Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.…
I. AN URGENT COMMAND. Do your duty to your father and mother. This may be taken to include those who occupy the place of a parent - a grandfather or grandmother, or uncle or aunt, or friend or guardian. I shall try to bring out the spirit of this command in a few short remarks.
1. Honour your parents. Our words to our parents should be respectful: we should honour them in our speaking. I am amazed and grieved to hear how some children speak to their fathers and mothers - to hear the pert, disrespectful, impudent answers they sometimes give them. Our looks and gestures should be respectful. Do you see that little fellow, who has been found fault with, or has not got what he wanted? What a face he puts on - what ill-nature shows itself in these pouting lips - what revenge and defiance there is in that fiery eye - what a scowl on his young face! But he does not say anything; perhaps he does not dare. I wish you would remember that your eye and lips may sin, as well as your tongue and hand. Our actions - our general conduct and behaviour towards them, should be respectful We may do things, that are right in themselves, in a very disrespectful way - ungraciously, offensively. Where there is some infirmity - where, for instance, a parent is deaf, or lame, or sick, or ill-behaved, this is very apt to be. We do what is asked or wished, but we do it with a very bad grace. The same may be said of the way in which we receive and treat their instructions, it may be carelessly, heartlessly. Then there is such a thing as being ashamed of our parents - when they are poor, when they are not so well educated as we are. It was not so with Joseph, one of the first princes of Egypt, when he presented his old shepherd-father to the king, and was as proud of him as if he had been a king too.
2. Obey your parents. It is not enough to pay them respect, in a general way: they must be obeyed. To say "No" to a parent, is to run directly in the face of God's law. And we may not choose what commands we shall obey, and what we shall not. And so I shall pass on to say something about the kind of obedience that should be rendered.
(1) Our obedience should be without questioning. Some children have a very bad trick of asking a reason for everything.
(2) Our obedience should be prompt. The thing asked should be done at once. Much depends on this. A parent should never require to repeat his command. To wait for a second bidding is just next to refusing. We might often learn important lessons from the lower animals, and not least from dogs, which, when well trained, are remarkable for their obedience. Let me tell you a story which brings out strikingly the advantage of prompt obedience. There was a dog that was growing old and deaf, belonging to one of the officials at a railway station. One day the dog was coming leisurely along between the two lines of rail, when the express train appeared, and screeching out its shrill whistle, came dashing on, as you have seen "the express" do. The poor dog could hear no sound, the train was close behind, there was no way of giving him warning in time to get off the line, and there seemed nothing for it but that the poor brute should be killed on the spot. His master, however, by a well-known sign with his finger, ordered the dog to lie down; in a moment he lay flat on the ground; and in less time than I have taken to tell the story, the train had passed over him, and left him unharmed. His prompt obedience saved his life.
(3) Our obedience should be cheerful. It should be "not of constraint, but willingly." Compulsory obedience is not right obedience. We should not obey sulkily, making it plain that we only do the thing because we must.
3. Love your parents. It is not enough to pay them outward respect - to make a point of obeying them: you must love them. They love you, and nothing will satisfy them but your love in return. A poor woman once came to me, almost broken-hearted, and told me this story. She had been calling on her daughter, a young servant girl, in a good situation. When the daughter opened the door and saw who was there, she threw a shilling to her, as if she had been a beggar, said she was afraid lest her mistress should come, and shut the door in her mother's face, leaving her staggering under the rebuff. I think I see that mother yet, as she said to me, "What was my daughter's money to me, when I had lost her love?"
4. Be kind to your parents. If you really love them, you will be kind to them. Anticipate their wishes, and give them a pleasant surprise. I might mention many beautiful instances of kindness to parents. I have heard of an American Indian chief who was taken prisoner with his son, and, with heavy chains on his limbs, was cast into prison. The chief whose prisoner he is, has no child, and wishes to adopt the boy as his son. He brings out rich ornaments for the wrists and ankles, such as the Indians delight to wear, and tells him to choose whatever he likes. One by one the boy takes them up and looks at them; but his thoughts go back to his father in his dungeon, and for him he gives up all. "As you give me my choice," his reply is, "I had rather wear such as my father wears" - a chain! See that youth, respectable and well educated, who has been unable to get money otherwise, and now offers to enlist as a soldier, provided he gets a good bounty. What does the lad mean? His old father is in prison for debt: the son would do anything to get him released; he gets the bounty asked, and though it may cost him many a year of hardship and danger, he hurries to the well-known cell, takes his father in his arms, and tells him he is free! Or look into this humble home. On a bed lies a sick man, so helpless that his wife can do little else than wait upon him. She cannot go out to wash or work. People wonder how they live, for they get no parish aid. Do you see that little girl of twelve? How nimbly her fingers are going! Every morning she is up at four; it is nothing but stitch, stitch, stitch with her, all the day. She is the little bread winner for the household.
5. Value your parents. Well you may. You will never find the like of them again. You will not have them long. Prize them while you have them. And here let me put in a word for aged parents. When a father or a mother grows old, the duty to support and show kindness to and bear with them, becomes increasingly binding.
II. A PRECIOUS PROMISE - "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest. live long on the earth." I can but touch on this.
1. God says, Obedience will be pleasing to Him. It is implied in the promise, that God will approve it.
2. God says, It will be a blessing to yourself. "It shall be well with thee: thou shalt live long," etc.
(J. H. Wilson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.