“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.”
This Bible verse comes from the writings of Paul in which he is discussing instructions for a Christian household. The church was very young at the time of Paul and had many questions. The people who became believers were caught between Greco-Roman culture and a new belief system that required people to teach their children how to behave.
Before the introduction of christianity, the people of Ephesus would have brought their kids up with a fear and reverence of the gods and thinking that not appeasing these gods would bring trouble. If a child acted poorly, the parents would explain to their children that the god ruling in that area of life would be displeased. Children were taught that their life would be ruined by displeased gods if they disobeyed or behaved badly.
With a new faith in Christ as the savior, the fear structure the Ephesians knew was gone. Parents needed to know what was right and how they were to advise and train up their children. Paul addressed this question in two ways.
First, he put the responsibility on the children. Ultimately, we are responsible for our actions. Even when we are young, it is our decisions that are considered good or bad. Through these choices, we learn and develop into maturity. It is the responsibility of the child to be obedient. It is the parents role to establish parameters for obedience. Children need to be given the chance to make choices, and to learn from the consequences of their actions.
The second way Paul addressed the question is by warning parents (specifically fathers). He said that there needs to be a limit to how much we push our kids. In the end, they are children and are not as mature, or as capable, as an adult would be. It is our job as parents to not expect anything but childish actions, decisions, responses, and quality. All of this is learned and developed over time.
Our kids need chances to make mistakes. It is only in learning how to be proficient and in learning to be personally responsible that a person will come to have a long life as the commandment promises.
– Scott Beierman