Parents and Children:
The Blessings of Family
1. A while back I saw a young couple whose wedding I had the privilege of helping with a few years ago. I was glad to see that they are doing well and that they have two beautiful little girls. I said to the oldest one, “Did you know that I married your mama and daddy?” She looked up at me indignantly and said, “No! My mama married my daddy, and we are a family!”
2. That young lady was protecting the third of the crucial relationships scripture calls us to honor: the relationship between parents and their children.
a. It’s like the other relationships we’ve been studying in some important ways: it’s based on respect; it requires each to do his own part; and it’s work that can be done by imperfect people.
b. But this relationship is also different from the others: it covers the whole lifetime, but it changes as life goes along, and it even has to be left in some sense.
c. Our text is one of the meaningful paragraphs in the Bible on this theme...Ephesians 6:1-4.
3. The blessings of family are enjoyed when the mutual obligations described in this text are fulfilled by parents and children.
1. The order of address in not what we may have expected, and it’s instructive: he speaks to children first.
a. We’re to imagine this letter being read out loud in the assembled church.
i. Think of what it might have been like as the one reading, after carefully working his way through the deep things the apostle has had to say about the mystery of God’s will and the purpose of his grace, began this paragraph: “Children...”
ii. Surely that would have grabbed the attention of every young person who was old enough to understand anything of language and responsibility: “this is what the Lord expects me to do.”
b. Part of what we’re to understand is that a good bit of parents’ work is assumed before these instructions pick up the story.
i. The parents have given their little ones enough attention for them to be healthy and safe. They have responsibly cared for their children, providing for their physical needs, tending to them, protecting them.
ii. The children have been given enough affection to know that they belong and that they matter. The phrases “your parents” and “your children” indicate that there has been such a relationship that a bond has developed. They accept each other. Neither is “without natural affection.”
iii. And, parents have exercised enough authority for their children to learn to listen and to submit. The children have been brought to the point that they are present when the passage on their responsibility to the Lord is read, are able to understand it, can respond to spiritual motivation, and can be expected to face their own obligations.
c. This tells us something significant about parenting and about the relationship between parents and their children.
i. It involves a way of life.
ii. It can’t be reduced to a set of chores and a formula for turning out a guaranteed finished product.
iii. A whole lot of it is being something an doing the kinds of things which, as a result, come quite naturally.
iv. In other words, the instructions of Ephesians 6:1-4 assume the kind of behavior described in Ephesians 4 and 5 in the lives of the parents.
v. The work to be done in the family is done by people who honor marriage, walk in love and light and wisdom, and are honest, self-disciplined, diligent, decent and kind.
2. In a setting like that, the importance of these instructions are obvious: children must meet their own responsibility to the Lord.
a. There is a certain logic about this.
i. Unless individuals begin to do this when they’re young, there will be no men and women who are prepared to take on the responsibilities of husband and wives.
ii. Where parents have not met their obligations as they should have, it those who are still young who have it within their power to make the kinds of choices that will begin a better family cycle – who can someday become the kind of parents this passage speaks of.
b. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord.
i. They can because, you see, their parents won’t require of them anything the Lord wouldn’t, and they won’t do it in a way the Lord wouldn’t, and, if they do, the Lord will hold them responsible.
ii. “Obey” means “to mind,” to do as your parents say and to do so willingly, to respect your parents’ authority.
iii. “This is right.” It pleases the Lord (Col. 3:20). Your parents are responsible for you. They know more about life than you do. They love you more than you know. They’ve done more for you than you can imagine right now. It wouldn’t be right for you to ignore their wishes or advice.
iv. Respect their authority. Submit to their guidance. Do what they say. It will do something to your character that will prepare you for other important relationships in your life.
v. Here’s the principle to live by: children, as long as you live in their house, and as long as there is nothing ungodly, immoral or illegal in what they tell you to do, obey your parents.
c. Children are to honor their father and mother.
i. At some point you’ll leave your parents, in the sense that your obligations to the Lord and to your mate will become your priority, but honoring your father and mother is a lifetime task.
ii. It has to do with the person you become, the respect and concern you show toward them, and perhaps even the care you end up providing them.
iii. Proverbs 23:24-25 says, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore your rejoice.”
iv. Look for the best in them, speak well of them, appreciate them, show consideration for them, and be involved in their lives.
v. The apostle points out that doing this has the promise of making your own life better. It will have a dramatic impact upon the society in which you will live. This commandment is the hinge upon which godliness turns.
3. Only now can the work of parents be understood: parents are to bring their children up in the Lord.
a. We should notice a couple of points here.
i. What corresponds to the children’s obligation to “obey” is not “command” but “bring up” – nurture, tend like a gardener who is bringing up a garden.
ii. And, however important it is for fathers to take a lead, “fathers” here probably is to be understood as “parents.” It often had this meaning in Greek literature, and this way it would parallel “father and mother” (v.2).
iii. Parents are responsible for nurturing their children who are old enough to be thinking of their own obligation to the Lord.
b. The negative side of this duty is being careful not to provoke your children to anger.
i. Parents are to do their work with a spirit of understanding, sympathy and tenderness so that their children do not needlessly become discouraged, irritated, or exasperated.
ii. Be present so you can be aware of what’s going on; listen well enough to understand and be open enough to be understood; say yes unless there is a good reason not to; be as fair and consistent as possible; make righteousness your goal and grace your practice.
iii. Dobson: “...each of us as parents has been given a gold container fill with unconditional love and kisses from our children.”
c. The positive side of it is taking responsibility for training your children in the discipline and instruction of the Christian life.
i. “Discipline” is “education by training.” It is nurturing a life the same way a gardener prepares a tomato plant to bear the most fruit.
ii. “Instruction” is “education by word of mouth.” It means talking about, in the entire course of everyday life, the things that can shape attitudes and inform choices and establish values.
iii. “Of the Lord” means “in the Lord’s way for our lives.” Parents who love their children like this are giving them a sense of worth and respect and well-being which will keep on blessing their lives.
1. Notice that “in the Lord” and “of the Lord” serve as the bookends of these instructions.
a. Both being in the Lord and acting like him are important.
b. Either a child or his parents can fail at either of these.
c. In either case, the love of the Lord is the only answer.
2. The blessings of family require the kind of love that made family beautiful to start with.