Wives, husbands, and now, children, parents, slaves and masters. Paul is leaving the Ephesian church without excuse about Christ’s call on their relationships. In Ephesians 6:1-9, his focus is on honor, respect, and obedience. He begins with children.
Children, obey your parents; honor your mother and father. This command was one of God’s ten most important laws ever given. It even comes with a promise of wellness. What it does not come with is conditions. It does not say, “Obey your parents when you agree with them” or “Honor your father and mother when they have been honorable to you.” It says nothing about obeying when we feel like it, when we’re not busy, or after we have finished whatever it is we were doing before they instructed us. The most difficult times to obey and honor our parents is when we think we know better than they. Unfortunately, we often think so from birth. Ere goes the curse. God’s Word offers no concessions in this command by way of age, intellect, busyness, or stress. He does graciously offer a promise of well-being if we obey Him in this.
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, no matter how old we are, God commands obedience and respect towards our parents. Children who do not obey and honor their earthly parents are often hard-pressed to be found honoring and obeying God. It is a prerequisite to learning obedience and respect towards him. Why?
Because God said so. In turn, he will take care of their tendency to be harsh, impatient, and unkind with us. God’s command to fathers is just as clear as his command to children.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Paul wouldn’t have to say this if it were not a man’s tendency to err in this way. Children expose our immaturity in the areas of patience, self-control, selfishness, love, kindness, gentleness, peace, etc. God is also interested in mothers’ action towards their children, but it is understood here that their role is to follow the lead of their husbands in all things. God laid the primary responsibility of patience, correction, and Godly instruction of children on the shoulders of fathers. Because dad is the leader, the buck stops with him. His wife and his children alike will often behave as he has led and shown them to do. Therefore, God warns fathers not to discourage, frustrate, or otherwise purposefully anger their children. Kindness counts, dads. Teach your children well. Fathers who do not obey God often raise children who do not obey God.
Finally, slaves. In our culture, employees. Do your work honestly, with subordinance, and genuinely. Recognize that you are working for God, and God will repay you for your excellence. Likewise, masters, or employers; bosses. Do not rule with a heavy hand or abuse your authority. Remember that you, too, have a master and he will not favor you for any earthly reason on the day of judgement.
And this is often my daily prayer:
God, help me to be a better child. I know I do not honor you when I fail to honor my parents. Help me to be a better parent. I know my children will not grow up and obey you if I do not deal kindly, patiently, lovingly, and gently with them now. God forbid they turn away from you because of my disobedience! Help me to be a better worker in all that which I have been given to do. I fall so short so often wasting time and sloughing off into an attitude of selfish laziness. Help me be a better manager over that which I’ve been given charge. Redeem my relationships at home, at work, and in the church. Forgive me; forgive me; forgive me; forgive me. God, give me grace where I have so often erred in these most important matters. Amen.