As we have worked our way through a biblical household, the emphasis has necessarily been on parental responsibilities and duties. But this should not lead anyone to believe that these are the only responsibilities within the home. And one good place to highlight the responsibilities of children is when we come to their “space”—their bedrooms.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20).
We all know the broader context of this, which is the responsibilities of parents, specifically fathers. But we have a tendency to link our obedience to the obedience of others, which these texts do not do. It does not say “Children, obey your parents if they do this or that.”
Just a few important details to note about these verses. First, it is addressed to children, that is, those who are under their parents’ care and oversight. Second, obedience is to be rendered to the parents, which means both of them. This relates to the neighboring requirement of honoring parents, which should not require force. Third, it is obedience that is required. And last, it is the right thing to do, and is well-pleasing to the Lord.
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
One of the central things that we want you as young people to learn (so that you will not have to unlearn so much as we have had to do) is the integration of the inner and outer aspects of your life. The hypocrite cleans up the outside because it is easier than cleaning up the inside (Matt. 23:25). But while this sin will always occur to the end of the world, it is currently far less common than its opposite gnostic error, which is the assumption that if the inside is “fine,” then the outside is basically irrelevant.
So you need to understand that your environment is your life—this includes your thoughts, your notebook, your bedroom, and your heart. What you do with your body is just as much a part of your spiritual life as your prayers are (Rom. 12:1-2). This includes making your bed (or not), picking up your socks (or not), or doing your homework there (or not). This must be emphasized because neglect of it is why so many good Christian kids feel that when they disobey, they are not “really” disobeying. We have been trained in such a way as to think that if we honor our parents “on the inside,” we are “really” honoring and obeying them, whether or not we actually are.
The word for obey that is used in both these verses is hupakouo. This is important because of the role listening has in the word. Now of course, you are not required to be a mind-reader. If you are in the backyard, and your mother goes into your closest and whispers to you to clean it up, you are not in sin because you didn’t hear her. But (let’s be honest) this is not what usually happens. One of the uses of this word refers to a porter, whose job is to listen for a knock at the door. His first act of obedience is to hear the command. Just as “I forgot” is not a biblical excuse, neither is “I didn’t hear. you”
So what should obedience look like? What are some key principles that children need to master?
obedience is not hard of hearing—as we have noted, an obedient heart listens for the command, and wants to hear it. Deaf obedience is disobedience.
obedience is not forgetful—if you are told to make your bed on Monday, this command does not evaporate by Wednesday. Forgetful obedience is disobedience.
obedience is not piecemeal—the Colossians passage says that children must obey parents in all things. Partial obedience is disobedience.
obedience is not postponed—attempts to set your own schedule for obedience is simply another way of seeking control of the whole thing. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
obedience is not subject to your interpretations—it is easy to begin thinking things like, “I don’t have to do this because I am older now.” Reinterpreted obedience is disobedience.
obedience is not reluctant or sullen—if obedience is well-pleasing to God, then it must be well-pleasing to us. Grumpy obedience is disobedience.
Two concluding considerations. You know, and your parents know, that you are being brought up to maturity. Once you have grown to mature adulthood, you will be in your own household, and you will then honor your parents differently—and this will no longer be through obedience. Now while you are still at home, you will go through a time of transition as you grow toward that independence. Take care that you grow toward maturity in all maturity, which means that you should not request the privileges first. Request the responsibilities first.
And second, strive to see your life as an integrated whole. If your “heart is right,” but your room is a pit, you are not doing this. If your room is spotless, but your heart is filled with all manner of uncleanness, then you are not doing this either. Learn to avoid Pharisaical hypocrisy at the same time that you reject gnostic mysticism. This is shorthand for “clean your room with a clean heart.”