old, but rather it is a principle that plays out in people’s lives over and over again. When you learn to submit to God’s authority and the various authorities God has placed in your life, you will tend to live better and longer. We see the same principle taught in Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs 3:1-2: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.”

Once again, we should understand this as a God-given principle rather than as an individual promise. Some disobedient children live very long lives. They are usually miserable, but they might live a long time. And then there are godly children who die young. But in principle, the child who learns to honor and respect their parents also learns to honor and respect authority, and this generally leads to a better life and a longer life. The undisciplined child who rebels against God and authority is in for a tough time as an adult. They may also engage in many risky behaviors which cut short both enjoyment and length of life. It all starts at home. “Honor your father and mother” — which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Parents, you have a great responsibility here as far as disciplining your children. You do your children no favors when you allow them either to disobey you or disrespect you. Proverbs 6:23 says: “The corrections of discipline are the way to life.” Parents, your children’s lives are in your hands. If they do not learn to honor and obey you as parents, they will miss out on God’s promise of a good life and a long life. You have a huge responsibility in raising your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. You are raising the next generation of families who will determine what our world will look like in the future. Christian Home Fixer Upper starts in your home now, but it will have a ripple effect for generations to come, if the Lord tarries. Don’t cheat your children out of God’s promise. Teach your children; discipline them; train them to honor, respect and obey you as the God-given authority in their lives.

CONCLUSION: Children and teens, listen to me. Do you want to enjoy life? Do you want peaceful relationships at home? Do you want to enjoy greater privileges? Do you want God’s protection on your life? Do you want to live longer? Then you will want to take seriously God’s command to honor and obey your parents.

What’s a kid to do? Jesus himself provides the perfect example for us in the gospel of Luke 2. This was when Jesus was twelve years old and his parents found him in the temple courts talking with the teachers. After his parents found him, we read: “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them . . . . And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:51-52) Did you get that? Jesus honored and obeyed his parents in his youth, and what was the result? Things went well for him. “He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Jesus is not only our example. He is the only one who can help us with this. We need to ask Jesus to be our Savior, and we need to ask him help us to do the things we can’t do on our own.

What’s a kid to do? “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3)

© Ray Fowler

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