Have you noticed that verse two is part of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5)? Perhaps one thing we observe from these verses is that Paul is speaking from some familiar verses. Some Bible versions capitalizes the Old Testament quotes such as the NASB, others do not, but verses 2-3 are from a part of the Bible that most people are familiar with– the Ten Commandments.
In an attempt to rebel from God’s constraints on their lives, modernists have been trying to eliminate the presence of the Ten Commandments from courtrooms and educational buildings. Whether the plagues are there or not, does not really matter for God still uses them to rule the nations. The importance of these laws is seen by how God actually wrote them twice on stones. Paul mentions that they are the first command with a promise. The other commands had no promise attached to them. They were simple prohibitions. But this one did. This is very significant. Again, it reminds us of how important this one command is.
The promise is, “that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3). Does it not mean that without this obedience that things will not be well with you? Certainly it does. If by compliance to what God says here, blessing comes, then certainly we are to draw the conclusion that there is no assurance of blessing without obedience. These laws go right across the cultures. Cultures that adhere to the primacy of obedience to children will be blessed. This is the reason the Chinese civilization has lasted so long. The foundation of respect to parents, filial piety, has been a moral life virtue. Even if they do not believe God, if they abide by it, then they obey God and will share in the blessing.
What does this say of God? Does it mean that God is just trying to limit our fun on earth? Does it mean that God doesn’t really care for us? The opposite is true. Commands are designed to help keep the children in a safe playing environment. They become borders in which we can safely operate because God knows what lies outside of those parameters, problems will develop. You say, “What problems?” Let me mention a few.
How many people like bratty or spoiled children? These children have not learned to value others. They think about themselves rather than how they should please others. They are not obedient. The parents don’t dare refuse them less a violent storm develop over the spirit of the child. The parents eventually persuade themselves that it is better to give no commands so their children so that they do not get upset. This is totally different than the perspective we find here, “Children are to obey parents.” Instead we have such rebellious children that parents are afraid to give commands to because they do not enforce them.
Clever and prideful children
When children are not called to obedience, then they become quite manipulative. Some children are worse than others, but the root problem is the same. They value the way they can get around their parents’ commands. They despise their parents’ wisdom seen in their rules. Some do it by shouting and temper tantrums, others by saying, “Okay, Mommy,” but in fact when they turn the corner, they disobey. They watch the television show they want, IM with their friends or talk to people their parents say they shouldn’t. They are wise in their own eyes. They are not wise but full of folly. They believe their ways are superior to their parents’ wisdom and pride themselves in their own ways. They even pay themselves all sorts of compliments on the way they got around their parents’ restrictions as their friends listen to your story.
Daring and bold
These same children often become daring and bold in a bad way. They should have learned the fear of God from their respect to their parents. It works this way. They learn that when they do something wrong, that there is a negative consequence. This is where discipline comes in. They learn from this that some things in life are wrong and at the same time learn to control themselves not to do such things. The purpose behind discipline (physical and otherwise) is to ensure that their children will obey their parents. When they do not have these set of negative consequences shaping their decisions, they do what they want in defiance to their parents if needed.
Children do not learn this immediately. They learn it over through repetition and in different settings. They learn something or mature and they want to see if the same negative consequences come to play. Parents, do not give up. We might get tired of pursuing them but otherwise they will like many other children make themselves the supreme authority. The terrible stories of young people killing themselves, getting doped up, hurting others all derive by children who have not submitted themselves to their parents’ rules.