Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on earth” (Eph. 6:1-3).
Paul is repeating a familiar commandment to the Church, the 5th commandment of the 10 found in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. This is the first commandment where God is promising blessings on anyone who will obey – which shows us how important this is to God.
But the phrase that sticks out the most to me in these first three verses is “because you belong to the Lord.” We are God’s children – we belong to Him! Notice He gave no exceptions to this command. It doesn’t say, “If your parents are good to you…” or “If your parents deserve honor…” God’s instructions are for us to show honor to our earthly parents because He is our Heavenly Father.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
God has a purpose in parenthood that goes far beyond supplying the physical needs of our children. It is in the parent-child relationship that God wants us to learn about the relationship He wants with us. When we discipline our children as God teaches us to, they begin to understand God’s love for us and why He disciplines us. Because we belong to the Lord, we teach our children that they, too, belong to the Lord.
Hebrews 12:6-11 explains this further: “For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children…For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Oh, there are the blessings again – the blessings of a peaceful harvest of right living! This passage is coming right after the familiar FAITH chapter in Hebrews 11, which is followed by Paul’s instruction at the beginning of chapter 12 to throw off anything that is hindering us – whether it is sin or not – keep our eyes focused on Jesus and run the race marked out for us. He continues this analogy of running the race in verses 12 & 13, referring to the discipline we receive from our earthly Father: So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
We have a legacy to carry on to our children. Just as we learned from the discipline we received from our parents, that God at times disciplines us with this same kind of love, so we need to help our children understand the love of their Heavenly Father. In doing this, we are impacting generation after generation to follow.
But perhaps the discipline you received from your earthly parents is not a good reflection of the loving discipline God carries out. Our earthly parents are not perfect like our Heavenly Father is and they sometimes miss out on God’s plan for how a parent should discipline their child. But this does not change God’s instructions to you. Perhaps you are the one who will make a difference for the coming generations by following God’s commandment – by honoring your parents and by training your children in the ways of God.
Because you belong to the Lord, teach your children and grandchildren that they, too, belong to the Lord.