We want to continue thinking about the Christian home that we have been looking at in the last three studies. In the first 2 studies, we thought about husband-wife relationships and in our last study, we thought about bringing up children. This is a very important area and we need to think about it a little more today.
Let us now look at the one commandment that God gives to children. Do you know that God gave Adam and Eve only one commandment? You all know about the Ten Commandments that Moses gave to the Israelites. But God gave Adam and Eve only one commandment and they disobeyed that one commandment. As a result, they brought chaos into the world, into their home, into their mutual relationships, and the first child that was born to them grew up to be a murderer, killing their second child. It was tragic. In the same way, we find that God has given only one commandment for children and has not made it difficult. He has not given children 10 commandments but just one. We read in Ephesians 6:1-3 what that commandment was. It was given in the Old Testament as part of the Ten Commandments. The 5th commandment, ‘‘Honour your father and your mother.’’ It says here in Ephesians 6:2 that, this is the first commandment that God gave with a promise. The promise was that ‘‘It may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.’’
I want to speak to parents first. I want to ask you parents, do you want it to go well with your children? Do you want your children to live long on the earth? Or do you want your children’s life to be shortened? Do you want it to go badly with your children? Now, it is not talking about your children being intelligent, or healthy, or capable, or rich, or great, or any such thing. When it says, ‘It will go well with them,’ it means that it will go well spiritually. Even if they work as peons in an office or as corporation sweepers, it doesn’t matter. If they are godly, they will be great in God’s eyes. The point is not about their earthly position. The point is that it goes well with them spiritually.
What does it mean that they will live long on the earth? Live up to the age of 100? No, Jesus lived only up to 33. To live long, in New Testament terms, means to complete God’s plan for their lives irrespective of whether they die at 20 or 60 or 100. The point is to complete God’s plan for their lives before they leave the earth, because God has a specific plan for your children. Please remember that parents, and don’t destroy that plan by putting other values into the heads of your children. That they think other things are more important than God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Uprightness, straightforwardness, honesty, these are far more important than anything on this earth.
So, fathers are told in Ephesian 6:4, ‘‘Don’t provoke your children to anger.’’ Don’t keep on irritating them by nagging them, and scolding them day and night, but bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord. Instruct them, first of all, by teaching them scriptural principles and secondly, by disciplining them. We need to punish our children because the Bible says in Proverbs 22:15, ‘‘Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.’’ Every child is born into the world with foolishness bound up in his heart. It doesn’t matter whose child it is. Whether it is an atheist child, or a God-fearing Christian couple’s child, they both are born with the same flesh and the same ‘old man’ that has a tendency to sin; foolishness is bound up in their heart.
How can this atheist’s child and this God-fearing couple’s child have that foolishness driven out of their heart? Only one way – the rod of discipline! There is no other way. Parents who do not use the rod are not going to bring up their children in a godly way. We need to use the rod of discipline, because we want to drive out that foolishness. The Bible makes it very clear that the rod of discipline will drive it far away. The foolishness is in the heart, but the rod is applied to the bottom and it drives out the foolishness from the heart. This is God’s way. You might as well follow it instead of the teachings of modern psychologists.
With all these techniques that modern psychologists teach, what is the result? See what is happening in the western world today. Those children grow up rebelling against their parents with no respect for their parents. This is the result of modern psychology and ignoring the Word of God. Go and see the homes where people have followed the simple old-fashion teaching of proverbs 22:15 and see the difference. The Bible says that you can save your child form hell by using the rod; don’t spare him, it says, even if he cries. What should we use the rod for? – When they don’t obey that one commandment to honour their parents. You know that that is the most important thing for children to learn.
If your children break something expensive, maybe you have an expensive dish or vase, or something like that, made of China, and they accidentally dropped it and it broke, are you going to punish them for that? That is foolish. Now, if they do it in rebellion and anger, they certainly need to be punished, but not if they do it accidentally. Your loss may be great in terms of money, but it is no use punishing your children for what they did accidentally. Don’t you and I do things accidentally and make mistakes? What do we need to teach our children? – The one commandment that God gave children – “Honour your father and mother.” That means to respect them first of all.
If you are a son or a daughter reading this article, let me tell you this – If you want it to go well with you, and if you want to fulfil the length of days that God has appointed for you on the earth, honour your father and mother. Even if you are 75 years old and your parents are still alive, honour them. Honour them till you die. You don’t have to obey them once you leave your home to set up your own home and you are earning your own living. Jesus obeyed Joseph and Mary as long as He lived in that home. The moment He left that home, after His baptism, He honoured His mother but did not obey her. Once His mother came and told Him about the lack of wine at the wedding in Cana. He said, ‘‘Woman, what have I got to do with you? Don’t interfere in My ministry.’’ Jesus didn’t disobey the scripture, but He honoured His mother. He cared for her when He was hanging on the cross by asking John to take care of her, to provide a home for her. But He did not listen to her once He left the home.
As long as you are living at home under your parents’ authority, the command for you is to obey your parents. Do what they say, unless they tell you to disobey the word of God in some area. Then you have to obey God and say, ‘We have to obey God rather than man,’ just like the apostle Peter said in Acts 5:29-32. But in every other area you must obey them. Honouring them must be true throughout your life, even when you leave your home; respecting them, never speaking evil about them. You may see many weaknesses in your parents, hide them.
Do you know why Noah’s son Ham was cursed? When he saw his father’s nakedness, instead of hiding it, he went and spoke to others about it. Do you speak about your father’s weaknesses which you have seen at home or your mother’s weaknesses? There will be curse on you, like there was on Ham. Get rid of that habit. Why should you expose your fathers or mothers weakness? If you want, pray for them, but keep it hidden, unless you are seeking r advice from some godly brother to whom you go and share. If there is a problem you are facing then it is all right, because that godly brother may need to know your problem in order to help you. That is the only situation in which you should reveal the way your father or mother is behaving, which may not be godly. But to talk about them as gossip will bring the judgment of God upon your life, because you are not honouring them. This is so important.
It is so important, for us as parents, to teach our children obedience and to break their stubborn will when they are young, so that they learn to obey us as their parents. That is how we prepare them to obey God one day, in the future. But, if you don’t break their will when they are young, they will never be able to obey God later on in life. It will have to be a miracle. It does happen in some cases, because God is great. But it is our responsibility, as parents, to do it early in life. When shall we start punishing them and correcting them? – As soon as they are able to understand. If they can understand what you are saying when they are 1 year old or 1 ½ years old, then that is the time to start punishing them, if they disobey. The earlier you start the sooner you can finish. By the time the child is 13 years or so old, there should be no more need to use the rod on that child anymore, if you started when the child was say about one year old, and if you did it in the fear of God and wholeheartedly.
But, if you were careless, then you have a problem on your hand from your child when he becomes a teenager. He does not know how to speak respectfully. He does not know how to obey you. He doesn’t know how to obey God. This is the tragedy in many Christian homes. What shall we do? Repent, say, ‘Lord, have mercy on us.’ Those, whose children are still in their early stages, not yet teenagers, do what the scripture says. Bring them up in the fear of God. Teach them to fear God.
The greatest thing you can do, as husband and wife, is to be united. Don’t be divided in the punishment of your children. Be united in following scripture. When husband and wife are divided, it brings chaos into the home. It opens the door for the devil to come right in and destroy your children. Be united and let the devil find no gap between you, to come through and attack your children. Be a good example. Don’t tell your children to do what you can’t do yourself. The unity of father and mother and being a good example is very, very important. From such a life, God will be able to lead your children in godly paths.
One last thing: parents pray for your children by name every day, every single one of them. All through your life pray for your children by name every single day that they will grow up in a godly way. Then God’s heart will be satisfied, as our homes become godly examples and a light in the midst of a dark world.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.