Colossians 3:20
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.


1. Reverence. (Leviticus 19:3; Ephesians 6:1, 2.)

2. Readiness to receive instruction from parents. (Proverbs 1:8.)

3. Submission to their rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1.)

4. Gratitude. (1 Timothy 5:4.)

5. Submission to their just commands. They are to obey "in all things," that is, in all lawful things, for it must be done "in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1).

II. THE GROUNDS OF THIS DUTY. "For this is well pleasing to the Lord." This is, in itself, a sufficient reason for filial obedience, But it is well pleasing to the Lord for several reasons. It is not enough to serve God, but we must serve him so as to please him (Hebrews 12:28).

1. It is agreeable to his Law. (Exodus 20:12.)

2. It is right in itself. (Ephesians 6:1.)

3. Christ was obedient to his parents. (Luke 2:51.)

4. It is necessary to the good order of family life.

5. The welfare of the child depends upon its obedience, especially at a time when it cannot reason upon what is right. - T. C.

Children, obey your parents in all things.
Among all those mutual offices by which society is preserved those incumbent on parents and children are the most important. If a man neglect his children or misgovern them, how wilt he duly treat other dependants? Or if a child shake off the parental yoke, how will he bear that of a master or prince? Whereas a good child in the house is likely to be a good subject in the state, and a good father will prove a good master and magistrate (1 Timothy 3:4-5).


1. Those addressed are of either sex. Daughters, therefore, must not urge their weakness, nor sons their strength, as a reason why obedience should be dispensed with. Nor must time or fortune, for children, of whatever age or rank, are unalterably their father's and mother's (Genesis 46:29).

2. The duty is obedience: which includes the "honour" prescribed by the law. But the term is used to show us that this honour is not a vain respect, and to condemn hypocritical obsequiousness (Matthew 21:30).

3. The extent of the duty is universal. This is natural, and would have been literal but for sin. Now, however, exceptions must be introduced (Ephesians 6:1), and obedience in things not "well pleasing to the Lord" is prohibited. If a father should command his son to be an idolater, or to kill or hate his neighbour, or forbid him to embrace the service of God, obedience would be criminal (Luke 14:26; Matthew 10:37). But children are to obey —(1) In those things which are conformable to the Divine will — in which case God's law has an additional sanction — viz., parental authority, and disobedience involves, therefore, double guilt.(2) In things indifferent. I wish that fathers would confine themselves to what is human, yet if they command anything not repugnant to God's law, however harsh, it must be obeyed.(3) Whence it appears how dangerous and contrary to the Word of God is the doctrine of Rome, which enfranchises children from this authority, daughters at twelve and sons at fourteen, giving them liberty, in spite of their parents, to enter a cloister. This directly contradicts Numbers 30:3-8; Matthew 15:4-6.

4. The enforcement. The apostle might have urged the justice of the thing itself, gratitude prompting it; or from nature, which has engraven this law on animals; or from the custom of all nations, who have authorized the veneration of parents as of sacred persons, and made piety at once Divine worship and filial obedience. But he alleges nothing but the sole will of God. That this is well pleasing to God is seen —

(1)From His commandment.

(2)The promise annexed.

(3)The punishments threatened (Deuteronomy 21:18; Exodus 21:17:Leviticus 20:9; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 30:17).

(4)His Fatherly relation (Malachi 1:6).


1. The provocation forbidden is an ill effect of the abuse of parental authority. Fathers provoke their children —(1) When they deny them a suitable maintenance (1 Timothy 8).(2) When they give them inhuman or unrighteous commands (1 Samuel 20:34; Matthew 14:8).(3) When without necessity they compel them to perform sordid actions.(4) When they assail them with irritating or angry words (1 Samuel 20:30).(5) When they chastise them beyond measure or desert (2 Samuel 7:14).

2. To dissuade fathers from this fault, the apostle shows the evil it produces. Nothing more dejects the heart of a child than undue vigour.(1) It saddens him when in the countenance and actions of that person to whom he should be most dear he sees nothing but aversion.(2) It intimidates and deprives him of all courage for a good undertaking; for, finding himself ill-treated by his father, what can he hope for from others.(3) Some get hardened, and fall by degrees into desperate impiety.

(J. Daille.)


1. The duty itself contains four things.(1) Reverence (Leviticus 19:3, 20; Hebrews 12:9).(a) With respect to speech, that it be agreeable to the relation, graced with humility and modesty, giving them honourable titles, pleasing answers, respectful requests.(b) With respect to behaviour. Rude and haughty looks cannot comport with this duty.(2) Observance.

(a)Attending to their instructions.

(b)Executing their commands.

(c)Depending on their counsels — as regards a calling in life, and marriage.

(d)Following their examples.(3) Pious regards.

(a)With respect to their benevolence towards us.

(b)With respect to their claims when in indigence, in infirmity, or dead.(4) Submission.

(a)To their admonitions.

(b)To their corrections.

2. The extent of the duty. We cannot imagine that this is so universal and absolute as obedience to God. He is the only absolute lawgiver (James 4:12), and when parental claims conflict with His, we are absolved from our obedience. Hence we find Acrotatus commended among the ancients because, when his parents had required of him to do an unjust thing, he answered, "I know you are willing I should do that which is just, for so you taught me to do; I will therefore do what you desire, but not what you bid."

3. The reason for the duty: because it is well pleasing to the Lord. The supreme authority of our heavenly Father makes any duties He requires highly reasonable: and in pleasing God you please your parents and yourself too, for you must needs be happy when God and you are pleased (Psalm 19:11; Ephesians 6:1).

II. THE OFFICE OF PARENTS. They are not to irritate their children, but, by parity of reasoning, to so comport themselves in good government as to secure their children's honour. Let us look, then, at this positive side of the matter. L The more general parental duties.(1) Prayer for all necessary things, but more particularly that they may be God's children.(2) Good behaviour (Proverbs 20:7; Proverbs 3:22).

2. More particular.(1) Sustenance.(2) Education (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6).(3) Disposal into some fit employment and marriage.

III. THE MEANS OF MANAGING THE DUTIES OF BOTH RELATIONS. 1, To children.(1) Be thoroughly sensible of the mischief of disobedience, and the benefit of obedience.(2) Remove all tendencies to the dishonour of parents, and set a value on their instructions.(3) Perform all with sincerity and impartiality to both parents.(4) Set about your filial duties willingly and readily.(5) Persevere in all, whatever temptations you meet with.

2. To parents.(1) Be sure you keep up the life and power of godliness in your domestic practice.(2) Maintain your parental authority, and assert the dignity of your relation, yet with love and mildness.(3) Sweeten all with expressions of endearment, to insinuate the more into their affections, but still with Christian prudence.(4) Endeavour to carry it with all evenness and impartiality to every child, according to a rational proportion.

(Richard Adams, A. M.)

God hath set the solitary in families. The domestic constitution is the type of all governments. If discipline is neglected in the home, it is rarely that the loss is made up afterwards. Coleridge has said: "If you bring up your children in a way which puts them out of sympathy with the religious feelings of the nation in which they live, the chances are that they will ultimately turn out ruffians or fanatics, and one as likely as the other." Lord Bacon observes that fathers have most comfort of the good proof of their sons; but the mothers have most discomfort of their ill proof. It is therefore of vital importance that the reciprocal duties of parents and children should be faithfully and diligently observed.


1. This obedience is universal. "In all things." The law commands: "Honour thy father," etc., and the most signal way is to obey. Parents have the wisdom of experience, and know the dangers that threaten their children, and are in a position to offer judicious counsel. Filial obedience should be prompt, cheerful, self-denying, uniform; not dilatory and reluctant.

2. This obedience is qualified and limited by the Divine approval.


1. The parent is not to rule in a spirit of exasperating severity. An excessive severity is as baneful as an excessive indulgence.

2. To rule in a spirit of exasperating severity tends only to dishearten. A certain writer has significantly said: "What if God should place in your hand a diamond, and tell you to inscribe on it a sentence which should be read at the last day, and shown there as an index of your own thoughts and feelings? What care, what caution, would you exercise in the selection. Now this is what God has done. He has placed before you the immortal minds of your children, more imperishable than the diamond, on which you are about to inscribe every day and every hour, by your instruction, by your spirit, or by your example, something that will remain and be exhibited for or against you at the judgment day!"Lessons:

1. To rule wisely we must first learn to obey.

2. Disobedience is the essence of all sin.

3. That government is the most effective that tempers justice with mercy.

(G. Barlow.)


1. Because it is your duty.(1) God commands it, and He is so good that we ought to obey Him, and so great that He will not allow disobedience to go unpunished.(2) Your parents command it, to whom you owe your all of earthly happiness.

2. Because it is your interest. Neither God nor your parents would wish it if it were not for your good.(1) It will secure for you God's blessing, whereas disobedience will bring down His curse. Remember Hophni and Phinehas, and Absalom.(2) It will make you cheerful and happy in your minds, whereas disobedience makes you sullen and disagreeable to yourselves as well as others.(3) It promotes your daily improvement. Disobey, and your evil dispositions will become daily more tyrannical.(4) It makes others love you: but no one likes a disobedient child.(5) It is most favourable to conversion, but the contrary almost precludes the hope of it.

3. Because you have the perfect pattern of our Lord to urge you to obey.


1. Religiously. With a regard to what pleases God, and not what pleases self or parents so much.

2. Heartily and sincerely, as opposed to that hypocritical obedience which some children yield when their parents are in sight, because they are afraid of the consequences.

3. Completely. It is of no use for children to obey in some things and disobey in others; to do half what their parents command, and leave half undone.

4. Instantly, without waiting to ask the reason, or promising to obey at some future time.

5. Cheerfully. There is an obedience of the hand, but a disobedience of the heart.

6. Always. Not simply till you go to business, or are of age, or married. "Despise not thy mother when she is old."

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)

The commander of the Orient, before the Battle of the Nile, placed his son, Cassabianea, thirteen years of age, on certain duty, to stay at his post till relieved by his father's order. Soon after the father was slain. The boy held his post in the midst of fearful carnage, ignorant of his father's fate; and while the sailors were deserting the burning and sinking ship, he cried, "Father, may I go?" The permission did not come, and there he stood at his post and perished.

(E. Foster.)

The Hon. Thomas H. Benton was for many years a United States senator. When making a speech in New York once, he turned to the ladies present, and spoke about his mother in this way" "My mother asked me never to use tobacco, and I have never touched it from that day to this. She asked me never to gamble, and I never learned to gamble. When I was seven years old she asked me not to drink. I made a resolution of total abstinence. That resolution I have never broken. And now, whatever honour I may have gained, I owe it to my mother."

(King's Highway.)

A tradesman advertised for a boy to assist in his shop, and go on errands. A few hours after the morning papers were circulated he had his shop thronged with all kinds of boys. Not know ing which to choose he advertised again: "Wanted, to assist in a shop, a boy who obeys his mother." Only two boys ventured to apply for the situation.

(J. Bate.)

A pointsman in Prussia was at the junction of two lines of railway, his lever in hand for a train that was signalled. The engine was within a few seconds of reaching the embankment, when the man, on turning his head, perceived his little boy playing on the rails on the line the train was to pass over. "Lie down!" he shouted to the child, but as to himself, he remained at his post. The train passed safely on its way. The father rushed forward expecting to take up a corpse, but what was his joy on finding that the boy had at once obeyed his order! He had lain down, and the whole train passed over him without injury. The next day the king sent for the man, and attached to his breast the medal for civil courage.

When I was a boy, and a little reckless, my mother used to say to me, "De Witt, you will be sorry for this when I am gone." I remember just how she looked, with her cap and spectacles. I remember just how she sat with the Bible on her lap. I laughed the admonition off, but she never said a truer thing in all her life. I have been sorry for it ever since.

(T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, lest they be discouraged.
— Discouraged, Paul means, in good. His language is addressed to fathers, for he seems to have had in view the case of advanced children; and yet the language is equally applicable to the case of mothers and very little children. Children are discouraged and hardened to good —

I. BY TOO MUCH PROHIBITION. There is a monotony of continuous prohibition which is really awful. It does not stop with ten, like the words of Sinai, but keeps up the thunder from day to day. All commandments, of course, in such a strain come to sound Very much alike, and as they are all equally annoying, the child learns to hate them all. The study should be rather to forbid as few things as possible, and then soundly to enforce what is forbidden.

II. BY UNFEELING AND ABSOLUTE GOVERNMENT. If a Christian father is felt to be a tyrant, he will seem to his child to be a tyrant in God's name, and that will be enough to create a sullen prejudice against all sacred things. Nor is the case improved when the child is cowed into fear of such a parent, and thus reduced to submission. There is a beautiful courage in a child's approach to God; but if his courage even toward his father is broken down, he will only shrink from God with a greater fear.

III. BY AN OVER-EXACTING MANNER AND A DIFFICULTY IN BEING PLEASED. Children love approbation, and are specially disappointed when they fail of it in their meritorious endeavours, and especially when they are blamed for a trivial defect which, had they known, they would have avoided. But some parents appear to think it a matter of faithfulness to be not easily pleased, lest the children should have loose impressions of duty. They do not consider how they would fare if God should treat them in the same manner. But what can win a child to attempt to please God when His earthly representative is so difficult to please?

IV. BY HOLDING DISPLEASURE TOO LONG, AND YIELDING WITH TOO GREAT DIFFICULTY. It is right when children have done wrong to make them feel your displeasure; but that should not take the manner of a grudge, and hold on after repentance. On the contrary, there should be a hastening towards the child like the prodigal's father, otherwise repentance will be turned into a sullen aversion, and into a feeling that there is the same heavy tariff of displeasure to be paid when he would turn towards God.

V. BY HASTY AND FALSE ACCUSATIONS. When good intentions are rated low, and children are put under the ban of dishonour, they are very likely to show that they are no better than they are taken to be. To batter self-respect is the surest way to break every natural charm of virtue and religion. The effect is scarcely better where acknowledged faults are exaggerated and set off by colours of derision. It will do for a parent to be severely just, but exaggerated justice is injustice, and more terribly so when it assumes the Christian name.

VI. BY KEEPING CHILDREN IN A CONTINUAL TORMENT OF SUPPRESSION. We have no right to be anxious anywhere; it is unbelief which trust in God should set at rest. And we have less right to be, in that it destroys the comfort of others. Only to be in a room with an anxious person is enough to make one positively unhappy. What, then, is the woe put upon a hapless little one who is shut up day by day to the fearing look and deprecating whine, and supercautionary keeping of a nervously anxious mother. Nothing will so dreadfully overcast the sky of childhood as the weather this makes. It worries the child in every putting forth and play lest he should be hurt, and takes him away from every contact with the great world's occasions that would school him for manhood. And then, since the child will most certainly learn how little reason there was for this eternal distress, he is sure to be issued finally in a feeling of confirmed disrespect. No, there must be a certain courage in maternity and the religion of it. The child must be wisely trusted to danger, and shown how to conquer it.

VII. BY GIVING THEM TESTS OF CHARACTER THAT ARE INAPPROPRIATE TO THEIR AGE. A child loses his temper, and the conclusion forthwith sprung upon him is that he has a bad heart. Whereupon he is reluctant to pray, as if the wrong were conclusive against him. But how would the father or mother fare if tested by the same rule? So, if the child evinces a desire to play on Sunday, has not the father, who has outgrown play, occupied himself even in church with his secular schemes? If a child is wholly perverse, it will not discourage him to tell him of it; but if he wants to be good, he should be shown how ready God is to help him and to forgive his faults.

VIII. BY THE HOLDING ALOOF SYSTEM BY WHICH CHILDREN ARE DENIED A RECOGNITION OF THEIR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP. The child giving evidence, however beautiful, of his piety, is still kept back from the Lord's table, for the simple defect of years. As if years were a Scriptural evidence of grace. No plan could be devised for the discouragement of piety in children more certain in its object. They are only mocked and tantalized by their baptism itself.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

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