17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:17-25)
Today we get to a section on family living that gives specific and direct instruction to children. Now, we have a lot of children here this morning. God has blessed us as a congregation with many children! When I say children, you older kids, don’t be offended by that, I am speaking to you as well even if you are a teen who is living in your parents’ home, if you are living under their roof. And I will add too, even if you are a young adult living in your parents’ home. I know that as I say that there could be some who might, in your mind, sort of roll your eyes and think, “This isn’t me, I am old enough to be independent and do my own thing and go my own way. Surely this command is just for small children.” If anyone is tempted to think that, let me say this: if you are living under someone else’s roof, you are not independent, you are very dependent on your parents. And in that case, it is your dad and mom, primarily dad, who is tasked by God to maintain an orderly home. And so if you are in that home you, I believe, fall under his leadership. And this command is directed to you. So that is just something I wanted to say off the bat. “Children” here would include even those older kids living in a parents’ home.
Now, the actual word used here that is translated “children” in English can really mean children of any age, including married adults. I am, at 51, still my parents’ child. And in many ancient cultures adult and even married children would remain in the household of mom and dad. That doesn’t happen so much in our culture. So this command can possibly refer to children, even if married, if they are living still with mom and dad. The key seems to be those living in the household of parents. This section of Colossians has to do with household living, dependents living together in a home together.
I want to say to those of you who are kids living at home, I think it is pretty great that God addresses you specifically in the Bible. I think it is pretty great that God shows this kind of interest in you, and that we get to talk about how God speaks to kids this morning. You may come to church and get the feeling that when we sit down in our worship service and someone gets up to preach that it is adult time, that this is all about speaking to adults, teaching adults. But we see here that God is also interested in you. He has a word for you. He cares for you and He wants to give you instruction that will be good for you.
And when Paul wrote these verses and sent this letter to the churches in the first century, it may have caused a stir in some congregations. And that is because many children were treated with very little respect, they were relegated to the second class and sometimes were more like slaves than legitimate members of a household. And since that was happening, God steps in and gives Paul these words and this tells us that God cares very much for children and that you are important members of a Christian home and of the church.
So while many might brush you as kids in the home off as being unimportant or too young to serve Christ, or as immature, not yet ready to follow Christ in significant ways, we see that God thinks otherwise! He pulls you into Christian living just as He does with adults, He gives you a part in the home, a way to glorify His name by how you live for Him, and this is seen primarily in this short command to obey your parents.
God has given you an opportunity to show your love for Christ by giving you a command that you can follow for that purpose. The command He gives is rather simple to understand, but is not so simple to always follow. That is what obedience is to be for Christians, an opportunity to love our Lord who has loved us beyond measure and to trust our Lord who is completely trustworthy.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
The verse starts with the word “children” – we have talked about who that would be – and then the command “obey your parents.”
God has a set a structure for the home, and part of this structure includes children obeying parents. When it says obey, this implies that the parents are giving instructions or orders to be followed. Someone is in charge, and that would be the parents.
It is interesting that we get to cover this topic on Father’s Day. That was not planned. Kids, do you want to give your dad a great gift? Here it is: obey your parents. Let’s talk about a few things this does not mean for you as children in the home.
This does not mean that you must agree with your parents on everything. The command is not “children, you must agree with your parents.” You will not agree with everything your parents do or everything they say or even with everything they ask you to do. As children you are individuals, God gave you your own mind, not the mind of your parents. You have different personalities. You may look at life and your world in different ways than your parents do. And that is okay, so long as you are not living out ideas that are counter to God’s Word. But your preferences may be different than your parents’ preferences. Living in obedience, then, is not making a statement of, “I agree with my parents on every issue,” it is simply a statement of, “I will obey them because God wants me to, even if I disagree with them.” The command is to obey, and this remains the command to you even when you may disagree.
Obedience also does not mean your parents are always right. If they were always right they would be competing with God. Only one was always right on this earth, and that was Jesus. He alone is holy and perfect. He is the only one who has never made a bad or selfish decision. He alone always spoke in a way that was pleasing to the Father and helpful for those who heard Him. God does not command that you obey your parents because they are always right. And so, your willing obedience is not a statement that proclaims, “My parents know everything.” It is a statement that says you trust God even when you think mom and dad are not right. And what trusting God looks like for you is obeying your parents.
But a complaint may follow, “But if dad and mom tell me to do something that is not exactly best for me, then shouldn’t I do what is best?” Well, first, what you disagree on may be a judgment call. For example, it may be their opinion that you should not see a particular movie, but you think it’s fine. And maybe it is fine, but you are called to obey, right? But where does that leave you? What if you think your parents are consistently getting it wrong? Here is what it comes down to: God had given you a command to obey your parents, and God is sovereign over your circumstances. He can change your parents’ opinion if He desires to, He can change your circumstances if He desires to, and if it is best for you. But what if He doesn’t? Then He will carry you through and He will do His work in you and around you, He will lovingly and carefully guide you. And we also know that He will work it out for your good, we know that from Romans 8:27-30…
27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:27-30)
This means that God is always, by His Spirit, looking out for us in all our circumstances, always as Christians. That is comforting when we must obey other people. God is not absent. And further, He is arranging things so that good things come from our circumstances. And even more, that the good that comes is a process by which He is making us more like Christ. So He can and does take that decision made by dad and mom and uses that in your life to move you to be more like Christ. And that is a good thing. There is nothing greater than being more like Jesus! Really, nothing greater. And if we believe that, that there is nothing greater than being more like Jesus, then we can live in joy even when mom and dad don’t make the decision we want and you choose to obey. We can live in joy in that knowing that God is using that for good in your life.
This command to obey your parents does not mean that you obey if it is clearly sinful to do so. God does not share His ultimate authority. He is the sovereign Lord. His Word is authoritative, which means it is to be obeyed in all things. If dad or mom command that you sin in any particular way, then what do you do? What you do is obey God. As an example, if your parents tell you to go to the store and steal something off the shelf, then you should not do that. God says in Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” If your parents ask you to lie, you must not lie. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
But the passage says to obey your parents in everything, right? Yes, but the Bible does not contradict itself. You must obey in everything that is pleasing to the Lord.
For each of you here, it would probably be an extremely rare case where your parents would ask you to sin. In fact it may not ever happen in your case. What is most often the case is that children struggle to obey simply because it is not what you want to do, not that it would be a sin to do it. And you know, you may have some good and sound reason for not wanting to, but you are supposed to obey anyways. Again, God is looking out for you, He cares for you, He will take care of you.
Children, kids, the older you get the more complex life becomes. The older you get, and when you move away from your parents, you will be faced with many challenging decisions, and you will be the one who must make decisions. Those days will probably come for you. But for now, your duty is to obey your parents. If you really embrace this as being good for you from God, it can even comfort you. If you are settled in this truth then it can bring you great peace and you can be assured that you are doing what is pleasing to God.
Jesus makes a powerful statement in John 14:15 that is applicable to our verse this morning. He was speaking to His disciples before His arrest and death, and explaining to them about the Holy Spirit that was to come, and in that discussion He says this, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
A simple statement of huge importance. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Our obedience – and kids, youth, teens, this certainly includes you – living out God’s commands will be or should be expressions of love to our Savior. We can get all caught up with arguments not to obey because of our internal, strong desires to do something else, but Jesus makes it clear that if we truly love him, then we will keep His commandments. Keeping His commands, for children in the home, is obeying parents.
There are times when kids, usually older teens, will want advice, counsel on some issue. You are faced with a decision that must be made. After hearing of the circumstances and trying to understand what must be decided, I will most likely say, “What do your parents think, what do your parents say? Have you discussed this with your parents? Have you laid out your thoughts with your parents the way you have with me? Have you engaged them with a conversation like this? And if so, what do they say? And if you haven’t, why not? God has ordered the family, He has built in protections for you, and that consists for children primarily in the form of your parents. What do they say?”
Now, if any of you are like I was as a kid – and I hope you aren’t in this way – I was generally happy if my parents just thought I was obedient to them, whether I really was or not. In other words, I didn’t usually mind disobeying them as long as they weren’t aware of my disobedience. And you know, people can fool other people, and we can get pretty good at that unfortunately. But here is the thing: this isn’t primarily about obeying parents as much as it is obeying our Lord, Jesus Christ. And guess what? He is not fooled, He is never fooled, it is not possible for Him to be fooled. And you know, He does not just see actions, He sees the heart, motives, He sees in our minds, every thought. Does our outward obedience look like real obedience from His perspective?
Here is what I am getting at. When dad or mom tell you to do something, for example “Go to the store get some milk and come straight home,” you leave, and you get home with the milk. This looks like obedience. But what were you thinking? Were you happy to obey? Did you really come straight home? Your mom thinks so, but did you really? Did you really please Christ by obeying? Remember, He knows all. Or did you simply live a facade of obedience that fooled a parent?
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we read, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Was your action glorifying to God because it was real obedience from the heart, or was it something less than that?
Now, obedience from the heart is a constant challenge, it is hard. And this is why we need the Spirit of Christ in us, leading us, giving us strength to live for Him. We need Him working in us to motivate our obedience. We must ask for His help. If you are struggling to obey from the heart, are you crying out to God to help you live for Him, to want to please Him? We need Him.
A quick word for mom and dad. Next week we will focus more on parenting, but I do want to say a few words that may be helpful for us as parents. We were once children living under the roof of our parents or parent. Obeying them was once our primary command from God. How did we do with that? I think it is helpful for us to recall some of our struggles to obey. I think it is helpful for us to remember what it was like to want to do something other than what our parents or parent told us to do. I think this helps us to come alongside our children and to empathize with many of their struggles and for them to see that, yes, we understand the inner conflict that they will face from time to time. We approach them from a standpoint of understanding and patience rather than as those who have been sinless, because we haven’t been sinless in this regard. Paul helps us with this in Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
And I love Hebrews 5:2 because it reminds us as people, as human beings that even as we instruct others to obey, such as how parents do with children, that we are in the same boat really as we too struggle to obey. Here is what the writer of Hebrews tells us as he talks about people helping people: “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” More on that next week!
Children, kids, teens, young adults in the home, I am glad that God has included you in this passage, that He does not overlook you regarding Christian living, that He gives you clear opportunity to show your love for Him in this important command! He cares for you and so He instructs you in how to live in your home during this time in your life!
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)