Children to Parents

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Five Functions of a Faithful Family

Try to put the following child parent conversation in Biblical context:

A man was overheard talking on his cell phone:  “I know it’s something you want,” he said earnestly, “But I don’t think tattoos are a good idea.  And the same goes for body piercing.  As long as you’re living in my house, I think you should respect my wishes.”
“Besides, Mom, you’re 75 years old!  You don’t need a tattoo!”

We all expected obedience between a father and his child didn’t we?   But perhaps you’re not exactly certain what to do with a child giving orders to his mother.  Today we take a look at the relationship of children to their parents.    The bulk perhaps is focused on children growing up still in their parent’s house.  But there are applications to adult children relating to their parents.

Children to Parents (Exodus 20:12): Let me give you three key words to Biblically describe the relationship between children and their parents.    There may be some overlap between them, but they are used with fair regularity in varied Spots.

The first aspect of the child parent relationship is Children your first order of business when it comes to your relationship to your parents is to Obey…


The Key passage I’d like to point to is Ephesians 6:1-3.
(Ephesians 6:1-3) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. ” (NASB95)

It’s actually repeated in brief form in Colossians 3:20
(Colossians 3:20) “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” (NASB95)

Obedience has its limits of course, if a child is commanded to do something wrong, than obedience to God takes the precedent.  Ezekiel 20:18 gives this mandate for children to avoid the sins of their parents:
I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols.” (NASB95)

The majority of parenting however is bent towards that which is good and worthy.  For this reason Solomon started teaching his Son Rehoboam with these words from Proverbs 1:8-9)
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head And ornaments about your neck. (NASB95)

The burden, parents, is on us to do more than passively wait for our children to learn from someone else what is good – but instead to be teaching our children and training them in righteousness.  Bringing them up in the Nurture and Instruction of God.

Earliest then for children is the requirement to obey their parents.  A faithful kid, one who claims to love God will obey their parents because God has entrusted those parents with the charge of training you in righteousness.

But obedience for obedience sake eventually has to give way to something better…. Submission.


As elsewhere in the scriptures, Submission is an act of the will.  It’s something that you have to decide to do.  Early on it’s “easier” for a child to live in obedience, but as time progresses and you begin to gain your own mind; obedience has to turn on the willful act of submission.

Nowhere is this exemplified better than in the life of Jesus.  When he turned 12 years old, his parents took him to the temple – without them knowing he remained behind.  When Mary and Joseph noticed he was gone, they went back and found him still in Jerusalem teaching the teachers.  After that we read in Luke 2:51And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (NASB95)

The word “Subjection” there is the same word used elsewhere for submission.   Culturally there are huge clashes between parents and teenagers as you begin to find your own voice – but in terms of being a “Faithful” child, finding your voice should take place with an attitude of submission.

One of those key areas where submission is needed early on is in the area of discipline.

Submit to Discipline.

(Proverbs 29:17) “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.” (NASB95)  The assumption there is that discipline is not merely received but also learned from.

The goal of discipline early on is ultimately so that discipline will no longer be needed.  This is what  the writer of Hebrews alludes to in chapter 12
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

Kids, especially as you grow older you have a choice to make in your heart.  You can either become bitter and angry over discipline – or you can choose to learn from it.  The book of proverbs makes very clear distinctions between those who are wise and those who are fools.  Chief among the differences is the response to a “rebuke” or discipline.  A fool despises discipline and someone who is wise accepts it and learns from it.

So what’s it going to be?  You have the choice to make – I trust that you will choose to bend your own desires to wisdom and accept not only discipline but the instruction and guidance of your parents.  Of course you won’t enjoy it at the time, but if you will allow yourself to be trained by it, you will be wise indeed.

Ultimately something greater than mere obedience is needed.  And submission – to a certain degree- has its limits.  Both are rules.  It is a rule to obey, a rule guided by a principle.  It is a rule to submit, and that rule is guided by the same principle.  The principle is overarching, and it doesn’t change – in fact all that changes is the application of that rule.

When very young a child must obey.  As you grow, obedience should turn from blind ascent to willful submission.   And through it all the one principle remains.  In fact the principle remains through childhood into the teenage years and should by all rights stay put through the years of adulthood.  That principle is nothing less than honor.


The core text in the bible for the faithful functioning of children towards their parents is Exodus 20:12.  Right square in the middle of the Ten Commandments, the fifth commandment is this one which forms a bridge between the first four – bent on the Lord and the last five which are bent towards human relationships.
(Exodus 20:12) Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. (NASB95)

To honor your parents is a never ending task.  It means giving them “…the proper weight of authority that they deserve…” Value them highly, care for them and respect them.[1]

What that looks like, will vary at different stages of life.  Honoring your parents as a child might include not rolling your eyes at them when they say something you may not agree with.  Or it might mean that your behavior when away from them is flavored by their wishes even if they’ll never find out.

As you grow, honoring your parents takes on different facets.  For instance Respecting their advice, and even seeking it.   For instance when Theresa and I have had either of our parents over, we have insisted that they get our bed, while we take the couch.  It may seem small and silly, but it was a conscious effort to honor our father and mother.

And in the later stages of life, honoring your mother and father should take on a role reversal where the children become the caretaker in payment for their parent’s long years of sacrifice.

That’s the principle of 1 Timothy 5:4.
(1 Timothy 5:4) but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. (NASB95)

Leviticus 19:32 also teaches that honoring your parents, or your elders in general is actually showing reverence toward God.
(Leviticus 19:32) You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.(NASB95).

Whatever your age, the principle of honor remains behind the way you should treat your parents.  With Obedience, Submission and intentional choices to honor and even take care of your parents.  That is faithfulness, and that is what God has called all of us to as children.



[1] NET notes on the verse.

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