Paul writes to the church at Ephesus about some important aspects in regard to children in the home. Let us examine Ephesians 6:1-3 and determine what God is looking for in the child in the 21st century home. The text reads thus: "Children, obey your parent in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." The first thing that is noticeable is the fact that the Lord regards children as a blessing for having included them in His inspired word. When you view Psalm 127:3-5, the Psalmist records, "Behold, children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate." The wise man says in Proverbs 17:6: "Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers."
Sadly, however, children have not always been treated as the Maker desired. Children have, through the ages, been treated in a rather despicable manner. Children have been sacrificed like a common animal and have been made to "pass through the fire", according to II Kings 16:3. The nation of Israel who should have known better, yet were following the nations all round them, along with their despicable practices, did that which surely must have made God weep. A close look at II Samuel 12:14-19 and one can see that David's sins caused his children great grief. The punishments for David's sins were that his house and his children would bear the consequences that was surely due him (II Samuel 12:6). The consequences of David's actions saw his children suffer (II Samuel 12:14). Children of the 21st century are to be given every assistance possible to grow into adults that will not only be a blessing to their parents but also grow to the glory of Him from whom all life originates. To this end, fathers are to, in verse four of the text, nurture their children; that is, the whole gamut of training and education of children in regard to the principles contained within II Timothy 3:17. According to the notable Greek scholar, Thayer, we need to train by the word that admonishes. We need to train by appropriate correction using by what this society is rapidly deeming politically incorrect, that is to say, chastisement. Then and only then will children know that which is right. If we do that, then the child of the 21st century home will grow up in a balanced atmosphere, with God being the guide and director of his life, through the agency of the home that ideally should bring that child up with care according to those principles contained in God's Word.
The 21st century child is to obey because it is God's will. Paul says they are to obey; something that is continual in action because it is a command that by necessity requires obedience. It is not an obedience that is temporary until the child leaves home, never to obey again. No, that is not what Paul is getting at. Rather, obedience is a requisite for the rest of the child's life. Paul is saying if you bring up your child in the correct manner this becomes second nature for life-long values. You see, obedience to parents becomes a reliable guide to the child that they will trust to guide, guard and direct as the authority it is meant to be. Psalm 27:4: "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to be hold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple". Now the Psalmist records that, but how is the child to know how to do those things? Why, it is to be instilled in the child right from a very young age. Just like when the prophet Samuel was growing up under the wings of his mother, Hannah and then later on, he was given to Eli the High Priest who would, in turn, instruct Samuel whereby he "grew before the Lord" (I Samuel 2:18-21). It is interesting that the inspired writer of this account would immediately contrast Samuel with Eli's two "worthless" sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They were worthless because they had departed from the way of the Lord that is evident by their actions (I Samuel 2:22-29). The call is to instruct Samuel to dwell in the house of the Lord; an attribute the 21st century home is to instil in children that in turn requires a life long commitment. He was one to behold the Lord's beauty, for this kind of beauty is not found outside the Lord's house. Sure, there might be physical beauty in the world around but there is no beauty like that which is within the house of the Lord. He was one to meditate in God's temple. These things; that is, to dwell in His house, behold His beauty and to meditate in His temple, presently found in the church, is to pay the greatest complement to God, for He is surely due this respect.
So children, obey your parents in the Lord because this is God's will. It is the nursery; the training ground to foster a pleasing faith unto God. In the first instance, obedience to parents produces obedience to the Lord, a quality we find an elder must have in his home when we look at I Timothy 3:4-5. The elder is to be one that will manage his own household well because if he cannot manage his own household well, how can he manage the church. Secondly, within this framework of obedience we see an obligation to the Lord, for He is there to save you. Children need to be taught that not only is the Lord there to guide but the Lord is there to save. Psalm 78:1-8 points this out in an abundant fashion:
Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He has established testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they shall put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
It is noticeable that obedience to the Lord is necessary because He is there to save one from the world which is controlled by the Devil - the liar of all ages. We need to show the child of the 21st century home what God expects, which is worship.
Worship - what is worship? We need to explain that worship is an expression of the heart according to Ephesians 5:19. We sing praises to the Lord when we utter soothing sounds from our mouths because that is what the Lord wants man to do. We need to teach children the outcome of worship which is an outward display of thankfulness in the heart. Colossians 3:16 explains the need to be thankful and have thankfulness in the heart, to God. We need also to teach children what worship involves. In Acts 20:7 worship involves two things: that is, preaching/teaching and the breaking of bread on the first day of the week. Implied in that verse is that which is noted in I Corinthians 14:15 where the church is engaged in prayer and singing to the Lord. The implication also extends to that which is taught in I Corinthians 16:1-2 of contributing to the church treasury. The child of the 21st century home needs to be taught that this important aspect of Christianity is obedience to the Lord, for in Colossians 3:17 Paul writes, "whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord." We do so by His authority. Sound advice that will ensure a sound footing in the Lord's Kingdom.
But not only must the 21st century child obey but also to honour because it is God's will. Honour father and mother. Honour in this context is also an imperative, continuous state of action. Honour the father because he is there to lead the child. The child must be one who is prepared to accept the leadership of his or her father. God designed men as analytical creatures. The brain of a man is not cold, not hard, but certainly one to figure things out in a logical fashion. That is to say, he is different from a woman. Men are good at analytical thinking; that is, seeing exactly what is required and doing it. This is why God gave the man of the home authority to lead. We need to teach our children to submit to and honour their fathers. If we go to I Peter 2:13-20, we can see what it means to submit to the father:
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who did right. For such is the will of God that by doing right that you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as freemen, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. Honour all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this find favour, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favour with God.
Here is submission to authority; that is, those who command you in civil matters and to those who command you in regard to work ethics which should be taught to the child of the 21st century home so that submission to the appropriate authorities will be second nature. Fathers must also teach them to submit themselves to judicial and educational requirements according to I Peter 2:14 which states: "to the governors as sent by him for the punishment of the evildoers and the praise of those who do right." Teach them to submit themselves to all men, the Church and the government in verse seventeen and to submit themselves to employers, verse eighteen. Teach that to honour fathers is required because they are responsible for teaching the child life skills for life in the world. Children in the 21st century home are to submit to the captain of the house. Being an ex-naval man, I like to use naval terms in regard to authority or, for that matter, any military terms; just like Paul used military terms. When you view the chain of command on a ship, you see there is a captain. Then next in command is the first officer or executive officer, if you like. The captain is responsible for overall command of the ship and the buck stops with him. President Harry Truman of the United States of America, had that slogan on his desk. It read: "THE BUCK STOPS HERE". He was the captain, the head, the authority in the United States at that time and he recognised that everything stopped at him. He could not pass the problem on any further. The captain of the house; that is to say, the father, is responsible and nothing goes past him. Therefore he is due honour by the child because he is ultimately responsible for the child's welfare in the sight of God. The buck stops with him because that is what God requires!
The next in command, still using the naval analogy, we see an executive officer who is the mother of the home. The child of the 21st century home is to honour his or her mother. She is there to guide the child, for God has designed women as compassionate, soft creatures that are unlike men in many ways. Women's minds are made up in a different fashion; a fact I am always being reminded of that at home, for I am just a little to hard and fast; not being able to see things in a lateral direction. I speak for myself along with anecdotal evidence, that man sees with a somewhat tunnel vision. That's men! Women, on the other hand, tend to be more lateral thinkers. They are more adept at doing multiple tasks; an ability I must say they are welcome to in their allotted task of guiding the child of the 21st century home.
In I Timothy 5:4, Paul says, "if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family, and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God." Children need to be taught that they are to make some return as a recompense for that which has been given unto them in regard to their upbringing. It could be said, "earn your keep, take care of your mum and do not cast her out to fend for herself". And how might they best learn this? Grow up in the right way according to the word of God. Honour your mother and honour her in the way that God desires by growing up in the right manner in the home. You see, this is acceptable in the sight of God.
It could all be summed up in Ecclesiastes 12:13 where the wise man, said to be Solomon, wrote, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandment, this applies to every person." So this is the purpose of life. To fear (literally: a negative motivator), to tremble, in the sight of God. It is a healthy dread of God's majesty that is in view here and certainly when we honour and bring our children up to honour mother and father, we help them to have a healthy respect for the family authority and the Lord who designed it. This includes a reciprocal welfare system for mum and dad when they are incapable of looking after themselves. A "pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress [emphasis mine GJW]..." (James 1:27). Now it is no accident that God requires these important people skills to be learnt at home under the executive officer of the house. Note II Timothy 3:15: "And that from childhood you have known the sacred writing that are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Under whose guidance did Timothy know these writings? It was under the guidance of Lois and Eunice, Timothy's grandmother and mother, respectively (II Tim.1:5). Timothy, a young preacher, was one who honoured his mother and grandmother by doing that which was right according to the principles found within the pages of the Holy Writ. Certainly praise is heaped upon this young preacher by Paul, who lavished such because he was a man that exhibited that which was right.
The child in the 21st century home is not only to obey and to honour out of respect, but because it is God's will. Now, this will serve the child well for a very long time and when you think about this, it is logical. For to do that which is right in God's will, such as honouring mother and father by practicing good, sound and safe morals, the child is going to live a healthy and safe life and the chances are it will be for a long time. Now that is not to say it is a guarantee, for there have been many people who have lived good, moral, upright and sound lives, then events beyond their control have transpired to cut the life short. No, what is more probable is that he or she who follows the right pattern will have a far greater chance of succeeding at longevity than the one who follows the wrong pattern.
The 21st century child will live long to further their reward. In Proverbs 22:6, a very well known bible verse says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." Once again not a guarantee but certainly a promise, that if the rules are followed, then indeed they will have a good chance of not departing from it. It means the child is to be trained and educated; to have it explained and made known that the Lord's will is that which should be trusted and used to live life. Certainly the way is a specific line of reasoning, a specific way; that is, the way of the Lord that when followed as walking "in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another" (I John 1:7). We need to teach the children and train them; educate them in the specific way which is the way of the Lord. Jesus said in John 14:6: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one come to the Father, but through me". He is the way and He is the light. When you train up a child in that way, even when he is old, he will not depart except perhaps those who get into the wrong camp or crowd. Those who then turn and have their conscience seared if they stay with them long enough to move away from the truth (I Timothy 4:2). The reward of being trained in the right way is so that one will not depart from it which, in turn, can only be achieved by righteous living. In Revelation, the apostle John described his vision of that which was to come, but not only that; how to live a faithful life that can be gleaned from chapter 2:10: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life". The child of the 21st century home needs to realise that to live longer is to further their reward.
There is a song put out in 1974 by a group called Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, titled: "Teach Your Children". Not knowing the religious background of these individuals; nonetheless, the emphasis, as you go through the verses of that song, concentrates on a logical sequence of events in a child's life that will serve him or her well, for life. When we teach our children well according to the Scriptures, they will live long productive lives by honouring their mothers and fathers that leads to honouring and obeying the will of God. Noah was one to teach his children well. It seems obvious that before the day of the deluge that Noah's three sons were well educated in God's morals in contrast to that which was being exhibited in the world outside, because they were saved. Abraham instilled good morals in Isaac and his descendants that led to faithful men and women that would start the corporate body of God. Another example can be see with Joshua. In Joshua 24:14-15 the mighty man of valour is exhorting the nation of Israel as his life draws to a close. He exhorts them to have a life of servitude to God and to remain faithful in the truth of God's word, then exhorts the nation to follow his and his family's example. For in Joshua 24:15 he has some poignant words that we need to reflect on today. He says "And if it is disagreeable in you sight to serve the Lord choose for yourselves today who you will serve: whether the gods which your father served which are beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living". Now note this: Joshua says, "but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Yes, as far as Joshua was concerned, he and Mrs Joshua and all the little Joshuas would indeed serve the Lord. And why was it the case that Joshua could have confidence in Mrs Joshua and all the little Joshua's? Simply this - he had taught his children well. Being well and truly cognisant with Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which says:
Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
You see, Joshua was one who would teach his children not only formally, but informally. He had great confidence in his children, that they would be ones to fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth. Now, compare the previous examples given, with these two - Cain and Absalom. Cain tossed aside the good teaching his brother Abel who, in turn, received it from his dad, Adam. For Abel was the one who offered up the sacrifices that were well pleasing unto the Lord (Hebrews 11:4). It seemed, on the other hand, that Cain thumbed his nose at that teaching. As a result, Cain's temperament got the better of him. He committed a great sin by murdering the righteous one and paid the penalty for it. He did not live a life that was pleasing from there on. And as for Absalom, one of the sons of David; a son that would be bearing the consequences of David's sin in regard to his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Absalom was one who stole the hearts of the men at the gates to Jerusalem (II Samuel 15:6). Absalom was rebellious and it appears if he was taught well, he certainly departed from it. You see, the formula is simple; teach it right and pass it on.
The child of the 21st century home is therefore to be one who will live and receive the reward if they do that which the Lord requires in being obedient to the will of the Lord by honouring mother and father (John 12:48; Revelation 20:12). The child will receive the reward and the parents, in return, will receive their reward as justice for doing that which is right. Charity begins at home; that is, aspects of kindness judgement, liberality, and trust which should be set in the 21st century child. Models that are set out in the Old Testament show honour to their parents. In fact it was a requirement of the Ten Commandments to honour your mother and father. In Deuteronomy 27:16: "Cursed is he who dishonours his father or mother", for "his lamp will go out in time of darkness" (Proverbs 20:20). Let not the 21st century child be so marked like Cain and Absalom. Society is reaping what it has sown as it breaks down the will that God has given through His inspired word. Why? Because they have not taught their children well because the recipe for successful rearing of children has not been followed.
The 21st century home needs to be marked by these three requirements:
obedient children, honouring children and children who are going to live a life
that is long, only as they obey the will of the Lord.