Honor your father and your mother, that your days me be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. Exodus 20.12
When you have a three-year-old living in your house, there are just certain Bible verses that get used more often than others. Exodus 20.12 is one of them. So is its equivalent in Ephesians 6.1: “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” It is amazing what a three-year-old can learn if mom and dad repeat it often enough!
And why are Exodus 20.12 and Ephesians 6.1 repeated like mantras in our home? Two reasons:
1. Because authority in the home is vitally important.
2. Because children (like adults) are so prone to sin.
Let’s think those two out together.
Is authority in the home really all that important? Anyone who ever had a three-year-old (or a sixteen-year-old) will say: ‘YES!’ But the question is why. Why do parents want their children to obey? And why is it important that children do so? So that everyone can get along in the home? Maybe. So that our children will not grow up to be hooligans? Partly so. So that, obeying mom and dad’s wisdom, kids will generally fare better in life? Yes. That is the promise in the latter half of Exodus 20.12.
But let me suggest that there is another, perhaps more important reason why parents must establish loving authority in the home…and children must submit to it. Because authority in the home prepares the way for children to learn the authority of God over their lives. Think it out. We can tell our children all day long that God deserves to be loved, honored, and obeyed. But if we do not teach them to obey, honor, and love mom and dad whom they can see, how will they see the importance of obedience and trust in a heavenly Father whom they cannot see?
In a very real sense (though not a saving one) we parents serve as representatives of God in our home. We are to model (albeit imperfectly) for our children the love, the trustworthiness, and the authority of our heavenly Father. And if we do not lead them to respect our authority, we have presented a tragically distorted view of God. A God who winks at sin, instead of a God who is so serious about sin that He punishes it by death—even the death of a cross!
Now, a second reason why the Fifth Commandment is so important is because our children are quite good at disobeying their parents…and all sorts of other sins, too! No one has to teach them to be stingy with their toys, to lie to their parents, or to hit their siblings. Children are sinners, just like the rest of us!
Unfortunately, too many parents fail to help their children see how bad things really are. They shrug off or laugh at rebellion. Sometimes they even call it ‘cute.’ So kids think it is normal to sass mom and dad, to delay obedience, to poke fun at their parents. Even church kids! They do not know that they are bringing judgment down on their heads by their complete disregard of God’s commandment. And do you know why? Because their parents do not have the guts to tell them what God says and expect them to do it! So they never see the depths of their sinfulness. Thus they never see how badly they need the Savior!
This—and not the church’s lack of ‘relevancy’—is the most obvious reason why 18 year-olds are leaving the faith of their parents in droves. They see no real need for Christ, because they never saw how bad their sins were, because their parents were too lenient!
O, how important the Fifth Commandment is for the salvation of souls! O how important that children, as well as parents, take it seriously!