A Word to Kids & Their Parents

I don’t have to tell you that the family is under attack. Families have always been under attack as Satan worked to so discord that resulted in murder in the first family as Cain, Adam and Eve’s first child hated and murdered their second-born, Abel.

The Scriptural records are full of suffering and sin that takes place in families.

Today we celebrate such things as “non-traditional families” and the liberty of making a family what you want it to be. The cultural elites would have us think that all of these categories are in limbo—male, female—mom, dad—even the parent-child relationship needs to be redefined as we progress in our understanding of the human psyche.

Part of this effort has been led by the modern psychological movement, which seeks to understand humanity without God in terms of on that which is physical. This is particularly a problem when categories of sin are renamed as something else.

Such is the case with the label of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which was coined in the 1980’s. Behavioral signs of this disorder include:

  • Easily losing one’s temper / throwing repeated temper tantrums

  • Arguing

  • Fighting

  • Refusing to follow rules

  • Deliberately acting in a way that will annoy others

  • Blaming others

  • Blatant hostility towards others

  • Being unwilling to compromise or negotiate

  • Willingly destroying friendships

  • Being spiteful and seeking revenge

  • Blatant and repeated disobedience

Of course, to some degree this is merely describing the human heart attitude toward authority and toward God. But there are discussions today that are starting to question this type of diagnosis even within the psychological community.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Just Boyhood? Is the question taken on by Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., appearing in the on the web home of Psychology Today.

Last week, as I was pondering how to begin this blog, I received a call from a worried mother of a five-year-old boy. Her son, Jonathon (not his real name), was about to be thrown out of kindergarten. He constantly argued with his teacher and refused to comply with the simplest of requests--such as lining up to go back to the classroom after recess. Jonathon insisted on bringing his toys to school, even though it was against the rules, and had a fall-down-on-the-floor tantrum if his teacher tried to separate him from his toy. The teacher and the school principal had been very patient with Jonathon, but now they thought that he had oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD) and needed medical treatment.     

When his worried mother took Jonathon to their pediatrician, the doctor pronounced that Jonathon was "just behaving like a boy." When her husband heard the story, his opinion was that Jonathon was simply a spoiled brat who needed more discipline. "What's the difference between a child who has ODD and a spoiled brat?" she asked me.      

Good question, I mused. The short answer, of course, is "about thirty years of history." Three decades ago, before our society began labeling childhood misbehavior as a medical disorder, a child who was disobedient, argumentative and wanted to get his own way all the time was commonly known as a spoiled brat. Then, in 1980, the diagnosis of "oppositional disorder" first appeared in the manual of mental disorders used by psychiatrists, the DSM-III. The 1987 edition of the DSM revised OD to "oppositional-defiant disorder" or ODD. Now there was an official name for defiant, rule-breaking, argumentative children. Now there was a medical condition that could be treated with medication. Parents of difficult children need not feel blamed for being overly indulgent or inconsistent in their parenting. Their mischievous child had a medical problem. Progress was being made.

Or was it? By 2010, many parents, doctors, and educators were becoming alarmed by the widespread psychiatric medicating of children in America. Many people raised questions of whether children were being drugged for sound medical reasons or merely to line the pockets of child psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies. In 2008, Senator Charles Grassley began a congressional investigation of conflicts of interest on the part of psychiatrists and drug companies.

But the most tragic side-effect of turning childhood misbehavior into a disease is often overlooked. Labeling and medicating kids who misbehaved not only removed blame from parents, it also removed the power of parents to help their children. Parents turned to doctors and medications for their children instead of seeking solutions within the family.

Pills are not for Preschoolers attempts to remedy this situation. The book illustrates, with many cases from my own practice (of course, all details are disguised), that parents are not at all powerless to heal their troubled children. In fact, it is only parents and families that hold the power to truly resolve their children's problems. And this is the theme of this blog. I will explore with those of you who are concerned about the mental health crisis facing our country's children how families can be empowered to help children overcome the most difficult of challenges-whether school failure or school phobia, whether anxiety or excessive sadness, whether misbehavior or distractibility.

Along with exploring the power of families, we will look at the power of language to guide parents to helpful solutions or to mislead them with false promises. I'll keep you up to date about Jonathon, as well as many other children. And we will explore which language is most helpful to our children in the final analysis: "ODD," "spoiled brat," or "just behaving like a boy.”

The reason so much is written about this problem is because it is such a widespread problem. It is a timeless problem, and it is one that God addresses for us very straightforwardly throughout Scripture. How do you deal with little sinners?

Well in the grace of God he gives them parents to instruct them, and whom they are called to submit to in obedience, which brings us to our text today in Colossians 3:20.

Luther called this section of Scripture “a list of rules for the household.” It is God’s design for how to make things right in the home.

2 Instructions to Kids & Parents for Relating in Christ

1. An Instruction to Children (20)

  1. Your specific responsibility: obey in everything (listen + do)

  2. Your special motivation: God’s glory (worship + favor)

2. An Instruction to Parents (21)

  1. Your potential hazard: creating frustration

  2. Your possible harm: causing discouragement

(20) Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

2 Instructions to Kids & Parents for Relating in Christ

  1. An Instruction to Children

For all of you who are children, this is a special verse. Most of the instructions in the Bible applies to adults and to children. 

For example, all the verses about knowing and worshipping God the Creator of the world apply to adults and children. All the verses about our attitudes and speech apply to both: are you patient when wronged? Do you speak truthfully? Are you selfish or selfless? Are you trusting in Jesus to save you from your sins?

You need to believe these truths when you are little and when you are big. When you are old and when you are young.

But some instructions are directed especially to adults—things such as how to be a faithful employee or take care of aging parents or direct and lead the church. Of course, you can learn faithfulness and generosity and integrity even at your age, which are character traits to work on now related to those areas. But some verses aren’t direct instructions for you to obey.

Today’s passage is different. These instructions came from a man named the Apostle Paul. Paul was a man who was stopped by Jesus and given a special job of starting and strengthening churches throughout the Roman empire.

One of his jobs is to write letters to churches, (groups of believers that would meet together much like our congregation). Paul would write a letter and when the church received it they would read the lettering during the church service. 

And then they would make copies and hand it out.

And so, in the middle of this letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul begins to write to specific categories of people in the church. He gives a special message to the wives. He gives a special message to the husbands. And now he gives a special message directly to the children. If you want to hear God speak to you, here it is.

It’s very exciting to get mail when you are a kid. When you are older you mostly just get bills and credit card offers and advertisements in the mail. But it is special to get something sent with your name on it in the mail.

That’s kind of what is happening here. An instruction written specifically to you. That means you should pay close attention to this message and treasure it. God knows you can apply this truth and so he says it not just to your parents, but directly to you. Do you see the responsibility you have?

The word for children here, [τέκνον] is your garden-variety term for children. τέκνον could be any age. He had words that would have restricted to the age (like the word of infant or “cradle-person”). 

Paul doesn’t say infant (or cradle-person literally) as he does elsewhere such as when he will tell the Ephesians that they are to mature in the Lord and stop being infants (Ephesians 4:14) who get tossed around by different doctrine and land on conclusions.

Children here τέκνον is much like our English world for children. Could be little, could be big. But the point is obvious. Paul is speaking not of a perpetual obedience of children to parents (i.e., gramps and granny call the shots until they die). 

It is obvious throughout Scripture that upon adulthood a child is fully accountable to God and the church body as an independent entity. So, we are speaking of the years when a child is living at home under the provision and protection and care of parents. This is the stage of life where freedom and responsibility are limited by an inability to care for oneself—the season where you are dependent upon parents.

Paul is writing to children who are old enough to understand the contents of this letter, and young enough that they are still dependent upon mom and dad. A biblical example that there is a breaking away is Jesus himself. Jesus obeyed perfectly, and yet we have a record of his transition in his relationship with his parents.

Luke 2:41–52—41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” 

Pretty shocking that Jesus didn’t say, “Hey mom I’m gonna stick around at the temple a little longer.” Instead he just lingered without notifying anyone. Note: as a parent I’d take issue with that. Jesus had never done anything like this.

(49) And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 

Simple honesty that showed he meant no malice or rebellion, but that he was demonstrating his special relationship as God and that his life would take on that identity and mission as he continued.

(50) But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 

Oooooookay? Grab your backpack and let’s head home.

(51) And 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. 52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

But Jesus wasn’t being defiant, he didn’t disobey, and he would continue in subjection to his parents. He is still continuing in subjection to them as a twelve year old, but he is also beginning to mark a transition.

Children here then are defined as those who are in the season of life in which they are dependent upon mom and dad.

  1. Your specific responsibility: obey in everything (listen + do)

Be obedient to your parents

At every age children are to honor their parents (an attitude that esteems them). And in the dependent years, children are to obey mom and dad (an action that comes under their authority). 

So, we have an attitude and an action that are important to God in the child-parent relationship. Here today Paul emphasizes the action, but as we will see the attitude is implied even in the action.

A note of application here as we walk through this passage: children think about these words and compared them to your relationship with your parents right now. Parents, consider if this is the view you have of what God requires of children. And for all of this we can apply it both in thinking back over our relationship with our parents growing up, and then to our obedience to God.

When Paul says be obedient, this is the compound verb: ὑπακούετε (hoop-uh-coo-uh-tay)—it means to listen and come under. ἀκούω is the verb to hear and the preposition ὑπο is stuck on the front meaning under. Is this not so helpful?

What does it mean to obey? You’ve got two parts. Listen and do. Listen and do. Follow a given instruction without challenge, excuse or delay. But before we get there, let’s stick to these two components: listen and do.

Part 1: Listen—this is the starting point for obedience. Before you do, you must hear.

Seems like it goes without saying, but when God gave instructions to the Hebrew adults whom he saved out of Egyptian slavery he said to them in… 

Deuteronomy 6:3-4— 3O Israel, you should listen (and be careful to do it)… 4Hear, O Israel! 

Hey! Listen carefully to me. Listening was such a problem for the adults in the Old Testament, that later Israel would get in trouble for not listening and not doing.

Psalm 81:11—But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me. 

This is much more than a little kid problem. This is a human problem. So, do they need to go to the audiologist and get a hearing test? Do they need to use some Q-tips to clean out the ear wax build-up inside their ears? 

No! It wasn’t an ear problem. Their ears worked perfectly, their heart had a problem. Biblically when we don’t listen it has to do with our desires…

Jeremiah 7:24—Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. 

They didn’t listen to God because they were listening to their own counsel. They believed their own thoughts and they were stubborn. That means they were stuck on thinking the way they wanted to think, and they weren’t willing to budge.

Church, hear me on this. 

We tune out messages that we don’t find appealing. Fascinating to read about studies done using MRIs scanning the brain that demonstrate that we are biased in the way we process information. 

Particularly if you were to hear two stories about politicians and your reaction depending upon your political affiliation. We get upset by the failures on the opposing side, and minimize failures on our own side. The MRIs would show little activity when you hear about a problem with your own party, and then the emotional activity portion flare up on the other.

We tune out information that we don’t want to hear. We don’t listen to messages that we don’t like. And so, this is the first part of obedience—learning to listen.

Children, have you ever said to your parents, “oh… I didn’t hear you.” Although there may be times were you truly couldn’t hear, it is your job to train you ears to listen. Most of the time when you say that you could hear if you wanted to hear.

Solomon said to his boys, when he was teaching them how to live wisely, sons incline your ear to my instruction (Proverbs 5:2). Bend them over. Lean in to what I am saying. 

This is poetic imagery—a way to use words to draw a picture. Incline your ear, bend your ear means to focus. Pay attention. Amazing how inconsistent we are, people will say I can’t focus. It’s too hard. Really? On anything? What about the things you love? Can you focus on a movie or a game or a hobby?

The truth is we don’t naturally like being instructed. Most adults don’t like to be instructed either. But a wise child values his or her parents’ instruction because they believe God. God says it is incredibly valuable to you.

And sometimes your heart will say, “I don’t want to hear mom and dad keep telling me about Jesus or the Bible or my sin.” You have to remind yourself in those moments of God’s truth:

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.

Like a prized crown or a beautiful necklace. You want things that are valuable and expensive and good for you? Listen to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Some of you have what we affectionately refer to as selective listening skills. I can remember my mom commenting on how I seemed on the one hand incapable of hearing basic instructions given directly and yet on the other hand possessing bionic hearing that could pick up whispers behind closed doors across the house not intended for me. 

Why? I was inclining my ear to one of those messages… especially the ones that I wasn’t intended to hear.

Children, if you will be obedient, you must train yourselves to be good listeners.

This means you have to fight the temptation that you already know something and so you don’t need to hear it again. You have to fight the temptation that you are wiser than your parents. You have to fight the temptation to ignore altogether so that you can do what you wish.

A good listener isn’t looking for loopholes that would make it possible to obey on a technicality because not every possible scenario was covered in the instruction. “You said not to hit my sister, and I clearly did not hit her, that was a smack…” You know what a good listener does?

A listener seeks to understand the instruction and the intention behind it in order to fulfill it.

If when you hear it isn’t clear to you, then get clarity. Mom and dad will say confusing things or even contradictory things, then take on the responsibility of clarifying, that’s what a good listener does and investigate. 

Why? Because you want to be a good listener. One who understands and takes to heart.

Listening also means pondering the words you are given. Thinking about them and how they apply. Asking follow-up questions. This is all buried in the first part of that word for obedience, to listen.

If you want a biblical example of someone who was not a good listener, look no further than our friend Peter. We have already seen him struggling in Mark because Jesus gives him an instruction and then what does Peter think, “okay I got it, I got it, I got it, you don’t need to instruct me about this anymore.” 

If Peter inclined his ear to Jesus’ warnings he could have avoided sin and consequences. Do not consider yourself to be so wise that you don’t need wisdom from others.

Good listening requires humility. Adults, you can model this for children. Are you a good listener? I don’t mean just in conversation, but I mean when someone speaks correctively into your life do you take it to heart? God has a lot to say about that in Proverbs and a the wise person listening to correction.

Children, listening is a discipline that will serve you well in all of life with many practical benefits. Being a good listener will help in your studies, in your career and in your relationships.

Part 1: Listen

Part 2: Do—take action on what you hear. Carry it out. Follow it. Submit to it. Now if we are going to define obedience we have to recognize that this means doing something. And yet it is possible to do that action and not really submit in your heart.

Only God can see your heart. But there are some ways you can tell if your heart is obeying the Lord or you are just doing the right thing so you don’t get in trouble. You obey:

  • Completely—partially obeying an instruction and leaving out some parts is not biblical obedience.

  • Immediately—delaying obedience is not biblical obedience. This includes discussing, debating, or postponing. Any challenge or excuse or delay is not biblical obedience.

  • Cheerfully—if you do the external act of obedience to avoid getting in trouble, but in your heart you are still rebelling, is that worshipping God? It’s not. Your obedience must be with a submissive heart that desires to please God.

This is difficult. This requires God’s power. To obey in this way means at times laying down what you want to do in order to come under and follow your parent’s instruction.

Sometimes it will be unfair. Sometimes it will go against what you believe would be best for your life. Sometimes it will feel overly restrictive. Sometimes you won’t be able to fully understand or agree with the decisions.

Can I encourage you children?

God knew your parents were sinners. He chose your parents. There is no certification process for this. You have a baby and viola, you just became a parent… scary!

And so, when you obey you obey mom and dad because God is the one who told you to do it. Since God set the family up in this way, you are either accepting or rejecting his plan based upon how you receive this commandment.

Be honest. We don’t like authority. As humans we want to rebel and push against God’s authority in our lives. This starts in the earliest days in the first relationship—children with their parents. A temper-tantrum is a way of saying, “I hate your authority in my life, and if I were big things would go down differently right now.”

Obedience is challenging. And it is to be in the areas that your parents require unless they are asking you to sin:

in all things

κατὰ πάντα—the big things, the little things, when you feel like it and when you don’t. When it feels right to you and when it doesn’t. Paul is defining the way God wants children to obey their parents. It is without judging whether or not they feel like they should obey or not.

Selective obedience is not true obedience. I like to obey when I like to obey, or to not get in trouble or to get some prize or reward or privilege I’m looking forward to. The potential for gain or loss ;) 

But God didn’t put you in the position to sit in judgment to evaluate your parents parenting all the time. Calvin comments regarding children evaluating their parents standards:

In all things, that they may not put themselves on a footing of equality with their parents, in the way of questioning and debating, or disputing, it being always understood that conscience is not to be infringed upon.

What’s he saying? Children, this isn’t a democracy where you vote on what seems like a good course of action to you. At the same time, he notes that your conscience is never to be infringed upon.

By that he means that it is never okay for a mommy or a daddy to make their child sin. 

Children, your mommy and daddy are to give you instructions that are based upon God’s law. It is never okay for parents to pressure their children or require them to lie or cheat or harm others or be deceitful or do something inappropriate. The instruction to obedience is to be fitting in God’s instructions.

Some of you parents struggle to enforce and require obedience. You are harming your child’s soul. How? Because you are teaching them that God’s Word is not important. Sometimes parents are afraid to uphold standards. What feels good in the short-run in a destructive decision long-term. Do you know better than God?

True obedience will not just take place in secret, but it will take place from the heart. You won’t always love to obey, but you will find a desire to obey. This is a mark of real obedience. On the other hand, you can be doing things on the outside that look right and sound right, but if your heart is not following your actions then you are not obeying. In fact, God hates hypocrisy.

 God’s people in the Old Testament were the Israelites and they got in trouble because they didn’t like obeying God in their hearts, but they wanted to look like they were obeying God on the outside.

What do you do when your mom and dad aren’t watching? A good indicator as to whether your obedience is real obedience or just an act to look right in front of others.

You can be classified as obedient or disobedient. In fact, when Paul writes about how to know if a man is fit for ministry one of the qualification is whether his children are obedient or not. 

So, what the Bible is clearly talking about is that if someone were to watch and observe your life they would conclude that you are, generally speaking an obedient child. It isn’t that you obey 100% of the time or with a perfect attitude, but it is clear that you believe that this is what God has called you to do, and you are trying by His power to do it. 

Disobedient children or rebellious children are those children who are self-willed. That means they view mom and dad as blocking me from living my life the way I want to live it. When things don’t go your way you get disrespectful or angry, or you become deceitful to carry out your desires even though you have been told to do something else.

Disobedience is a big deal to God. When you can look out and see widespread disobedience of parents by their kids, it is a sign that there is great evil in society, and that God has given people over in their sin:

2 Timothy 3:2-5—For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

People that say lots of things about God, but their inner life shows they don’t know the power of God that changes them. In all of their evil, disobedience is a key marker that identifies them. 

Turn with me to another passage that bears this out…

Romans 1:28–32—28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

In Romans 1 Paul is talking about the signs and indicators of a group of people rejecting God so badly that He rejects them and he leaves them in their sin. He takes away light and takes away truth and gives them a depraved mind. You know what depraved means? Worthless. He gives them a base mind that can’t reason or think clearly any longer.

v. 31—without understanding.

And right there in the middle of it all is disobedience. As I was reading this week I encountered articles in popular secular publications that were urging us to rethink disobedience. That actually disobedience is a good thing and we are looking at it all wrong, rebellious children are a sign that you are on the right track as a parent.

Beyond that were so-called experts speaking of the importance of positive affirmation of children and making sure that they didn’t feel as though there was anything morally wrong with them.

Of course, we want to encourage our kids and be positive. But disobedience is a very important issue to God, and it needs to be to us as well. In fact, it would be unloving as a parent to not tell your child the truth about what god says about disobedient children:

Proverbs 30:17—The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.

Eye rolling? It’s not funny. It’s not cute. God hates it. When you use the eyes God gave you in that manner, you might as well lose them. We’ll wonder why after church today some of you kids will go outside covering your eyes, because you give disrespectful looks to your parents.

Growing up I would hear from time to time the warning in Deuteronomy 21:

Deuteronomy 21:18–21—18 “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. 20 “They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.

An evil person among God’s people was a bad influence and God wanted a holy people so the instructions were to put to death people who wouldn’t repent of their sinfulness. How were these people described? Here it is a rebellious son.

In fact, in the Old Testament, the death penalty was enacted for hitting or cursing your parents:

Exodus 21:15, 16—15 “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death… 17 “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:9 says the same thing).

Part of this is the parent’s responsibility of course.

Proverbs 22:6— Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Actually, much more of a warning than a promise. Literally: leave a child according to his own way, and even when he is old he will not depart from it. What’s the mean? You let a child get whatever they want when they want it, and you will find an adult who is stubborn and un-submissive and lacking in self-control. God’s grace of course can prevail and change anyway, but this is a truism. 

Children, God calls you to obey mom and dad in everything. And you aren’t going to be able to do that for even a week. Probably even the rest of the day today, or maybe for some of you before you even leave church today.

But God in the Bible talks about obedient children and disobedient children. And when he does that he is talking not about 100% obedience or 100% disobedience. But he is describing children who love and submit to mom and dad, even as they struggle, and those who rebel against mom and dad and hate their authority. 

It’s a right question to ask: are you an obedient or a disobedient child? Do you love and respect your parents as you seek to come under their authority?

Children, you will never obey perfectly and so your hope and your trust in all of your obedience is that Jesus Christ obeyed perfectly. See God commands obedience, he requires obedience, and he even promises to bless your obedience. 

But obedience isn’t what determines how much God loves you. The love of God is found in Christ Jesus. And Jesus knows what it is like to obey parents, even parents who are sinners. Jesus had to grow and learn. He had to practice obedience.

Hebrews 5:8–9—8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation…

Jesus never disobeyed one time. When he became an adult and was ready to start preaching and teaching and healing people he was baptized in the Jordan River by John. And remember what happened there?

Matthew 3:17—and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

When you find yourself struggling in obedience, then let it remind you of Jesus. It’s reminds you that if He didn’t come to save sinners you could never make God happy with you. Your obedience then is out of a love and fear of the Jesus, not fear that you will get in big trouble from him if you don’t.

Lastly, Jesus keeps the bar pretty high. Sometimes we think, “oh it’s just a kid…”

Don’t put off spiritual things until you are older. Jesus had to learn and grow. He applied himself with all diligence to understanding the Scriptures.

Children can never learn to obey if their parents don’t teach them. Disobedient children are a concern to God as we have seen. But how did they get that way? Well from early years they were not taught to obey.

Parents and children must have a Godward view of obedience. Christ in the common. For parents your parenting is about Christ and his glory, not your own comfort, for children, your obedience is about Christ and his glory, not your own desires.

Look at how Paul makes this connection for us:

  1. Your specific responsibility: obey in everything (listen + do)

  2. Your special motivation: God’s glory (worship + favor)

for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

Here is the focus of obedience. Children and parents both need to hear this. When kids obey their parents, God’s is pleased with this. 

This is a tricky phrase so let’s pause for a minute where it says to the Lord. Critical that we understand this point rightly. Let’s examine the phrase, look at what it could mean and then what seems to be the best way to understand it.

First of all, the words to the Lord translate ἐν κυρίῳ… en=in; kurios=lord or master. It is footnotes in the New American Standard that the phrase is in the Lord. It is the exact same words translated in v. 18 in the Lord.

We know that the word Lord = Master (or Owner). Here it is speaking of Jesus. Just a couple of verses down Paul will say, it is the Lord Christ whom you serve. So, we are talking about Jesus. Probably the best way to translate that phrase then is for this is well-pleasing or acceptable in Jesus. 

We have a few options here on what it means for obedience to be well-pleasing in Christ.

  • Option 1—in the Lord is qualifying the kind of obedience that pleases Jesus. In other words, a child’s obedience isn’t pleasing to God until they are saved. Their obedience only becomes pleasing once they themselves are in the Lord. Christian kids obeying are pleasing to God. Non-Christian kids obeying is not.

  • Option 2—to the Lord as it reads here in the NASB. This would simply mean that Paul believes that when kids obey their parents God is pleased with this. Of course, this is true. It’s God’s design.

The main challenge is that Paul could have used the preposition τῷ (to) instead of ἐν (in). We find this elsewhere in Paul’s writings: Romans 12:1—Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God. Same word for pleasing as here, but the preposition for to, not in. It is true, but probably not what Paul is emphasizing here.

  • Option 3—in the Lord is talking more generally (which include Option 1 and 2) but is speaking about the total Christian experience. In the Lord then refers to the Christian home and being part of the body of Christ. In that context where Christ is the authority, this is good and right and pleasing and acceptable.

Said another way: it’s good for kids in Christian homes to obey. It does of course please God because it is his design. If you are a child who is a Christian than it is pleasing worship. And no matter what it is fitting and appropriate for kids to obey in Christian homes.

So, what does that statement do for us and for the children? It reminds them of the connection between Jesus and their obedience.

Lord is a title. Like president or supervisor or manager. This title means master as in when a master would own another person called a slave.

Jesus is the Master. The one who owns you. Children, God made you. He designed you carefully. He designed your personality, and your characteristics. He put you in the family situation you are in. He brought about where you would live and the circumstances of life you would find yourself in. He is the Lord. And now the message He wants you to know is that He is telling you to live your life for Him. He is the one who owns you.

And it means that when you obey it does please Jesus.

You can’t get him to accept you into heaven because you obey. Only Jesus can do this. 

Children if you want to obey God and struggle to do it, then ask Jesus to incline your heart to his commandments. This is what the Psalmist begged God to do in Psalm 119. He knew that he was to believe God, but he needed to trust God to give him the power to do it.

But God is happy when families live in the way he wisely instructs them to live. Like a beautifully colored picture that stays within the lines, a family, which sticks to God’s plan is what He wants.

Parents this also has implications for you. Your children’s obedience isn’t merely about having your home run smoothly (although that will happen) and it isn’t about you getting more peace and quiet or comfort in life by not facing challenges head-on. 

For parents to help their children obey in the Lord means they are teaching submission not merely to parental authority, but submission to God’s authority. 

You are like the practice track. Your job is to instill an understanding in your child’s heart that they live under the authority of God’s universe… that there are consequences for obedience and disobedience… that their hearts want to rebel… but that there rich blessings in submitting to God’s rule and authority. 

Parents stand in the gap, so to speak, between children and God while the children are too young to have a full and mature relationship with Him themselves. Parents are God’s stewards, His proxy authority, for their children, who are simply loaned to them in trust by their own heavenly Father.

You’re just the practice track. Your goal is to be putting them before God and handing them from your authority to his. 

Some of you parents struggle being domineering. You require obedience in a way that is threatening or manipulative. You get angry. You want your children to obey because it drives you nuts or embarrasses you when they don’t listen to you? You aren’t teaching them how to obey the Lord. 

Well, more to parents next week, Lord willing.

Such a challenging instruction for children, and in God’s love and protection and wise design for the family, he instructs fathers. What’s the instruction of Jesus to you parents?

(21) Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

2 Instructions to Kids & Parents for Relating in Christ

1. An Instruction to Children (20)

2. An Instruction to Parents (21)

  1. Your potential hazard: creating frustration

  2. Your possible harm: causing discouragement

God has such a wise plan for the family. It is incredible to see the way he designed there to be mutual benefit and harmony as each part functions in its proper place. We saw how the wife honors Christ in her biblical and joyful submission to her husband’s leadership, which is to be loving and sacrificial acting in her best interest.

Now today for children to be obedient in all things, and then next week the caution to parents about how to understand what authority means and how to use it in a manner that blesses their children and doesn’t make obedience even more difficult. 

Kids already have enough challenges in their flesh. God wants parents to be careful not to make things more difficult than they need to be. We will look at some of the specific ways even as Christian parents that we are prone to frustrate our children. I know that you all want to help your children grow in the faith, not hinder them so it is an important teaching for us.

Let’s ask God to help us believe these things.