W. Austin Gardner
The rights of children
There were children in these Christian homes, and Paul addressed part of his letter to them. The normal result of marriage is the bearing of children, and fortunate are those children who are born into Christian homes where there is love and submission. “Be fruitful and multiply” was God’s order to our first parents (Gen. 1:28), and this order was given before man sinned. The marriage relationship and the bearing of children are not sinful; rather, they are part of God’s mandate to man. In the begetting and bearing of children, the husband and wife share in the creative activity of God.
A great deal is being said about the rights of children, and they do have rights. One of them is the right to be born. Another is the right to be born into a dedicated Christian home where they will be raised in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). They have the right to have godly parents who will teach them the Word of God and discipline them in love.
John H. Starkey was a violent British criminal. He murdered his own wife, then was convicted for the crime and executed. The officials asked General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, to conduct Starkey’s funeral. Booth faced as ugly and mean a crowd as he had ever seen in his life, but his first words stopped them and held them: “John H. Starkey never had a praying mother!”
Children have rights, but they also have responsibilities; and their foremost responsibility is to obey. They are to obey “in all things” and not simply in those things that please them. Will their parents ever ask them to do something that is wrong? Not if the parents are submitted to the Lord and to one another, and not if they love each other and their children.
The child who does not learn to obey his parents is not likely to grow up obeying any authority. He will defy his teachers, the police, his employers, and anyone else who tries to exercise authority over him. The breakdown in authority in our society reflects the breakdown of authority in the home.
For the most part, children do not create problems; they reveal them. Parents who cannot discipline themselves cannot discipline their children. If a father and mother are not under authority themselves, they cannot exercise authority over others. It is only as parents submit to each other and to the Lord that they can exercise properly balanced spiritual and physical authority over their children.
The measure of the child’s obedience is “all things”; and the motive is to please the Lord. It is possible to please the parents and not please the Lord, if the parents are not yielded to the Lord. The family that lives in an atmosphere of love and truth, that reads the Word of God, and that prays together will have an easier time discovering God’s will and pleasing the Lord.
The word fathers in Colossians 3:21 could be translated “parents,” as it is in Hebrews 11:23. Paul made it clear that parents must make it as easy as possible for children to obey. “Provoke not your children” (Col. 3:21) is a commandment to parents, and how often it is disobeyed! Too often, parents automatically say no when their children ask for something, when the parents should listen carefully and evaluate each request. Parents often change their minds and create problems for their children, sometimes by swinging from extreme permissiveness to extreme legalism.
Fathers and mothers should encourage their children, not discourage them. One of the most important things parents can do is spend time with their children. A survey in one town indicated that fathers spent only thirty-seven seconds a day with their small sons! It is an encouragement for children to know that their parents, as busy as they are, take time—make time—to be with them.
Parents also need to listen and be patient as their children talk to them. A listening ear and a loving heart always go together. “You took time to have me,” a child said to her father, “but you won’t take time to listen to me!” What an indictment!
Life is not easy for children, especially Christian children. Their problems might seem small to us, but they are quite large to them! Christian parents must listen carefully, share the feelings and frustrations of their children, pray with them, and seek to encourage them. Home ought to be the happiest and best place in all the world!
Discouraged children are fair prey for Satan and the world. When a child does not get “ego-strength” at home, he will seek it elsewhere. It is a pity that some Christian parents do not help their children develop their personalities, their gifts, and their skills. It is even worse when Christian parents compare one child with another and thereby set up unnecessary competition in the home.
Parents sometimes use their children as weapons for fighting against each other. Father will forbid Junior from doing something, but Mother will veto that order and give her approval. The poor child is caught between his parents, and before long he learns how to play both ends against the middle. The result is moral and spiritual tragedy.
If a home is truly Christian, it is a place of encouragement. In such a home, the child finds refuge from battles, and yet strength to fight the battles and carry the burdens of growing maturity. He finds a loving heart, a watching eye, a listening ear, and a helping hand. He does not want any other place—home meets his needs. In this kind of a home, it is natural for the child to trust Christ and want to live for Him.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 143–144.