Imagine, if you will, being at a little church called Ephesus. And a scroll has come, the apostle Paul has written it, and you’re told – you’re Timothy – and you’re going to read it and this is God’s Word to the Church.
And, by the way, when you would look around in this church, the kids wouldn’t be off somewhere else. This is actually directed right to the children so he expects the children that are old enough to understand – about third grade on up or so – to really hear. And just, if you were a child back then, here’s the world that you would have been born into.
Four characteristics of children during the Roman Empire. Number one, it was called the Roman Patria Potestas. That’s Latin for the father’s power or rule. A father could sell his children as slaves, he could punish them as he liked; a father could even inflict the death penalty and the Roman government would not say a word. The father had absolute power and right over you if you were a child.
The second characteristic of children in the Roman Empire was called the Custom of Child Exposure. So, when a child was born, the father would sit in a chair and they would take the brand-new baby and lay the child at the father’s feet.
If the father reached down and picked up the child, it was kept. If the father saw the child, maybe it wasn’t the sex that he wanted, maybe there was something about the child that just wasn’t attractive, if he got up and walked away from the chair, the child was killed.
And I want you to get that in your mind, because when the apostle Paul talks about kids and their value and how we take care of them and then their responsibility later to us, this is radical. This isn’t like what people would be used to. It’s not like kids really matter and they are important and we should love our children.
Third characteristic in the Roman Empire: unwanted children were commonly left in the Roman Forum. There, they became the property of anyone who cared to pick them up. They were collected at nights by people who nourished them in order to later sell them or slaves or to stock the brothels of Rome – both boys and girls.
Fourth aspect: the ancient civilization was merciless to the sickly or the deformed child. Seneca, who was an orator of the time wrote this, children who are born weakly and deformed we drown.”
And so, all I want you to hear is that when you hear what God says through the apostle Paul to kids, this book by God’s power, over thousands of years, has the dignity of human life and of children and women and the weak and the hurting. Any one of us could have been that in that day.
And so, let’s talk about God’s very first words. If you would open the Bible and say, “When does God ever speak about children?” What is the first time He speaks about children? You have to go back to Exodus chapter 20, verse 12. And we get a command.
Most of you know probably that there was, Moses got two commands. The first tablet had four commands and it was about your relationship vertically with God. The second tablet, there were six commands, unlike on cartoons when there’s five and five.
And six through ten were about your relationships with people. And the first and primary command was your relationship with your folks. And so, it says, “Honor your father and mother,” that’s a command. The promise: “…so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
And so, the motive was: honor your father and mother – we’ll talk about what that means – so that you could prosper, so you could get God’s best. The word honor here means, by definition, it means literally to be heavy, it means to glorify, to ascribe value and worth. It means to respect them, to hold them in high regard. This same form that is used right here in this fifth command is used in three other specific places in Leviticus 19:3. The word is translated fear or awe or respect.
So, the idea of honor is: fear and awe and respect. In Deuteronomy 26:19 it meant to give fame or praise, to speak well of. It has the idea: to honor your folks is to enhance their reputation. And then, finally, in 1 Samuel 2:29 and 30, it has the idea of wanting to please someone, to hold what they think and to honor that relationship above every other relationships.
That’s strong. God, when He speaks to children says, Look, I am creating an order in the world. I am giving you the most basic commands that reveal My character for your good. First command in human relationships: “Children, have respect, awe, and reverential fear for your parents.” They matter. I, God, the Creator of the universe have placed them over you. And there’s a way that children honor their parents, there’s a way that young adults and teenagers honor their parents, and there’s a way that grown adults honor their parents.
Why, though? You think about this. Why did God give this command? Why is it so important? I would suggest three reasons. One, it’s the foundation for human relationship. Okay? This whole idea of a family, it didn’t just come out of thin air. Human relationship and family, there’s priority and authority and responsibility and roles and God says, This is how it works. It starts with a mother and a Father and a relationship with their kids.
Second, it’s the foundation for respect of authority. All relationships, all civilizations, there needs to be this respect for authority and God has instituted it where it begins with your kids. And it begins with your kids understanding, at an early age, that those in authority, especially their parents, need to be respected in a very positive way.
And as you can see in our culture, that has been eroded. And think about this. If kids can’t honor the authority of people that they can see, how will they ever honor the authority of a God that they can’t see? See, this is really, really important.
Third reason is the foundation for human development. How you relate to your parents will directly affect your self-esteem, your morals, your values, your sexual identity, your worldview, and your relationship with God. There is, you can do all the studies in the world, how many of us talk about our family of origin? That word we call baggage. How we respond, our family systems, all that stuff has to do with what God created.
Now, let’s ask and answer the three big questions. As a child, how do I honor my parents? As a teen or a young adult, how do I honor my parents? And then for those of us that are grown, how do I honor my parents? What does it look like to honor our parents?
As a child, I honor my parents by obeying them. Now, so far in this series, are we starting to get an inkling that there’s a little emphasis here? Parents, here’s what you do: teach them to obey. Children, obey your parents. This is big.
Notice the text, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother,” notice the apostle Paul is reaching back to the fifth command, “which is the first command with a promise, that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”
What they need to do is obey you and respect you. Now, we need to be easy to obey and easy to respect, by being fair and caring and along with the limits, having very loving relationships. But this isn’t what parents were telling their children. The apostle Paul is assuming they are in the room and they are reading from God’s Word.
Our personal policy, when my kids were about second grade all the way up, we sat in church, together. Saturday night, by the time they got to be teenagers, often they would maybe sit with their friends. We would go out to dinner and talk about things later. But your kids need to see you worship. Because the fact is is that a lot of what they catch of your heart for God is they just catch.
See, what happens now, we have segregated the Church so much generationally, is that we have this group and that group and fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth and then the high school. And there are kids that, the only time they have ever, in a worship service with their mother and father are Easter and Christmas. And now we are shocked out of about eighty percent of all the kids in Bible-believing evangelical churches go away to college and within five years, they don’t return to the Church? Well, I wonder why. We have niche marketed. What we have done is we have said, “We want to meet your needs. We want everything to work for you in your way,” instead of, “Guess what – it’s okay for a kid to be bored.” It’s okay for a kid to color for a while.
And then let your kids have that great experience in an age-graded, and you could go serve somewhere. It’s a novel idea. It’s a non-consumeristic way of looking at it. And what you’ll find is you can go serve somewhere in the church that second hour, and you’ll find that some of the people that are most loved, most connected, and most growing spiritually are people that are actually involved, not just in hearing, but actually connected in the church.
But it’s an amazing thing for them to hear from their pastor: “little boy, little girl, let me tell you something. It’s God’s will for you to obey your mom and dad.” This word parent here is a Latin phrase. In loco Dei. In loco Dei. It’s a legal term in Latin. You know what it means, the word parent? In the place of God.
You don’t have to agree with them, but God put them over you. A lot of kids have never heard that. A lot of parents, we have, again, don’t assume that what is happening culturally or even in churches today, or is the way God has always had it.
This always gets overlaid with culture. And some good, and some bad. But I would encourage you, what happens when a parent says, “I am going to take moral responsibility for our home”? “I’m going to be the one that makes sure my kid has a Christian education; not the school, not the church.” I am glad for the school, I am glad for the church, I am glad for Good News clubs, I am glad for videos. But at the end of the day, when you have the shift and you say, “I am my children’s number one teacher. If they learn about God, they are going to learn from me. If they memorize verses, they are going to learn from me. We are going to have bedtime stories, we are going to have…I am going to…when they are small, I am going to take raising my kids as serious as someone who is preparing for an IPO, for the biggest deal of their life.”
And if you had hundreds of millions or billions of dollars on the table in a business deal, I will tell you what, you would be absolutely prepared and ready to go in when you went public. And, see, what happens is what we do is we take our kids public. We get them for about eighteen years and then they go public. And they have your name attached and they have Christ’s name attached. And you know what? I just want a really successful child that is a public IPO for the glory of God and for their good.
And so, first and foremost, I want to teach my kids. And we talked about that last session. When they are small, this is how I teach them to obey. When they get to those tween ages, preteen, I want them to learn to be responsible. And then as they are teenagers, young adults, I want them to make great decisions. And that’s my game plan.
So, young children, all of you in here, all of you five and six-year-olds, eight-year-olds, obey your mom and dad.
Second, as a young person, I honor my parents by respecting and cooperating with them. Respecting and cooperating with them.
And I see this as teenagers all the way through early adults and by an early adult, if you’re living in your folks’ home, if they are helping you with the insurance, if they are paying for your college, if you’re living at home – we always have this deal, right? I thought when my kids turned eighteen, Oh, parenting is over! I don’t know why I thought that. I just thought, Okay, eighteen years, then you release them.
From eighteen to about twenty or twenty-one, there were times it was harder than when they were two and three, because this thing happens. “Hey! Eighteen. I’m an adult! I make my own decisions now. According to the government, now you’re legal, responsible. And I’m eighteen, I can go into places and…” “Okay, big eighteen-year-old who is totally grown up, you want to totally grow up and pay off your college yourself? You want to be totally grown up and pay all the insurance for your car yourself?”
See, this deal is that puts you in a hard spot is they want all the authority but they don’t want all the responsibility.
The tension is: okay, how do you honor your parents? Do we need to let out the rope of responsibility and authority? Absolutely. Do they need to make more and more of their own decisions? Absolutely. But as we give them more and more rope of responsibility, they need to assume, “Okay, you know what? You pay, you pay,” like my kids, “I can help you out a little,” but all my boys bought their own first cars. Okay? “I’ll help you out with insurance. You pay all the gas.”
And just little by little. Where I was at in my life and everyone has a different theory on this but it was like, “Guys, I’ll tell you what, I’m working like crazy, I’ve got four kids. Get a really good job. I’ll give you as much money as I can to help you with your college. But you know something? I paid for my college. You really want to go? You can figure this out.”
I wanted the weight of responsibility to be on them. Now, we helped them a lot and we were able to pay all the tuitions but spending money and books and part of room and board – different seasons with different kids, but it was just a straight up, “We’re in this together.” And that’s what you want to do. You want them to feel the responsibility and then you give more and more of the authority so that that dependence shifts from you to God and they make great decisions.
Now, what I would want to say to those teenagers and to those young adults is the way you honor your folks, even when you really disagree with them, if you’re living in their home, you need to cooperate and you need to respect them.
Listen to what the Scripture says, Proverbs 23:22, “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother, when she is old.” It goes on to say, “If you curse your parents,” Proverbs 20:20, “your life will end like a lamp that goes out in the dark.” Now, this is from the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon.
And teenagers need to hear that and know: God will hold you responsible.
A lot of the lack of blessing in teenagers’ and young adults’ lives is this double life they have. They have got a Facebook page that you can see. I've got news, they’ve got another one that you can’t see. They have got friends you think they have. It is amazing. You can meet these sweet, little girls or guys you think are the All-American boys and you go on a social website and you hear what they are saying or what they are doing or the YouTube stuff they are passing on to other people. And you’re going, Are you kidding? And you know what they need to hear? “You’re on very, very serious ground with a very holy God and a very hold God will hold you accountable.
And there are some young people that can’t figure out why opportunities don’t happen, why God doesn’t bless their work, why they are frustrated, why relationships keep breaking down. I’ve got news for you. When you position yourself, disrespecting and not cooperating with your parents, you’re not in a position to receive the favor and the blessing of God. And so, that is why, on our side, as parents, don’t be a coward. Don’t back away. Peace at any price is not worth it and it doesn’t work. We have got parents now that don’t confront their teenagers, “Well, it’s just a phase they are going through.”
I hear in church parking lots kids talk back, cuss their parents, slam the door. And they have been in my office going, “What can I do? What can I do? Everything is falling apart.” And it’s like they are in these handcuffs. I say, “Well, can I ask you a couple questions?” “Sure.” “Whose car are they driving?” “Mine.” “Who puts the gas in the car?” “Me.” “Whose phone are they using?” “Mine.” “Who has the contract on it?” “Me.” “Who pays for it?” “Me.” “Whose laptop are they using?” “Mine.” “Whose tuition is being paid by…? And you’re telling me you can’t do anything? You don’t want to do anything. What you don’t want is a conflict.
God is really clear. “Children, honor your parents,” teens and young adults, “by respecting and cooperating.” Parents, be worthy of respect. Live a life worthy of respect.