The Duty of Children
Study #24 Colossians 3:20
by Bob Burridge ©2023
We all start out our lives as children. The young ones are an important part of the whole church family. This lesson on Colossians 3:20 is directed to them. It says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” There’s a very important set of lessons here for all of us, regardless of our age. God provides the children, and all of us can learn from what’s said here.
The word used for “children” in the original Greek text is “teknon” (τεκνον). It’s a fairly general term which was used in many ways. It’s obvious from this context that Paul primarily means young children growing up at home.
It’s not always easy being a child. The demands and adjustments of growing up are challenging. There are the obvious problems children have to face. They have to learn how to get food successfully into their mouths. They have to learn how to move from one place to another balancing on just two legs. They have to learn how to organize a complicated stream of human sounds into meaningful conversations.
Then there are the more difficult moral challenges: They have to learn what the rules are, and why there are rules. They have to learn to appreciate imagination and fictional stories, while learning to always tell the truth. They have to learn how to behave when others around them behave badly. They have to learn there are things they’re not suppose to do, even when doing them looks like fun.
Children need to learn these hard lessons, and we’re all told to help them. Part of the difficulty is how they perceive time. They often find it hard to see themselves as adults in the making. It seems so remote to them, so far off. For a 9 year old, being 18 is doubling his entire life time! For a 3 year old, 18 is six whole life times away. That’s as remote as for a 40 year old to comprehend what life would be like if he lived to be 240!
To children we adults seem like different kinds of people entirely, instead of just grown up children. We grownups lived as children in an era that to us seems like ages ago. Our whole culture and the things around us were different back then.
I remember a song by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones called “As Tears Go By“. I used to perform it in coffee houses way back in the ancient 1960’s. The closing lyrics go like this, “It is the evening of the day, I sit and watch the children play. Doing things I used to do, they think are new. I sit and watch, as tears go by.”
We have to help the children bridge that chasm. In that process we will discover some important lessons for ourselves if we pay attention.
God’s design includes growth from birth to adulthood. Snakes generally become full adults when they are about 2 to 4 years old. In most breeds of dogs, puppies are able to become parents when they are about 6 months old. I read that shark pups swim away from the mother immediately as they’re born and survive on their own.
God designed human children to grow up more slowly. They can’t feed themselves, walk, or communicate for a long time. They can’t physically become parents for many years, and even then they’re often not emotionally ready. He certainly could have made us turn into adults a lot faster if he wanted. Instead, he determined that we need to be children a lot longer than snakes, dogs or sharks. They grow up gradually in a home environment designed to reflect God’s relationship with us.
The home should be an amazing lesson about God and redemption. It also provides order for society, without which everything falls into chaos.
In Colossians 3:18 we saw that wives are told to respect the authority God gave the husbands. It says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” They should be active helpers to support their husbands duties in leading the home. They should put their special wisdom, talents, and gifts to work for her home.
In verse 19 husbands are told to be godly leaders. It says, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This kind of leadership is not self-satisfying. It leads for the benefit of the wife and children. It’s a self-sacrificing leadership, that provides for the family tenderly and with care. Husbands should pay attention to the family’s real needs, and how God tells them to meet those needs.
Here in verse 20 the Apostle
turns to the relationship between
children and their parents.
Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
God’s message to the children is a direct Commandment. He tells them they must be obedient to their parents.
Of course this wasn’t a New Testament idea. It was the 5th commandment given through Moses. In Exodus 20:12 God said, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” But even before Moses, going all the way back to Eden, children were to be raised under the authority of their parents. When marriage was first established the man was given the responsibility of overseeing the home. A basic order of authority and submission was built into God’s creation. These commandments to wives, husbands, and children are permanent parts of the creation order. Children are always to obey and honor their parents in the Lord.
This verse says that children are to be obedient in all things as long as it’s consistent with what God says. Parents should enforce all of God’s moral laws in the home.
God has given parents the right and duty to set up rules about how to live in the home. It’s their responsibility to decide about what meals are served and when we eat them, when it’s time for bed, when to wake up, what chores should be assigned, and similar things. It’s fairly common that children often have a different idea about those rules. They might think they’re unfair, or too strict. But they still need to obey their parents in these things. God says so.
Ephesians 6:2 adds that as children obey, they need to show respect. It says, “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)”. This concept of honoring parents is taken directly from the 5th Commandment (Exodus 20:12). Children must obey respectfully and always recognize the duty and office God gives parents. Children should want to please their moms and dads in love. When that love and respect is lacking, children should learn to pray for God to make them love as they should.
Of course it’s sad when parents become too harsh or make way too many unnecessary rules. This discourages children, instead of helping them. We will deal with that in the next study when we look at Colossians 3:21. But even when parents need to improve (and they all do in some ways) the children still need to obey them with respect. They should try to understand the struggle of their parents to do their job well. They should pray for and encourage their parents. They should pray because they really care for them and love them deeply.
There is only one exception: Parents shouldn’t guide their children to break God’s law. Their authority comes from God. So God’s law comes first. Parents can’t make them worship idols, shouldn’t steal things for them, lie, or spread gossip. They have no right to discourage them from praying, or to neglect reading their Bibles. If parents tell their children to do wrong things, they must be disobeyed quietly and honorably. All the fruit of the Holy Spirit should be seen in their godly disobedience. Children should never have temper tantrums or talk disrespectfully.
Parents who abuse their authority over children need to be helped with the Gospel. Children need to learn that adults struggle too, even their parents, so children need to be patient and understanding, and pray for and encourage their parents. Parents have a hard job to do and God calls children to be helpful in building a godly home.
This is a principle we all need to work on, not just young children. Even as adults, there are those God puts in authority over us. There are Elders in the church, managers at work, and those who enforce civil laws where we live. All of them must be obeyed in the things where God gives them authority. As for parents, it’s their duty to set up good rules for the family. It’s how God set up the home to work, and God’s ways must be loved by us all.
Children shouldn’t stop respecting their parents even when they grow up. They eventually move out on their own or get married. But God’s law doesn’t release them from honoring their parents. Even when they get married and begin their own home, their parents shouldn’t become non-parents in the heart of their children. Their advice should still be taken humbly, considered carefully, and dealt with respectfully. The Bible affirms that the family covenant continues throughout the lives of all in the family.
The classic reformed commentary on Colossians by John Daille says, The term children “… comprehends all children of both sexes, that is, both sons and daughters; and of whatever degree, that is grandsons with regard to their grandfathers, as well as sons with regard to their fathers … Let all those therefore to whom the title belongs, remember that to them is this injunction of the apostle’s addressed. … to whatever years you have attained, and whatever degree or honor you possess, you remain unalterably your father’s and your mother’s children.”
Then the commentator gives several examples from Scripture where that principle is shown to be the operative law in the extended covenant family.
Parents should use wise restraint when advising their children even after they grow up. Colossians 3:21. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” This will be taken up in more detail in our next study.
Children must learn godly ways from parents after they become adults. The Book of Proverbs summarizes this advice. It’s not just idle advice. It’s God’s word.
– Proverbs 1:8-9, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”
– Proverbs 6:20-23, “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,”
– Proverbs 15:5, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”
– Proverbs 17:6, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.”
– Proverbs 23:22, “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”
The covenant home is designed so
that all in it will be maturing together.
It’s a place where the glory of God should become the atmosphere. Dueteronomy 6:6-9 describes the godly home environment, “And these words that 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In an atmosphere like that, the children will learn to be holy and happy throughout their lives.
God made us to be creatures of habit. The things you fill your life with become the path your thoughts and desires will follow. Godly learning is when we build paths in the soul that honor God and promote his glory.
What do children surround themselves with? Do they honor God’s word and ways? How are their rooms decorated? are there ungodly heroes and celebrities? Or do their surroundings remind them of God’s glory and his blessings? Does their choice of music, social media, and entertainment fit with the glory of God? or do they promote selfish-pride, greed, hatred, covetousness, lust, and crude language? Do children choose friends who encourage them to be faithful to the Lord?
If not, then they aren’t doing their part in building a godly home. They would be offending God and grieving their parents. If a home is to be filled with God’s word as Deuteronomy 6 says, then all members of the home, parents and children, need to cooperate in this. Godly children help their parents with the job they have to do in training them.
Next, this verse gives a Reason
behind this commandment.
Colossians 3:20b, “… for this pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:1 adds to this, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
When children obey and honor their parents it’s a very good thing. Not just because of what they may get out of it for themselves. They may sleep better, get homework done, keep a clean bedroom, and be fed good meals. It’s because their obedience and respect actually gives pleasure to God!
When children respect the order God sets up for the home, they show the orderly pattern God built into his creation. An orderly home reflects our Lord’s glory displayed there. It makes the home a more holy and pleasant place to live in. So when we see children, think of this important spiritual lesson that reveals more of God’s nature.
Christians are all children of God spiritually. The child’s obedience and respect in the home should remind us of how we should obey and honor our Heavenly Father in all things as we live here where God put us.
Children are a lesson about our own relationship with God. When we watch the children have fun at play it should remind to enjoy God’s blessings around us. When we see children experience new things with excitement and awe we should open our eyes to see the world around us with a renewed freshness as it declares God’s Glory as our Creator and Sustainer. Our parents brought us into this world and take care of us just as God made us and cares for his children.
There’s a Promise attached to this principle of God’s law. Ephesians 6:2-3 says this is, “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”.
Honoring your parents will make things “go well with you.” It’s the best way for you to live, since it’s the way God made things to work. It’s very sad when children disobey or dishonor their parents. Things will not go well with them.
The next line expands on that. Obey and honor our parents “that you may live long in the land.” Disrespectful and disobedient children will be unhappy and will get into trouble. It violates God’s law as they struggle against how God created things to work. They make their parents unhappy and disrupt the peace of their home. They build bad habits that will be hard to overcome for the rest of their lives. They get into trouble at school, and often do criminal things in society. They sometimes get injured by their foolish behavior. They offend God — which is the worst thing of all.
God has promised that those who obey and honor those God put to guide them will be blessed. Children are to respect and submit to their parents. All of us as children of God should respect and submit to our Heavenly Father, and those he puts in charge in the church, at work, in the cities and countries where we live, and in our own families.
Disrespectful children may be though of as “cool” by the world. But they offend God — and are anything but cool. It’s foolish and very unwise to rebel against the commandments of God. One of those commandments is that you obey and honor your parents.
Children hope to grow up to become one of those “adults”. That time will come if they are ready for it or not. Obedient and respectful children will grow up to be more happy as adults.
As we adults help them grow up, we’re reminded of how we need to grow spiritually too. We are children in the family of God, the family of our loving Heavenly Father. We need to obey his holy law, honor his majesty, and trust in Jesus our Savior who by grace forgives us and makes us God’s children.
As God’s children we should grow up with the exciting amazement of a child. In child-like awe we behold our Creator’s world and ways in all their beauty and wonder.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.