Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
As he did in Colossians, Paul follows his instruction for married couples with instruction for children and parents, after which he will address masters and servants. These relationships are the three areas in which most people spend the majority of their lives. As with the marriage relationship, each of these three major areas of human interaction is illustrative of an aspect of our relationship with God. In the case of children and parents, are we not all someone’s child? Are we not also a child of God… and is not God our Heavenly Father?
Children are told to obey their parents “in the Lord.” That children should obey their parents is universally understood, but what does he mean by “in the Lord”? I doubt he means that children should only obey their parents if they follow the Lord, or only if they are being godly, for this would require judgments that children are generally not qualified to make. It is clear, however that obedience is within the Lord’s will for children and in this way, it would be “in the Lord”. Next, Paul tells us that for a child to obey his or her parents is “right”.
It is also a commandment carried over from the Old Testament, and finally, that commandment carries with it a promise of God. Thus, Paul gives us four solid reasons for children to obey their parents… and for us to obey our Heavenly Father.
As with his instruction to husbands and wives, Paul is not one-sided in his instruction: Fathers (and mothers) are not to exasperate their children, but instead they are to raise their children in the knowledge of the Lord. If you think about it, for a child to be naughty from time-to-time is to be expected, they are children after all. For parents to misbehave towards their children is quite another matter, for aren’t they supposed to be adults?
Let’s take a step back and look at this passage with a little perspective, can you see the pattern?
For a child to be obedient he or she must submit his or her will to that of the parent; hasn’t Paul mentioned “submission” just before this? Yes, I believe he did. For the parent not to exasperate their child, don’t they need to exercise restraint? Yes, I think being a parent requires considerably more restraint than most anything else.
Does that remind you of another relationship?
As God’s children, we are asked to submit our will to His, and God’s most notable attribute is His restraint. Interesting, isn’t it?
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
Paul continues now in the third area of human relationship, that between master and slave (servant). In our day, it’s safe for us to accept that these principles apply just as much to employers and employees, since few of us live in a slave economy as they did in the first century. Beginning with the servants, Paul instructs them to honor their masters (employers) with their sincere best efforts and good attitudes, reminding them that they are really working for the Lord.
It would be more than fair to ask just how or in what sense a worker is working for the Lord in his or her job, so let’s remember that we have been redeemed for a purpose. The purpose for which we have been redeemed is to share God’s love with those around us, and when we are at work, we can show God’s love in the way we do our jobs and in the way we treat people. Recall that in marriage each party is to put the other ahead of themselves. In the parent child relationship, the same is true. In the workplace, Paul is spelling out once again this principle; workers, put the interests of the boss ahead of your own.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Masters, bosses and employers, the same principle applies to you; put the interests of your workers ahead of your own− you also are charged with sharing God’s love with those around you!
This relationship, like the first two, illustrates an aspect of our relationship with God: Master and servant. Jesus is our Master, and as such He has given everything to redeem us to God and make possible the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. We are His servants, charged with putting the interests of His Kingdom ahead of our own.
I wonder, if we were to receive a “report card” from God, how would our grades look in each of these three areas of life? Hopefully we’d all receive high marks, but more likely each one of us has some need for improvement, after all, this life is a journey and we are all works in progress. My prayer is that all of us will prayerfully consider Paul’s instructions in this chapter.
OK, one more thrill-packed episode from Ephesians… the “season finale” you might say- see you then!