We are working our way through a verse-by-verse study of Colossians 3 and we have now moved into the section of the chapter dealing with Christian households. Our last two studies have looked at instructions for wives and husbands, and now we look instructions for children:
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. – Colossians 3:20 (ESV)
It’s a pretty simple message, right?
a) “obey your parents”
b) “in everything”
c) “this pleases the Lord”
As parents, this verse makes all the sense in the world and it’s one that we’d love for our children to “get.” But let’s be honest, the first thought that pops into our heads is of the benefits we would receive from this as parents. A child that obeys me in everything and is doing this to please the Lord? Yeah, baby. Bring it own.
There are actually some really practical benefits to our children obeying us. This practice teaches our children to behave civilly and to properly respect authority figures. And these practices lead to a more respectable society. Though in America we supposedly value our freedom, it’s not a bad thing to learn to obey authority (if that authority also behaves properly).
But there is another important benefit of teaching our children to obey us. This practice models a relationship with our heavenly Father and teaches our children to obey Him. Yes, in the end, obeying parents teaches a child to be obedient to God.
Unfortunately, however, if we parent badly, this can project an inaccurate picture of God to our children. Being domineering, mean or abusive can teach our children, incorrectly, that this is also how God is. And that can, in turn, doubly wreck a young person’s life.
Though many, many terrible sins against children have been committed and covered over by the command that “you have to obey your parents because this is what God said,” this command doesn’t allow parents to do anything to their children and, there are some situations where children should not obey their parents. As with anything, if a command someone gives is contrary to a command that God gives, God should always be obeyed first. And as a general rule for parents, if what our child is doing pleases the Lord, it should be enough to please us.
For children, obeying parents is a means to please God. As the verse says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Ultimately, as children, this is our motivation for obedience. We may not like what our parents are telling us to do, or our parents may not be people that seek to honor God, but our behavior, as we obey our parents, pleases God.