Honor God, Honor Parents
Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Along with the honor required in the Fourth Commandment also comes fear of God, as Dr. Luther explains: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”
We are to fear God according to the First Commandment, and we are to honor, serve, obey, love, and cherish our parents and other authorities according to the Fourth Commandment. That we are “to obey” is acknowledgment that parents and authorities have the obligation to discipline us when we disobey God’s Law.
Now that is something that makes us all uncomfortable: discipline. Yet our Lord speaks of discipline that comes from him and our parents. The letter to the Hebrews says: “Endure suffering as discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined; if you are not given discipline you are not true children of God, but are illegitimate. While we are being disciplined, it always seems painful, rather than joyful” (Hebrews 12:7ff).
Discipline is training—from the hand of God and from the hand of parents—often firmly on children’s bottoms, or resolutely in the lives of adults who continue to go astray and need to be straightened out.
But this discipline is fundamentally a part of God’s training of His disciples (Did you ever notice that disciple and discipline are closely related words? No coincidence!), reminding us that we are not illegitimate children but are children of a God who loves us and desires us to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness. Only illegitimate children are allowed to live without discipline and boundaries—disregarding right from wrong, pretending like they are autonomous.
What an awesome responsibility that has been given to parents! So many parents today either are unaware of their responsibility as parents or have flat-out rejected the importance of their office. Parents are first to know the Lord’s desire for their own lives, learning from God’s Word how to live; and then they are required to impress these things upon children, as Moses (inspired by the Holy Spirit!) teaches us:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
None of this is optional—parents cannot allow children room to chase the wind, allowing them to make decisions on their own, hoping they will simply learn from their mistakes.
No, once parents have been taught the Lord’s will, they must impress these things on their children, not as tyrants, who exasperate their children, but as parents who fear, love, and trust in God above all things and want their children to fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
Godly parents do not simply scatter children, like seed, out among the weeds, hoping they will by some miracle grow up into healthy trees that bear good fruit, because scattered, undisciplined children won’t grow up at all. How many 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, or even 90 year old children do we encounter on a daily basis?
Scripture teaches us that those who are left to themselves, apart from God, will die. Not only will the weeds of the world creep in and choke them off, but the sin that lives inside of them by nature will cause them to choose the wrong, never the right. Children must be taught, and they must honor those who teach them. Such is God’s will.
Forgiveness is always available through the Means of Grace, for all the times we have dishonored parents and other authorities, for every time we have run rough-shod over God’s Commandments.
May we all live in repentance, and as baptized children of God, may we learn both to honor Him and to honor our parents and other authorities!
Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, Your Son gathered the little children to Himself that He might bless them. Strengthen all parents that they may faithfully bring up their children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord by a life of prayer and devotion to You and Your Word. Bless all who assist our parents in teaching the faith to children, that all might be led into the Savior’s loving arms and grow to lead godly lives to the praise and honor of Christ’s holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.