By Greg Litmer
There are few things that are as pleasant to behold as a well behaved child who is in subjection to his parents. I am not talking about a perfect child because I have never met one. I am talking about boys and girls who run and play, who have to be rebuked sometimes, who may test their parents and push the limit every now and again, normal kids who are just growing up. At the same time few things are as distasteful and unpleasant to behold as a child who is in charge of his mom and dad: mouthy, disrespectful, disobedient, insolent, and in control. This is just another way that we can “sin against the child.”
One of the vital parental responsibilities is to teach their children respect for authority. That begins in the home from the earliest days of the child. One of the Ten Commandments given by God through Moses to the children of Israel was, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exod. 20:12). The charge to teach this command of God, as well as all of the others, is given to the parents (Deut. 6:6-7; Eph. 6:4). The very first authority figures that a child comes in contact with are its parents. A failure to instill a proper respect for authority on that most basic of levels will result in trouble with other forms of authority later on, including a respect for the authority of God.
It is not a sign of love on the part of the parents to allow their children to speak to them in a disrespectful manner. It is not a sign of love to allow children to blatantly disobey parental commands without having to pay the consequences of such disobedience. Several passages from the book of Proverbs emphasize this fact. For instance, Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” The parents who refuse to punish a child for blatant disobedience and disrespect do their child a great injustice, and are indeed guilty of “sin- ning against the child.”
Why are some adolescents, living in their parents’ home, allowed to decide if thy will come to worship services or not? I have heard all of the supposed reasons for this, but none of them holds water. (a) “I don’t want my child to end up hating religion.” Yet, these same parents make their children go to school because they know that it is best for them. (b) “My child just won’t get out of bed on Sunday morning.” I always want to ask those parents, “Were you ever in the military?” They certainly had a way to get a disrespectful, lazy soldier out of bed. (c) “Why force them to go if they don’t want to be there?” Because God has given the responsibility for the spiritual upbringing of the child to the parents. Who would you rather offend, God or your child? Who knows better what is good for them, God and parents, or a teenage child?
There must be no mistake about it. God has placed the parents in charge, not the children, and the husband is to be the head of the house! There are willful children, about that there is no doubt. But as parents we must let them know that our will is stronger. It is so distasteful to see parents manipulated by their children like puppets on a string. It is sinful to allow that to happen!
God has clearly revealed to us how he feels about indulgent parents who allow their children to run roughshod over them and neglect their responsibilities in this area. Remember Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas? In 1 Samuel 12-14, we find, “In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever.” Eli was punished for letting his sons misbehave and not restraining them. And let us not forget that the sons were punished too. Hophni and Phinehas died in one day as punishment from God.
A child who grows to follow the way of righteousness generally does not happen by accident. It takes work by dedicated parents who love the Lord and love their children.
Let’s close with the words of Solomon from Proverbs 23:15-25. He wrote, “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine. Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things. Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off. Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetterh a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad and she that bare thee shall rejoice.”