God’s Plan for Parents and Children
by CLAUDIO AND PAMELA CONSUEGRA
Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many. Proverbs 4:10
The Bible is like a road map. God gave us this map so we would have good directions and arrive
safely at the destination He has prepared for us. That destination, on this earth, is a good, healthy family.
Jesus told us: “I have come that they (you) may have life, and that they (you) may have it more
abundantly.” (John 10:10) (emphasis ours).
God is pleased to see that our family relationships are strong and healthy.
Yet, divorce still happens—even in the church.
Abuse still takes place—even in Adventist congregations.
Parents still face challenges with their children. There are parents who resort to abortion. And there are children who suffer from abuse. In some countries children file lawsuits against their parents, and we even read stories of children behaving aggressively toward their parents.
The apostle Paul refers to the condition of the world in the last days. He begins to set the time frame by saying, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
As we read this list, we might identify negative behaviors that define our relational world. “Proud, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unloving, unforgiving, headstrong.”
Isn’t this what we see happening in many homes today?
And it is not just in the homes of people who don’t know God. It happens in the homes of people who attend church on a regular basis. After Paul writes this list, describing people in the last days, he adds the following words: “Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5).
He said that religious people, church people, would have these experiences in their midst.
That’s why it’s important not to be just religious, but spiritual.
A religious person is one who fulfills religious duties; but does so only outwardly. A spiritual person is one who believes from the heart and whose external expression of religion proceeds from inner convictions. And this becomes evident in how we relate to one another as parents and children.
To help us, as spiritual individuals, the Bible provides a number of Relational Directives1. They are commands intended to help us create a basic framework, a basic pattern for living in relationship with others.
We find these Relational Directives scattered throughout the Bible and they can be grouped into several categories. Some are very generic and apply broadly to all relationships. Others are more specifically directed toward people in particular relationships, such as married couples, parents, children, neighbors, or friends.
A good example of a generic relational directive is the golden rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you do also to them for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12).
And there are several directives that apply to how parents and children relate to one another.
Let us consider four of those directives.
1. Children, honor your parents.
One of the best-known directives to children comes from the Ten Commandments, the
Decalogue. It is found in the second half of the Decalogue, which addresses relationships. The first commandment in this second half says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).
The apostle Paul makes the interesting comment that this is “the first commandment with a promise.” (Ephesians 6:2)
Honor your father and your mother! What does it mean to honor your father and your mother? How do we do that? We honor our father and mother by being respectful in word and action and having an inward attitude of esteem for their position.
The Greek word for honor means “to revere, prize, and value.”
[HERE YOU MAY TELL A STORY TO ILLUSTRATE THIS PRINCIPLE]
Again, how do we honor our father and our mother? Solomon, the wisest man, urged children to respect their parents. (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17).
Although we may no longer be directly under our parents’ authority, we can’t outgrow God’s command to honor them. Even Jesus, God the Son, submitted Himself to both His earthly parents (Luke 2:51) and His heavenly Father. (Matthew 26:39). We follow Christ’s example when we treat our parents the way we would reverentially approach our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9; Malachi 1:6).
Honor them with both actions and attitudes (Mark 7:6). Honor their unspoken as well as spoken wishes. “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” (Proverbs 13:1).
Ellen G. White comments about this commandment, “It is binding upon childhood and youth, upon the middle-aged and the aged. There is no period in life when children are excused from honoring their parents. This solemn obligation is binding upon every son and daughter and is one of the conditions to their prolonging their lives upon the land which the Lord will give the faithful.”(White, 1952, p. 292).
As pastor Mark Driscoll shared in a sermon, “To honor means to respect, to defer, to submit. It means to have love, appreciation, and affection towards them. Honor is something that begins internally, and then it manifests itself externally. As you have honor in your heart, it comes out in your words.” (Kumar, 2013).215
2. Children, obey your parents.
The second directive applies to how children should relate to their parents:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” Ephesians 6:1
[HERE YOU CAN USE A STORY OF OBEDIENCE TO PARENTS]
Parents mean well for their children. They are not being arbitrary when they ask, or tell, their children to do something or when they forbid them from doing something.
Ellen White makes a very important declaration when she writes:
“One great reason why there is so much evil in the world today is that parents occupy their minds with other things than that which is all—important— how to adapt themselves to the work of patiently and kindly teaching their children the way of the Lord. If the curtain could be drawn aside, we should see that many, many children who have gone astray have been lost to good influences through this neglect. Parents, can you afford to have it so in your experience? You should have no work so important that it will prevent you from giving to your children all the time that is necessary to make them understand what it means to obey and trust the Lord fully.” White, 1952
The nature and results of obedience to parents is so important that the Bible lists them. Among them we find:
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20 (ESV)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV)
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8 (ESV)
The first two directives give us clear guidelines on how children should relate their parents. Honor them, and obey them, are the overarching principles in these two directives.
3. Parents, train your children.
But the Bible does not provide directives only in one direction — how children should relate toward their parents. The Bible also has directives to parents so they know how to relate to their children.
The third directive we will consider today is found in the Old Testament.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
This text has brought confusion and misunderstanding to parents at times.
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary shares interesting insights:
Many parents have taken this verse as sanction for forcing a child to follow the profession or trade they think he ought to. Thus they have brought sorrow and disappointment upon themselves, for the child, on growing up, often goes an entirely different way. The verse rather counsels parents to learn the way in which their particular child can be expected to be of most service to himself and others, and in which he will find most happiness. The specific station in life appointed for a man is determined by his capabilities. To every individual God has assigned a place in His great plan. God has equipped man with the capabilities needed to fill this special place. Therefore the choice of a lifework should be in line with the natural bent. The efforts of the parents and the child should be directed toward discovering the kind of work Heaven has already determined. Inspiration declares that this verse enjoins parents to “direct, educate, develop,” but that to do this “they must themselves understand the ‘way’ the child should go.” Nichol, 1977
Sometimes parents want their children to follow in their footsteps. A teacher wants his son to be a teacher, a lawyer wants her daughter to be a lawyer, a physician wants her son to be a physician, and a carpenter wants his son to be a carpenter. Parents can push their children to be what they had hoped to be but were not able to do.
But in the process, they can be quenching their own children’s dreams and wishes for their future. Because children have different personalities and talents, their interests may not be the same as their parents; they may end up frustrated because they can’t pursue their own interests.
As parents we need to understand that our first and most important responsibility is to lead them to God. This must be our focus rather than pushing our children on a specific career path.
The following passage of scripture is the Shema which is recited morning and evening by Jews to the present.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. And these words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
The apostle Paul adds: “Fathers… bring them (children) up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
Train your child, through your example. Like a train has an engine and the cars follow it, your children will follow you, wherever you lead them, so lead them with a good example.
Train them with patience, tenderness, and lots of love.
Train them with the thought continually before your eyes that their soul is the first thing to be considered.
Train them to have a good knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
Train them to make of prayer a daily habit.
Train them to attend church services regularly and to be engaged in the life and ministry of the church. Train them to support the church with their time, their talents, and with their treasure.
Train them to learn and rely on faith as the key that unlocks heaven’s gates.
Train them to be obedient, to God and to their parents.
Train them to speak truthfully.
Train them to know God, to trust God, to love God, to serve God, to share God, to live for God.
4. Parents, don’t exasperate your children
In the New Testament we will find the last of the directives we will consider today.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” Colossians 3:21
Paul wrote those words to the church in Colossae, but he also wrote similar words to the church in Ephesus: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
In that masterful compilation of Ellen White’s writings about children—Child Guidance—she makes some very important points about this biblical directive. Referring to the words used by Paul to the Ephesians, Ellen White gives an example of how a parent provokes her child:
“Often we do more to provoke than to win. I have seen a mother snatch from the hand of her child something that was giving it special pleasure. The child did not know the reason for this, and naturally felt abused. Then followed a quarrel between parent and child, and a sharp chastisement ended the scene as far as outward appearance was
concerned; but that battle left an impression on the tender mind that would not be easily effaced. This mother acted unwisely. She did not reason from cause to effect. Her harsh, injudicious action stirred the worst passions in the heart of her child, and on every similar occasion these passions would be aroused and strengthened.” White, 1954
Sometimes parents devote too much time finding fault in their children for everything they do. Listen to these words:
“You have no right to bring a gloomy cloud over the happiness of your children by faultfinding or severe censure for trifling mistakes. Actual wrong should be made to appear just as sinful as it is, and a firm, decided course should be pursued to prevent its recurrence; yet children should not be left in a hopeless state of mind, but with a degree of courage that they can improve and gain your confidence and approval. Children may wish to do right, they may purpose in their hearts to be obedient; but they need help and encouragement.” White, 1954, p. 279
I love those words at the end: “Children may wish to do right, they may purpose in their hearts to be obedient; but they need help and encouragement.”
We encourage you to spend time reading the 48th chapter of that book where Ellen White tells us as parents not to be too harsh in the way we discipline our children, not to continually censure our children, not to be arbitrary with our course of action, and much more.
There are many more directives in the Bible to teach us how we should relate to one another as parents and children.
Today we only looked at four.
To children, the Bible says: “Honor your father and your mother,” and “obey your parents.”
To parents, the Bible says: “Train your children,” and “Don’t exasperate them.”
God desires that we may have good, healthy, positive relationships with our children. He wants us to reflect the relationship we have with Him.
[YOU CAN USE A STORY OF YOUR OWN OR THE FOLLOWING ONE TO CONCLUDE THIS SERMON]
A story is told of a man who came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door. Their conversation went like this:
SON: “Daddy, may I ask you a question?”
DAD: “Yeah sure, what is it?” replied the man.
SON: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?” the man said angrily.
SON: “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “If you must know, I make 30 dollars an hour.”
SON: “Oh,” the little boy replied, with his head down.
SON: “Daddy, may I please borrow a dollar?”
The father was furious and with anger in his voice he told his boy, “If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room right this moment.”
The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
After the man had calmed down he started to think. Maybe there was something his little boy really needed to buy with that dollar. . . and he really didn’t ask for money very often.
The man went to the door of his little boy’s room and opened the door.
“Are you asleep, son?” He asked.
“No daddy, I’m awake,” replied the boy. “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier” said the man. Here’s the dollar you asked for.”
The little boy sat straight up, smiling.
“Oh, thank you daddy!” He yelled.
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills.
When the father saw that the boy already had money he started to get angry again.
The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.
“Why do you want more money if you already have some?” the father grumbled.”
“Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do,” the little boy replied.
“Daddy, I have 30 dollars now. . . Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to
have dinner with you.”
The father was crushed.
He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness.
Parents, love your children, train your children, and don’t irritate your children.
Children of any and all ages, love your parents, honor your parents, and obey your parents.
And may your relationship be always one of mutual respect, mutual admiration, and mutual learning.
Nichol, F. D. (Ed.). (1977). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Vol. 3, p. 1020). Review and Herald Publishing Association.
White, E. G. (1954), Child Guidance. Southern Publishing Association Nashville, Tennessee.
White, E. G. (1952). The Adventist home. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
1 North American Division Department of Family Ministries (2009). Family Ministries Curriculum for Local Church Leaders.(3rd Ed.). AdventSource, Lincoln NE.
2 Kumar, A. (2013). Retrieved from http://www. christianpost.com/news/mark-driscoll-on-why-and-how-to-honor-father-mother-106600/ (accessed 2/10/15).
4 Jain, R. (2012). Retrieved from ishikajain.com/ 2012/06/15/a-beautiful-inspirational-story-on-relationships-message-for-parents/