What About Children?
Colossians 3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
Paul has addressed the wives and husbands and now moves on to the parent child relationship. Paul tells the children to obey their parents:
Colossians 3:20 (NASB) Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
This verse is addressed to children. Now the question we must ask and answer is, “Who is considered a child? There are no indications here as to the age of the children. We would tend to think that this commandment is given to young children regarding their obligation to their parents, but this is not so. The Greek word used for “children” in Colossians 3:20 is not from teknia (little children), but from teknon, which means: “offspring.” So all of us here today, unless you came from a test tube, are considered to be the teknon of our parents. But when a a child gets married and leaves their parents to establish a new home, then that person is no longer under obligation to obey. But they are still under obligation to respect their parents. This verse would also apply to adopted children, and those in our legal custody. We become God’s appointed authority in the life of that child.
In the ancient Roman world, children were very much under the domination of their parents. In Rome, a parent could do anything he wanted with his child. He could sell him into slavery; he could make him work like a laborer on his farm; and he had the right to condemn his child to death and to carry out the execution. All the privileges and rights belonged to the parent and all the duties belonged to the child. Although our society has greatly changed from that of the first century, God’s Word has not changed, and children are still to obey their parents, in order to please the Lord.
So what is obedience?
Is obedience something we would only expect from a servant? The idea of having obedient children seems foreign in today’s society. We are told not to discipline children and just let them be themselves. Of course when that happens, the sin nature is easily seen in a child’s natural self-centeredness. Jesus told us that love for Him could only be demonstrated through obedience:
1 John 5:3 (NASB) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Love and obedience belong together in relationship to the Lord, and the same is true in relationship to parents. If a child loves his parents, he will obey them.
“Be obedient” is from the Greek word hupakouo, which is a compound word that literally means: “to hear under.” It means to listen closely, to heed or conform to a command or to authority. The implication is that a child’s obedience is to be much more than just rigidly trying to follow the rules of his home. Instead, it means that he is to first listen to his parent’s instructions. Hear what they are saying and even think through why they are saying it. At times a parent’s instruction may be hard to understand. Children are expected to obey their parents, but it is also helpful for parents to explain their demands for which a child may not understand the reason. They don’t need to agree with your reasoning but it is still helpful to explain to them.
When Paul spoke of the wife’s submission to her husband, the Greek word tells us it was a voluntary submission. But in this verse about children’s obedience, the word conveys the idea of: “a readiness to hear and obey orders.” It is also a present tense verb that means children are to do this consistently. Obedience is to be the pattern of life for them.
There was a story about the mom & dad with a son who was a freshman in college. He wasted his freshman year. He wasn’t very responsible, didn’t make good grades, squandered his money, and finally came back home. His parents told him, “If you go back to school, you’ll have to pay your own way.”
So he had to work that summer and not go on the family vacation. That was part of his punishment. The family went to Greece that year and the mom sent him a postcard, “Dear Son,” she wrote, “Today we stood on the mountains where ancient Spartan women sacrificed their defective children. Wish you were here.”
In our society we kill children by abortion if we don’t want them, but we don’t kill them for disobeying. But we do need to understand how serious God views disobedience.
When God says something and we then stubbornly choose to go our own way, we are idolaters. We hold the thoughts and desires of our own mind above God’s direction and become guilty of idolatry. And to make things even worse, the idol is our own self.
The obedience called for in our text is “to your parents.” Under the Old Covenant, disobedience to parents was so serious, that God said this in Deut. 21:18-21:
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NASB) “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 home town. 20 “And 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 shall hear of it and fear.
Aren’t you glad we are no longer under that covenant? It does show us though, how strongly God views children disobeying their parents. Notice what Solomon says:
Proverbs 30:17 (NASB) 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.
He is saying that it’s really important for children to obey parents.
And why is that? Why is obedience so important? First, God has said to do it. It is impossible to please God as a child without obeying the parents.
Second, in the providence of God, He gave that child those parents. A child would not be in the world if it were not for God’s goodness in placing the child in that home. Every one of us here were at one point, a child. And God who created everything, has by his own choice given you life through your parents and left you to their charge.
Obedience to parents is also a sign of the rule of Christ in the life of that child. If one claims Christ is their Lord and Savior, then one cannot say Christ is Lord and live a life of continual disobedience to their parents. It is part of being a Christian to live in obedience to parents.
Also notice what Paul says about the scope of obedience. How extensive is this requirement? “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things…” the Greek implies that this means: “according to the standard of all things.” Obedience to the standards of the parent should be without exception. God expects total obedience.
If parents demand something of a child that is clearly against what God has spoken in his Word, only then does the child have the right to not obey them. They must follow what Peter and the apostles did when the Jewish authorities asked them to not speak anymore about Christ: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Peter later told Christians to submit to the governing authorities. But the exception comes only when the command of authority or of the parents directly violates our duty to God, as believers.
Although this is written specifically to children, parents have a responsibility to train their children to be obedient. Did your children come into the world ready to obey? No. They need to be taught obedience. Parents possess basic authority, not in themselves, but from God. With this authority comes the responsibility to train children to be obedient:
Proverbs 22:6 (NASB) Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Who is he talking to here? Parents! Parents, it is your job to train your children. You are to teach them the way to go. You’re not to let them go their way, you’re to train them.
Proverbs 22:15 (NASB) Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13-14 (NASB) Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, And deliver his soul from Sheol.
The idea here is not that your correction will bring them to salvation, only true faith can do that, but discipline can deliver them from physical death by preventing them from doing foolish things.
Proverbs 29:15 (NASB) The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 20:30 (NASB) Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.
Literally, this means: “blows of a bruise”; i.e., severe blows that bruise. Physical discipline may cure a child of doing evil. Lack of discipline only encourages more of the same.
One of the ways to destroy a culture is to take away the rights of parents to discipline their own children. Part of the reason our society is in the condition it is, is because discipline of a child has been relabeled as child abuse. If you remove God from our society by taking any mention or belief in God out of our educational system, and publicly humiliate any child that might mention God or bring a Bible to school, then you soon create a society that doesn’t respect or know God. They make up their own rules, because God does not exist. The religion of atheism is being taught in our colleges, so teachers bring it to the classrooms of our children.
The result of all this is that Christian parents now fear to Biblically discipline their children. And a child is trained in school to report their parents if they are physically disciplined. It is a sad state we are in with regard to raising children in this society. So we come up with other ways to discipline a child, but none are as effective as the board of education applied to the seat of learning.
And by the way, we need to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. If parents use physical force against a child because that child did something wrong, that is called punishment. But if parents inflict pain upon that child in order to cause that child to turn from doing evil, then that is discipline. Another way to look at it is that if what a parent does is because they love that child, then it is discipline.
It is the same with people in relationship to God. God will punish those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. It may happen in their lifetime, but it will certainly happen when they die. But for those who belong to Christ, God does not punish, He disciplines. And keep in mind that the goal of discipline is restoration. If we sin, God seeks to restore us to that proper relationship with Him through discipline. And when children disobey, the object is not to vent your frustration and anger upon your children, but to lovingly discipline them in order to restore that relationship and trust that was broken when the child sinned.
Sometimes we might also think “who am I to enforce discipline upon a child when I myself am guilty of many things. I’m not perfect by any means. We may feel like a hypocrite. But when parents fail to discipline, they fail to do what God has commanded, and they add to their failures.
At the Paul the end of the verse, Paul talks about the motivation for obedience: “for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” “Well-pleasing” means that it is favorable. God likes it. We all need to understand that obedience pleases God.
1 John 3:22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
God delights in our obedience, because everything God commands us is for our own good. And so what God is really delighting in when He delights in our obedience is our deep and lasting joy.
All of God’s commands are like therapy for the soul. They are not arbitrary. They are meant to make us well and happy. Every command of Jesus is meant for our good.
Obedience is commanded for our own good. God’s rules for our behavior are not things we must do to earn our salvation. They are there to protect us, to make our lives easier.
Remember God’s promise:
Ephesians 6:3 THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.