Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Five Duties of Children to Parents
Note: We continued our Sunday afternoon series on Christian family last Lord's Day at CRBC with a message on The Duties of Children to Parents.
Here are my notes (sorry for the spacing issues in the text [no spaces between some paragraphs, etc]--for some reason Blogger is not cooperating with my editing changes):
The Duties of Children to Parents
CRBC May 6, 2012
The Christian family series continues:
What are the Biblical duties and obligations of children to parents?
Though there are universal elements in these duties, we are speaking in particular of the duties of those who are Christians toward their parents.
THOUGH precepts to children are not of so much force as to them of riper age, because of their natural incapacity, and their childish passions and pleasures which bear down their weak degree of reason; yet somewhat is to be said to them, because that measure of reason which they have is to be exercised, and by exercise to be improved: and because even those of riper years, while they have parents, must know and do their duty to them; and because God useth to bless even children as they perform their duties.
Five Duties of Children to Parents:
1. Children have the duty of honoring and respecting father and mother.
This is, of course, the essence of the fifth commandment, which has first place in the second table of the law, governing man’s duty to his fellow man.
Direct. II. Honour your parents both in your thoughts, and speeches, and behaviour. Think not dishonourably or contemptuously of them in your hearts. Speak not dishonourably, rudely, unreverently, or saucily, either to them or of them. Behave not yourselves rudely and unreverently before them. Yea, though your parents be never so poor in the world, or weak of understanding, yea, though they were ungodly, you must honour them notwithstanding all this; though you cannot honour them as rich, or wise, or godly, you must honour them as your parents. Remember that the fifth commandment hath a special promise of temporal blessing; "Honour thy father and mother that thy days may be long in the land," &c. And consequently the dishonourers of parents have a special curse even in this life: and the justice of God is ordinarily seen in the execution of it; the despisers and dishonourers of their parents seldom prosper in the world. There are five sorts of sinners that God useth to overtake with vengeance even in this life.
The principle embedded in this commandment goes beyond familial duties. As the catechism points out, it “requires the preserving the honour, and performing the duties belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.
Direct. XI. If your parents be in want, it is your duty to relieve them according to your ability; yea, and wholly to maintain them, if there be need. For it is not possible by all that you can do, that ever you can be on even terms with them; or ever requite them for what you have received of them. It is base inhumanity, when parents come to poverty, for children to put them off with some short allowance, and to make them live almost like their servants, when you have riches and plenty for yourselves. Your parents should still be maintained by you as your superiors, and not as inferiors. See that they fare as well as yourselves; yea, though you got not your riches by their means, yet even for your being you are their debtors for more than that.
” It thus calls not only on the disposition of children toward parents, but also employees toward their supervisors, church members to their officers, and citizens to their magistrates.
Children are to show this honor in a respectful attitude toward their parents.
Direct. VI. Be willing and thankful to be instructed by your parents, or any of your teachers, but especially about the fear of God, and the matters of your salvation. These are the matters that you are born and live, for; these are the things that your parents have first in charge to teach you. Without knowledge and holiness all the riches and honours of the world are nothing worth; and all your pleasures will but undo you.  Oh what a comfort is it to understanding parents to see their children willing to learn, and to love the word of God, and lay it up in their hearts, and talk of it, and obey it, and prepare betimes for everlasting life! If such children die before their parents, how joyfully may they part with them as into the arms of Christ, who hath said, "That of such is the kingdom of heaven," Matt. 19:14. And if the parents die first, how joyfully may they leave behind them a holy seed, that is like to serve God in their generation, and to follow them to heaven, and live with them for ever. But, whether they live or die, what a heart-breaking to the parents are ungodly children, that love not the word and way of God, and love not to be taught or restrained from their own licentious courses.
They are to speak respectfully to their parents. One way this is evidences is by using “sir” and “m’am” when addressing parents and other elders. They are to listen to their parents when they are spoken to by turning in the direction of their parents with an open and receptive posture.
Direct. XII. Imitate your parents in all that is good, both when they are living, and when they are dead. If they were lovers of God, and of his word and service, and of those that fear him, let their example provoke you, and let the love that you have to them, engage you in this imitation. A wicked child of godly parents is one of the most miserable wretches in the world. With what horror do I look on such a person! How near is such a wretch to hell!
They are not to speak ill publically of their parents or to publically disagree with their parents, though they might certainly seek private entreaty in cases where there might have been injustice or disagreement or need for further understanding.
Direct. VII. Patiently submit to the correction which your parents lay upon you. Consider, that God hath commanded them to do it, and that to save your souls from hell; and that they hate you, if they correct you not when there is cause; and that they must not spare for your crying, Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 29:15; 23:13, 14; 19:18. It is not their delight, but for your own necessity. Avoid the fault, and you may escape the correction. How much rather had your parents see you obedient, than hear you cry! It is not long of them, but of yourselves, that you are corrected. Be angry with yourselves, and not with them. It is a wicked child, that instead of being better by correction, will hate his parents for it, and so grow worse. Correction is a means of God's appointment; and therefore go to God on your knees in prayer, and entreat him to bless and sanctify it to you, that it may do you good.
In the OT, perhaps the premier example of a child dishonoring a parent is the rebellion of Absalom against his father David. Compare, however, David’s lament at the death of his rebellious son:
KJV 2 Samuel 18:32 And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. 33 And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
A child can bring a parent great joy or he can break a parent’s heart.
The basketball coaching legend John Wooden told of visiting a star recruit.
Direct. VIII. Choose not your own company, but use such company as by your parents is appointed you. Bad company is the first undoing of a child. When for the love of sport you choose such playfellows as are idle, and licentious, and disobedient, and will teach you to curse, and swear, and lie, and talk filthily, and draw you from your book or duty, this is the devil's high-way to hell. Your parents are fittest to choose your company.
The young man was terribly rude to his parents. In the end Wooden did not offer the young star a scholarship. His reasoning, “If he could not be respectful to his parents, then he most likely would not be respectful toward me as a coach.
But perhaps you will say, that though little children must be ruled by their parents, yet you are grown up to riper age, and are wise enough to rule yourselves. I answer, God doth not think so; or else he would riot have set governors over you. And are you wiser than be? It is but few in the world that are wise enough to rule themselves; else God would not have set princes, and magistrates, and pastors, and teachers over them, as he hath done. The servants of the family are as old as you, and yet are unfit to be rulers of themselves. God loveth you better than to leave you masterless, as knowing that youth is rash and unexperienced.
2. Children have the duty of obeying father and mother.
In the household codes of the NT, the operative term that is used to describe the appropriate disposition of a child to the parent is obedience:
Ephesians 6:1: “Children, obey (hupakouo) your parents in the Lord for this is right.
Parents are not only the providers of benefits, but are the guides of their children in all the relations of life. There may be cases where a father and a mother prove themselves unworthy of their children’s regard; but it is usually found that parents are as solicitous for their children’s welfare as their own.
Colossians 3:20: “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”
Again, it has been rightly said that delayed obedience is disobedience. This is the problem with the modern disciplinary method of “counting to three.
Disobedience is base ingratitude, and one of the greatest cruelties a child can inflict upon a parent who has toiled for years for his sake, and lavished upon him all his affections, regardless of self.
” It teaches that obedience may be delayed. We should teach our children from an early age quickly to obey. As a child grows older, into the teen years, it is not inappropriate for a child respectfully to seek explanation and reasoning on any command they might not understand or need to clarify.
Some people will remember the terrible treatment they received from dangerous and abusive parents. Some will be able to forgive their parents for forgivable transgressions; others won't. If a parent has done unforgivable acts, then the duty decreases. I can easily imagine some adult children who would not even admit to being the child of their horrific parents -- and I would support that sense of zero duty in them. But the instances of heinous, criminal, nightmarish parents are thankfully rare. Most parents do the best they can, given all the possibilities of the failings of human frailty. The rest of us have more of a duty than none.
But this should only be done respectfully and with a spirit of, “Yes, I will do what you ask, but I would seek this clarification.”
Note, however, that in Ephesians 6:1 Paul says that this obedience is to be “in the Lord.” Just as a wife is not called to submit to a husband in unlawful and ungodly actions, so a child is not bound to obey parents in such actions. Years ago when I worked at a summer boys’ camp, we had a child who through tears told us that his father would ask him to get on his bike and ride to a place to get drugs for him.
So I talked about great grandchildren and asked for name suggestions (didn't use any but just thinking about the prospect of great grandchildren brightened up the old, beloved faces).
He was asking if he had to obey his father in this. We told him, No, and we told our camp director of this who shared it with the church leaders who had brought this boy to the camp.
Perhaps the most vivid Scriptural picture of a child’s lawful unconditional obedience to a parent is in Genesis 22 when Isaac obeys the command of his father Abraham and is bound to the altar ready to be sacrificed, anticipating the obedience of Christ to the will of his Father on the cross.
If a child felt the parents continually trying to be who the child needed even if the parents didn't always succeed, then as adults it won't feel right to have a list of duties towards parents to check off. The child will want to give back what was lovingly given to them as a gift -- that is, given without expectation of being paid back.
3. Children have the duty of listening to the counsel of father and mother.
It has often been said that one’s parents get wiser and wiser the older you get.
A wise child will realize that he has much to learn from the counsel of his parents.
She did all we asked, and we dutifully and happily visited her apartment often to see and congratulate her on her progress. She began, on her own, to do full on plank push-ups for the first time in her life! She said it was so she would be better able able to control the steering. I kept saying "Goodness Gracious, this is Great Progress! You're almost ready!" We discovered she loved the excitement of anticipation.
This is the setting for the entire book of Proverbs which begins, “My son, hear the instructions of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (1:8).
The book of Proverbs generally affirms the wisdom of seeking counselors.
When she was comfortable steering I told her to start pedaling. The look on her face -- awe, pride, surprise, joy -- was the best reward. Soon she was pedaling and steering independently and with confidence. I watched her gray hair go around a curve on the bike path. "Wheeeee!" I will never forget her voice then, a chortle of joy from her deepest soul, the child within her visible.
Proverbs 11:14 notes that “in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
A wise child will seek the counsel of his parents in his education, vocational calling finances, marriage prospects, etc. Of course, when he marries a son leaves the household of his mother and father and establishes his own household, seeking the counsel of his wife, even over that of his parents.
We are all children of Our Father in heaven, and He causes us to be fed and brought up by our earthly parents. Thus parents take the place of God in regard to the education of their children; they are His representatives, and as such, the honor due to Him must be paid to them, for the viceroy can claim the same respect as the monarch who has delegated his authority to him. Those who despise their parents, despise God Himself. St. Augustine, after his conversion, bitterly regretted the disrespect he had shown the mother God had given to him, knowing that thereby he had shown disrespect to God. Our parents are moreover our greatest benefactors. “How much,” exclaims St. Ambrose, “has not thy mother suffered on thy account! How many sleepless nights, how many privations, how much anxiety has she not borne for thee! How hard thy father has worked, to provide thee with food and raiment! And canst thou be ungrateful to those who have done and suffered so much for thee?” The Son of God Himself honored His Mother and His foster-father; it is said of Him that He was subject to them. Learn of Him to obey your parents; He honored them, though they were His servants; He loved and respected His Mother, whose Creator He was; He never forgot that as an infant He had lain on Mary’s bosom, and had been carried in Joseph’s arms.
Still, even after marriage he can see his parents as valuable resources. Certainly, in the best circumstances, the parents are to be a spiritual resource and example to children.
4. Children have the duty of caring for father and mother in their old age.
Every child must obey and respect their parents. They must obey their teachers and superiors. Why should children obey their parents? Parents nurse their children from their birth. The children are grown up by their care and anxiety. They look into every need of their child, whether it be sleeping, playing or feeding, and furnish the same. Parents teach the children the right and the wrong. So it is their duty to obey their parents.
The Bible was, of course, written before the days of the social safety net. The burden of care for aging parents from a Biblical perspective is not the duty of the state but of the children. We are to do this to the degree that providential circumstances will allow.
All children grow in the care of their parents and get educated to establish in life and society. They hold respectable position in the society. They earn a lot. Many new friends, relatives do gather around them. It is all because they are being nursed by their parents in right earnestness and utmost care.
Compare some of Paul’s teaching on care for widows:
KJV 1 Timothy 5:3 Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
He then adds:
KJV 1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Direct. I. Be sure that you dearly love your parents; delight to be in their company; be not like those unnatural children, that love the company of their idle play-fellows better than their parents, and had rather be abroad about their sports, than in their parents' sight. Remember that you have your being from them, and come out of their loins: remember what sorrow you have cost them, and what care they are at for your education and provision; and remember how tenderly they have loved you, and what grief it will be to their hearts if you miscarry, and how much your happiness will make them glad: remember what love you owe them both by nature and in justice, for all their love to you, and all that they have done for you: they take your happiness or misery to be one of the greatest parts of the happiness or misery of their own lives. Deprive them not then of their happiness, by depriving yourselves of your own; make not their lives miserable, by undoing yourselves. Though they chide you, and restrain you, and correct you, do not therefore abate your love to them. For this is their duty, which God requireth of them, and they do it for your good. It is a sign of a wicked child, that loveth his parents the less because they correct him, and will not let him have his own will. Yea, though your parents have many faults themselves, yet you must love them as your parents still.
When you become a parent you realize how much your parents did for you. In the natural process of time, the tables begin to turn and you may be given opportunity to serve them even as they served you.
5. Where there have been failure and breaches, children have the duty of understanding and forgiving father and mother.
And asked "do you have any regrets in life? Is there something you wished you could do but never did?" My paternal grandmother said when she was little they were too poor for her to own a bicycle and nobody she knew could borrow one or even teach her. But she used to look outside from her window while her mother worked in a factory. She saw a group of children, each riding a bicycle.., and longed to be able to join them. She said they looked so happy.
Part of personal emotional and spiritual maturity is coming to the realization that your parents were not perfect and perhaps did not do all perfectly in your upbringing and yet extending to them forgiveness and grace.
How much? It depends on your conscience, and your parents' needs. When you look in the mirror, be able to live with your reflection. Do your duty, and maybe even a little bit more, just so you know you are a dutiful child, at the very least. Yes, you deserve perfect parents. But perfection doesn't occur as often as we would like. We forgive what we can, move on, and do whatever makes it possible to look in the mirror, and see someone we like, respect, and love, looking back. That means, to me, doing your duty, and a little bit more.
If my parents needed anything -- food, water, medical care, emotional attention, organization, communication and related media, transportation, shelter -- whatever their needs, expressed by them or observed by me, I would provide everything I could to contribute to their survival.
This is certainly not to whitewash the experience of those who went through real abuse. Sometimes full reconciliation cannot ever be achieved.
But in ordinary circumstances the disposition of children toward parents should be one of grace even in their parent's faults.
Direct. IV. Choose not your own calling or trade of life, without the choice or consent of your parents. You may tell them what you are most inclined to, but it belongeth more to them than to you to make the choice; and it is your part to bring your wills to theirs. Unless your parents choose a calling for you that is unlawful; and then you may (with humble submissiveness) refuse it. But if it be only inconvenient, you have liberty afterward to change it for a better, if you can, when you are from under their disposal and government.
KJV 1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
KJV Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
One of the best examples I have seen of this is in the book Troubled Journey by Faith Cook.
Direct. V. Humble yourselves and submit to any labour that your parents shall appoint you to. Take heed, as you love your souls, lest either a proud heart make you murmur and say, This work is too low and base a drudgery for me; or lest a lazy mind and body make you say, This work is too hard and toilsome for me; or lest a foolish. playful mind do make you weary of your book or labour, that you may be at your sports, and say, This is too tedious for me. It is little or no hurt that is like to befall you by your labour and diligence; but it is a dangerous thing to get a habit or custom of idleness and voluptuousness in your youth.
In the book Cook writes about her life as a missionary child in war-torn China, including many of the hardships the family endured as her parents pursued their service along the line of Hudson Taylor’s philosophy that the needs of family had to be sacrificed on the altar of missionary service.
When God bids us honor our parents. He commands us to love and obey them, for this is included in the reverence we owe them. Love is due to them as our greatest benefactors. It is the first duty of a Christian to compensate his parents for the trouble and the sacrifices his education has entailed on them. The obligation to obey them ceases when there is no longer occasion for it; the duty of loving and respecting them only ends with their life.
Shortly after the death of one of her brothers, Cook was left in a boarding school while her parents returned to China.
She notes that her father’s commitment to mission work “was all consuming: at times almost obsessive in character” (p 97).
We sail in strange waters, and our safety depends on submission to the directions of those who are more experienced. We are not always well-advised in our choice of companions.
She adds that to understand her parent’s decision one must realize “the ethos in which it was made. An immense value was placed on this sort of sacrifice by the Christian community in general and it was viewed as honourable and highly commendable” (p 97).
When the time comes for us to decide what trade or profession we are to follow, when misunderstanding and perplexities arise, be done; and it is our duty to obey implicitly, for love and experience combine to give value to their advice.
She reflects: “These men and women felt they were offering up to their God their ‘Isaacs’—their most valued possession—as indeed they were; but sadly, the question they did not address was whether God required such sacrifices” (pp 97-98).
Direct. X. Marry not without your parents' consent. Nay, if it may be, let their choice determine first of the person, and not your own: unexperienced youth doth choose by fancy and passion, when your experienced parents will choose by judgment. But if they would force you to join yourselves to such as are ungodly, and like to make your lives either sinful or miserable, you may humbly refuse them. But you must remain unmarried, while by the use of right means you can live in chastity, till your parents are in a better mind. But if indeed you have a flat necessity of marrying, and your parents will consent to none but one of a false religion, or one that is utterly unfit for you, in such a case they forfeit their authority in that point, which is given them for their edification, and not for your destruction; and then you should advise with other friends that are more wise and faithful: but if you suffer your fond affections to contradict your parents' wills, and pretend a necessity, (that you cannot change your affections,) as if your folly were uncurable; this is but to enter sinfully into that state of life, which should have been sanctified to God, that he might have blessed it to you.
As Cook completes the story of her childhood, she relates the long distance letter writing relationship and infrequent contact she had with her parents throughout her teenage and college years. She notes that her “unsettled childhood, sheltered school environment, and now the loss of any stable home base” left her “ill-prepared for the cold realities of the adult world” (p 112).
Being adults and having experience of the world, they are in a position to form better judgments than their children. Therefore not only is it the duty of a child to obey his parents, but in doing so he is consulting his best interests.
Despite the hardships, however, Cook also points to the Lord’s gracious provision throughout the experience. She went on to marry, to become a pastor’s wife, and to raise her own family. In the conclusion, Cook reflects: “It had indeed been a troubled journey for both my brother and me, but as I look back over the path I have traveled, I can see now see that despite the undoubted sufferings through which we had both passed—unnecessary sufferings in many respects— God has supported, protected, and added unexpected provisions for our needs along the way.
Direct. III. Obey your parents in all things (which God forbiddeth not). Remember that as nature hath made you unfit to govern yourselves, so God in nature hath mercifully provided governors for you. Here I shall first tell you what obedience is, and then tell you why you must be thus obedient.
Even the sufferings themselves have proved to be part of God’s design for my life” (p 116).
I think Cooke models here the Biblical attitude of a child to parent. Not whitewashing or excusing all, but honoring.
Esteem for our parents must be heartfelt, otherwise outward manifestations of esteem would be mere dissembling. Christ showed great respect for His Mother at the marriage feast of Cana; for although He told her His hour for working miracles was not yet come, He complied with her request. We must honor our parents even if they are poor and in a humble class of life. Joseph, when Governor of Egypt showed great respect for his aged father. Al though he was only a shepherd, he brought him to the king and presented him before him (Gen. xlvii. 7). King Solomon rose from his throne to meet his mother, although she was not of royal lineage; he bowed to her, and made her sit on his right hand (3 Kings ii. 19). Pope Benedict XI. received his mother, who was a poor washer woman, in the kindest manner when she went to him in the mean apparel of her class. Even if parents do not lead a virtuous life, they still have a claim upon the respect of their children, because of the position they hold in regard to them as God’s representatives. The Wise Man says: “Honor thy father in word and work and in all patience” (Ecclus. iii. 9).