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Monday, March 29, 2010

Family and Work, Part 3: The Father and the Children

Family and Work, Part 3: The Father and the Children

Colossians 3:20

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20 ESV)

Children, in the Greek, refers to offspring, regardless of age. It implies a result or something produced. The result of wise decisions is described as being children of wisdom. (Matthew 11:19). The owner of a vineyard had two children, old enough to work in a vineyard (Matthew 21:28). Jesus called his disciples, Children (Mark 10:24).

Thus, all children, of any age, are to obey their parents in everything. Obey in the Greek means to listen attentively, implying obedience to a command.

This word is related to that used of the woman's submission. Both words use the Greek preposition hypo, meaning under. However, they are distinctly different.

The woman's submission to her husband is based upon arrangement. God has placed the husband as the head, and the woman as the helper, as a matter of arrangement and duty. It is not based upon any difference in ability, intellect, or knowledge.

The child's submission to the parents is based upon knowledge. The parents have knowledge and skill that the child does not possess. God expects the child to learn from the the parents, and this requires submissive "under-hearing", a willingness to hear and obey.

This can give us guidance in answering the question, For how long do I obey my parents? The answer should depend upon knowledge and skill. When my knowledge and skill equal or surpass that of my parents, it may become necessary for me to disagree with my parents.

Any disagreement, however, must not result in dishonor. We are always to honor our parents.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Honor means to regard as important and valuable, and as a person of influence.

This is how we see young Jesus submitting to his earthly parents. With all His knowledge and skill, even at the age of twelve years, Jesus could certainly have lived independent of his parents, making his own decisions about where to live, who to associate with, what to experience.

But Jesus submitted to his parents. They said, Come home with us now, and He did.

It is important once again to see the connection between obedience and pleasing the Lord. Whatever is obeyed must at the same time be fitting, or pleasing, to the Lord.

If a parent commands a child to do or be something that directly conflicts with God's revealed will, or it dishonors God, the child cannot obey, any more than a wife can submit, nor any Christian follow, regardless of the authority.

Closely related to the issue of parental authority and child obedience, is the concern that a parent might be right in the command, but wrong in the attitude.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21 ESV)

Provoke, in the Greek, means to stimulate, especially to anger. It is from a word meaning a quarrel.

Provoking can be good. Paul commended the church in Corinth for their zeal in provoking (stimulating) other churches to give generously (2 Corinthians 9:2).

But stimulating argument, with a desire to show superiority, can only result in discouragement.

The Greek word translated as discouraged means to be spiritless...literally, without passion.

If I feel threatened, or I don't know what to do about my child's disobedience, I will fall back onto my fleshly instincts and attack my child, using arguments to back my child into an corner filled with anger. If I win the argument, the child will give up, feeling no desire to love me or the Lord.

It seems that Paul's entire admonition to the church in Colossians centers upon arguments. Arguments within and without the church, and arguments within the family and work-place. If I find myself in an argument, that should be a flag of warning: I am beginning to act out of my natural, fleshy strength...it is time to stop arguing and start praying, depending upon God to change my heart as well as that of my child or wife or husband.

Anger does not accomplish God's work.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (Psalms 37:8 ESV)
A man of quick temper acts foolishly. (Proverbs 14:17)
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding. (Proverbs 14:29)
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14 ESV)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 ESV)

What do you think?

What has been your experience as an adult child submitting to your aging parents?