By Donald P. Ames
Unless I have overlooked it somewhere, the expression “disobedient to parents” is only found two times in the New Testament. The first reference is found in Romans 1:29-31, where Paul says, “being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful”; etc. The second time is found in 2 Timothy 3:2, and is joined with this: “For men will be lovers of them-selves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanders, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” etc. Obviously such a disposition is not pleasing to God and is not the type of company we would like to be identified with.
I’m sure, especially from this context, that Paul is not referring to a child who might misunderstand or disagree sometimes with his parents. Rather, the context suggests a child of the nature who might “curse” his parents (Exod. 21:17, Lev. 20;9) or “strike” his parents (Exod. 21:15). Such a child, along with the rebellious and lazy (“glutton and drunkard”), was to be brought before the elders, formally accused, and stoned (Deut. 21:18-21). According to a Jewish commentary I have in my library, they interpret to “curse” to invoke the name of the Lord against, and to “strike” to leave a bruise. And although there is no record of anyone actually being put to death for such, it does well express God’s disapproval for such an attitude. Such a child, refusing to heed anything his parents might say, would also rebel against the laws of the land and the laws of God as well.
Contrast this with the attitude of Christ, who was subject to his parents (Luke 2:51). Also with the other child, interested in doing God’s will, who is instructed to “obey” his parents (Eph. 6:1, Col. 3:20), and to “honor” them (Eph. 6:2). They may not always be right, but they are our parents, and in God’s divine plan, they are to be respected as such. When differences arise, we need to learn to discuss such with them, showing the proper respect due their position and wisdom (Prov. 13:1). We may not always agree with them, or even like their decisions; but to respect God’s divine arrangement, we must learn proper respect for them as well. And sometimes, as we grow older, we learn their wisdom was much wiser than ours was at a younger age. That is why God made us subject to our parents, and not the parents to the children.
In 3 John 11, John says, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” Now, pause and think a moment: Which group are you imitating? Is it the group that respects God and his word, or the group that is in rebellion against all that pleases God? If you are in the wrong group, perhaps you need to reexamine your disposition and make some changes! And when was the last time you praised your parents for what they did for you?
Guardian of Truth XLI: 5 p. 8
March 6, 1997