Two Words for Kids from God

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Pastor, Pepperell, Massachusetts

Children, does it sometimes feel as though the Bible isn’t really for you? There may be words in it you don’t understand. It may sometimes talk about things that don’t seem to affect you. When you’re in church, maybe it feels like the pastor is speaking mainly to your parents.

I want you to know that the Bible is for you. There’s even a passage in one of Paul’s letters addressed directly to you. Paul says, “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’” (Ephesians 6:1–3).

Paul speaks to you. He says, “Children . . .” He believes you’re old enough to hear and understand what he’s saying. In fact, in this short passage for families, he talks much more to you than he does to your parents. What I most want for you — just as I want it most for my own three young children — is what God promises in this passage: a life blessed by God.

Obedience Can Be Hard

Paul gives you two commands. The first says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” The second says, “Honor your father and mother.”

Is it easy to obey and honor your parents? Well, it depends, doesn’t it? If your mom tells you that you must eat five pieces of candy every night for the next week, it’s easy to obey her, isn’t it? What if your dad tells you to buy that toy you’ve been wanting? Easy, right? But say you’re really hungry for a snack and your dad says no because you’re having dinner soon. Is it easy to obey him then?

Paul doesn’t say, “Children, obey your parents when they ask you to do things you like.” He doesn’t say, “Children, obey your parents most of the time.” He doesn’t say, “Children, obey your parents if they buy you stuff to thank you for your obedience.”

Why Should We Obey?

Let’s admit it: honoring and obeying your parents is hard when you don’t like what they tell you to do. Because it’s hard, you need reasons to do it. So, Paul gives you two reasons. The first is: “for it is right.” Paul means it is fitting. Have you ever put your clothes on in the morning and come downstairs and your mom makes you change? She might say, “That shirt doesn’t go with your pants at all! You can’t wear those colors together. That doesn’t fit.” It’s fitting for children to obey their parents. It’s the way things work best. It’s God’s design. That’s a good reason to do it.

The second reason to honor and obey your parents is “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Cheerful obedience to your parents is a pathway to experiencing God’s blessing.

That doesn’t mean life will be easy for you and you’ll always get what you want. After all, Jesus was a perfectly obedient Son, and he had a life full of trouble and hardship. But if you obey and learn from your parents who instruct you in the ways of God, you will become wise and godly yourself, and you’ll know God and experience his presence and protection wherever you are and whatever you do.

Because Jesus Loves You

Paul isn’t telling you just to be good boys and girls. Anyone could say that to you — including someone who doesn’t know Jesus. Paul is saying something much more important. He’s instructing you to obey your parents “in the Lord.” He means that if your mom asks you to take out the trash or clean your room or finish your carrots or your homework, you’re to cheerfully obey her as an act of love and service to Jesus himself.

You obey your parents because you want to please Jesus, and because you know that Jesus loves you and died for you. Your obedience has everything to do with Jesus, just as your whole life is to be for Jesus. That’s what it means to obey your parents “in the Lord.”

Children, God knows and cares for you. He believes you can understand what he’s asking you to do. It’s important. Listen carefully to his words. He will help you to obey them and will bless you as you do.

(@stephenwitmer1) is the pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, Massachusetts, and teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He helps to lead Small Town Summits, which partners with The Gospel Coalition New England to serve rural churches and pastors. He and his wife, Emma, have three children.