A. W. Pink
1. The Duty Itself: “Obey Your Parents.” This means a humble subjection to their authority and control, with a ready performance of what they require. It is the same as giving “honor” to your parents (Exod. 20:12), which connotes valuing highly and revering one’s parents (Lev. 19:3, 14). The disposition of a godly child is a combination of love and fear which moves him to obedience. We may further describe four elements. The first three are active obedience, while the fourth is passive obedience.
A. Reverence. Begins with reverence for God, the Parent of us all (Acts 17:28). True reverence results in an earnest desire to behave yourselves in everything you do with a view toward pleasing your parents.
1) With respect to your speech. You should speak reverently of your parents both in their presence and absence. Give them honorable titles like “father” and “mother” and “lord” because these recognize the dignity of their office. Good examples include Isaac (Gen. 22:7), Jacob (Gen. 27:18), David (1 Sam. 24:8; 26:18), Solomon (1 Kings 2:30), Rachel (Gen. 31:35). You should speak when spoken to, wait to hear your parents speak first, and never to speak in their presence without a good reason for it. When they are not around, speak of them in such a way that all who hear conclude that you regard them highly.
2) With respect to your behavior. Rise for your parents, as for the elderly (Lev. 19:32). Although king, Solomon bowed to Bathsheba; and although a prince, Joseph to Jacob (1 Kings. 2:19; Gen. 46:29). Seek your parents’ prayers for blessing. Avoid rude and haughty looks. The eye that mocks his father and scorns obedience to his mother shall be picked out by ravens and young eagles (Prov. 30:17). Even when parents are deceased you should give them honor.
B. Obedience proper. Not only reverent speech and conduct before parents is required, but a heartfelt submission to their authority and hearty compliance with all their commands. Even Jesus submitted Himself to His mother and step-father (Luke 2:51). He who was their Creator, and to whom angels were subject, was subject to Mary and Joseph!
1) Pay close attention to their teaching. Love for your parent’s joy should move you to listen carefully to all they teach, whether spiritual or otherwise. This applies equally to both sons and daughters. A foolish child is a grief to his parents.
2) Perform their commands. Don’t talk back! This immediate and silent obedience is the main duty of the text. You should obey as the centurion’s men (Matt. 8:9). Examples include Samuel (1 Sam. 3:5-8), David (1 Sam. 16:12; 17:17, 20), Jacob and Joseph (Gen. 28:5; 37:14; 42:2-3), Isaac (Gen. 22:6); the Rechabites (Jer. 35:8-19), Abraham’s children (Gen. 18:19), and Solomon (1 Kings 2:3; 3:3; 1 Chron. 22:11). Yet this is not to be a blind obedience (Prov. 14:15), especially as you grow up to exercise some moral discernment of your own. Then your obedience should be reasonable, such as is according to God’s Word. That is, you should comply in everything that does not involve sin.
3) Depend upon their advice. Parents naturally have more experience, ability, and a right to rule their children than the children themselves. The prodigal son would not listen to his father’s advice until he had learned by experience of the bad consequences of his foolish choice and had grieved his father. Therefore, as a child you cannot spend money without your parents’ consent, you cannot choose friends disagreeable to your parents, and you must be content to dress the way your parents want.
a. In your choice of a career. Your parents should guide you in this, as the examples of David and the children of Jonadab prove (1 Sam. 16:11, 19; 17:17; Jer. 35). Generally this means following in your parents’ footsteps.
b. In your choice of a spouse. Parents should “sway much” in this matter. Examples include Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 24:6-7, 63-67; 28:1-3; 29:11, 18-19), Ruth (Ruth 2:21-23; 3:1-6, 18), Ishmael and Samson (Gen. 21:21; Judg. 14:2), Tamar and Shechem (2 Sam. 13:13; Gen. 34:11-12). Parents are wiser than you, more objective than you, and should not have their children taken away without their consent. This would be a kind of stealing. To take a wife against her father’s will is a disparagement of him. This is the most important decision you will make in your life; how can you leave your parents out of it? In the case of their choosing someone for whom you have no feelings, be sure that your lack of feelings are not without reason. If after much prayer you still find yourself unwilling to marry their choice for you, then try to persuade your parents in a reverent way to seek someone else for you to marry. Surely you cannot be expected to marry someone whom you do not love. In the case of parents choosing an ungodly partner for you, you must humbly refuse. The best counselors agree that though you do not have the right to choose a partner for yourself without your parents’ consent, you do have the right to refuse one chosen for you.
4) Follow their good example. Imitate whatever is good in them. This is why the wise man charged his son to observe his ways (Prov. 23:26). Follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Do not follow them in their errors as an excuse for your sin. Mere tradition received from parents is no reason to sin against God (Ezek. 20:18-20). Solomon, Asa, and Timothy are your examples here (1 Kings 3:3; 2 Kings 22:2; 1 Kings 15:11; 2 Tim. 1:5). In other words, try to be like your dad. This is the way you pay greatest honor to him.
C. Heartfelt gratitude and endeavor to repay them. You owe much to your parents.
1) Respecting their benevolence. Show a gratefulness for their kindness and supply of your needs. Be eager to repay their provision in any way that you can. The smallest thing you can do is to acknowledge their parental love and care. Without this you are not truly spiritual but wicked. Piety must begin at home by showing your appreciation for your parents. Treasure their wise sayings, rehearse before others what they have done well, and choose their religion, if it be right. Preserve their good name.
2) Respecting their poverty. Cover or bear with their faults, do what you can to supply their needs, and defend their reputation. Noah and Lot, Isaac and Jacob had their faults as parents, and their children covered them (Gen. 9:21-23; 27:12; 28:5; 37:10). So did Jonathan, Jesus, Jacob, Ruth, Joseph have parents with faults and needs, and they moved to their aid. Philo says that old storks who cannot fly any longer are brought food by their brood, and we should imitate their example. Especially should you be concerned about your parents’ spiritual needs, so that if they are not Christians, with all humility and prudence you should use fit means to lead them to Christ. The best you can do for your parents will not be sufficient to repay them for their love. When your parents die, see that they have an honorable burial in a decent Christian manner.
D. Submission to parental discipline. As a child, you must bear your parents’ rebukes with humility. Because you were born sinful, you need them.
1) Their admonitions. Nothing should shame you more than your father’s reprimand, and you should amend in response to it. Even when they rebuke you wrongly in matter and manner, you should bear with it, as Joseph did (Gen. 37:10). Moses heeded his father-in-law’s advice (Exod. 18:13-24), but Eli’s sons slighted his (1 Sam. 2:25). Only fools will not hear rebuke (Prov. 13:1; 2:23, 34-35; 15:5). Be patient with parental restrictions on your food, drink, clothing, and recreation. Learn self-denial and patience. Isn’t it inappropriate to rage against those who love you best?
2) Their corrections. I mean real punishments inflicted upon you. Realize they do this out of love and aim for your good. There is biblical warrant for corporal discipline (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 19:17; Heb. 12:9), and if you will not be reformed by it, your parents have a right to call in the magistrate (Deut. 21:18-21). When you are corrected, you should be too ashamed even to look into your parent’s face. Though you need not tolerate others to spank you, your parents have this right for the purpose of delivering your soul from hell. Pray that God will bless this means of grace to your good. Do not become bitter toward your parents for disciplining you. Your parents have a responsibility with God’s authority to maintain His government in your life.
2. The Extent of This Duty: “In All Things.” This must not be understood as universal and absolute obedience to parents, for that is our duty to God alone. God is the only One free to give whatever laws He pleases which all are absolutely bound to obey. You are to obey your parents in all things acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 6:1, 5-6; Col. 3:22-23). If parents were not sinful, absolute obedience could be rendered them, but they are fallen and fallible. This text proves that the only obedience to be rendered parents is that which is consistent with the Lord’s pleasure, and He cannot be pleased when you choose to obey them rather than Him. Yet even in wrong things they command you to do, you may show your submission by suffering the penalty with cheerfulness (1 Pet. 2:19-20). In all legitimate things, you must honor your parents as much as you can.
3. The Motive to This Duty: “For This Is Well Pleasing to the Lord.” This is the best motive possible for anything. The Lord vigorously enforces the fifth commandment here and elsewhere (Eph. 6:1-3). Our heavenly Father has supreme authority. Anything He requires is eminently reasonable and good. Those who seek His pleasure above all things are not only pleasing, but well pleasing, to Him. In pleasing the Lord you will ultimately please your parents and yourself besides. This is the way to your true happiness. In keeping God’s commandments there is exceedingly great reward (Psa. 19:11; Gen. 15:1). All parents due to their high and holy office deserve the obedience of their children. Disobedient children are unworthy of being considered Christians, and are worse than ordinary unbelievers and brute beasts. Obedience to parents is not an arbitrary thing, but a solemn divine commandment with the greatest of rewards and punishments attached. As children of Christian parents, having high privileges, you have greater responsibilities to fulfill your duty. Lack of natural affection of your parents is so monstrous that it is severely punished by God (1 Sam. 4:11; Deut. 21:20-21). The old Romans would put those who murdered their parents into a large ox-hide bag together with a live dog, a rooster, a poisonous snake, and an ape. Then they would beat them bloody, throw them into the Tiber River. That shows how abominable parricide was even to the heathen.