Ephesians 6:1 tells us, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This passage connects with Deuteronomy 5:16, “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” As we can tell from these passages of Scripture, children are told to obey their parents in the Lord, but what does this mean for adult children?

Obedience “in the Lord”

When God tells us to obey our parents, He tells us to obey our parents in the Lord. This means we only obey our parents in the realm that is in accordance with His teachings in the Bible. If our parents tell us to do something that is not in accordance with the Bible, we don’t have to obey them. As an example, if our parents tell us to hurt ourselves, hurt someone else, or lie for them, this isn’t right. We are not bound to follow these rules. If a parent ever tells you to do something that goes against Scripture, you are not bound to follow what they tell you.

We know we are to obey our parents in the Lord as we are children, but what about when we are adults? Are we still bound to obey our parents? The answer is the same—even as adult children, we are to obey our parents in the Lord. No matter how old we get, we are still supposed to obey our parents in the Lord. The key words here, yet again, are “in the Lord.” We are not called to obey our parents in everything they ask us to do. If their requests and wants don’t align with the Bible and the purpose God has for our lives, we don’t have to obey them. Even though our parents are our parents, their say-so and decisions aren’t more powerful than what God tells us in His Word.

God’s Word is our perfect guidebook to help us make the right decisions. If we follow God’s teachings in His Word, we can better serve God and stay fully devoted to Him. We all have earthly fathers, though many of our earthly fathers fail us. Either we never knew them, they left, or they are emotionally detached. While this is all too common with earthly fathers, God is our Heavenly Father, and He is always there for us and never leaves. He loves us far more than any earthly father could. God’s love for us cannot be measured, nor can it be contained. 

Since God’s love for us is so great, we can know we can obey His teaching in the Bible. God is love, which means He loves us unconditionally and eternally. He is the exact embodiment of love. We know we can trust in the Lord and obey Him because He loves us. The teachings in the Bible are there to help us, not hinder us. While our parents might give us bad teachings or immoral rules to follow, we can always trust in God’s teachings as outlined in the Bible. He doesn’t ever do anything to hurt or harm us. The Lord is always there for us, and He desires our growth in Him.

Complicated Situations

Some of our parents can be quite tricky when it comes to the matter of obedience, so we need to always weigh what they say against Scripture. Even as adults, we are to obey our parents in the Lord, but we don’t have to obey them if they tell us to do something that isn’t right. Many parents have a hard time letting their adult children make their own decisions and can be controlling, even suffocating at times. Some teachings, rules, and restraints your parents have placed upon you might be unreasonable, but know that you don’t have to obey them unless they are in accordance with God’s Word. 

As an example, while my mom was still alive, her rule for my sisters and me was that we couldn’t move out until we got married. While this was a common practice for people in my family, I never could fathom the idea of waiting until I was married to move out. In fact, marriage was never on my mind, so the idea of waiting to be married to move out felt like hanging doom over my head. From this rule set forth by my mother, I couldn’t move out unless I was no longer single. I remember being a teen when my mother said this, and while I was walking back to the living room with my sisters, I told them “I guess I’m never leaving home.” While it has continued to be a joke between my sisters and me, it was a scary idea to me at the time.

To have the rule brought forth that you couldn’t leave your parents’ house unless you were married was unreasonable. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that we must be married before moving out. Therefore, since this rule is not biblically sound, there is no reason why my sisters and I have to follow it. Rather, a more appropriate rule should have been, “once you are financially stable, you can move out.” Having marriage as a precondition to moving out should not be enforced upon anyone’s head. If anything, it makes you feel as if you’re not capable of living on your own unless you have a spouse.

Maybe you have had a similar rule in your household growing up, or maybe you still have those same rules pressed on you even though you are an adult. While being an adult does mean you make many more of your own decisions, you are still to obey your parents in the Lord. We should always respect our parents and be courteous to them even if they don’t act the same way back. Most of the time, if we defy a parent’s unbiblical rule or teaching, they become upset, even angry, with us. This is when we need to tell our parents that their rule or teaching is not in accordance with the Bible, which means we, as their children are not under obligation to obey it.

Need for Respect

When you address your parent(s) on these issues, you need to be respectful. Don’t be rude or sassy to your parents. Instead, show them proper respect and point them to what God says about the matter in the Bible. Parents like to think they know best, and to an extent, they can help us in many ways, but they are not God. Even if they give us great advice, only God knows best. It is always the best course of action to follow what God says rather than what other people say. If a parent makes a rule, such as not lying, this is in accordance with the Bible, and thus, we still need to maintain this rule even as an adult. However, we are never obligated to follow a parent’s teaching if it goes against God’s Word.

Thus, we are to obey our parents in the Lord, even as adult children. When the Bible tells us to obey our parents in the Lord, it means we are only obligated to do the things they ask that align with the Bible. If what they tell us to do is not biblically based, then we are not obligated to obey them. Even as adults, we must obey our parents in the Lord. This is right, and it pleases God when we obey Him. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/imtmphoto


Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

Vivian Bricker

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