Selfishness or Obedience

Obeying the rules and submitting to the authority of others is very difficult. Many times we do not like the people who have authority and even worse we may not respect them as individuals. For children and teens this is even more difficult because they lack the life experience to understand why the rules are in place. As parents disciplining them to obey is a painful process that can easily make the parent out to be the “bad guy” in the situation. As a parent there have been times when my wife and I had to correct and address bad behavior from one of the children at bed time. There are tears and yelling, but they went to bed. As parents we feel bad because the guilt sets in that the child did not go to sleep happy and filled with love. This guilt and perspective is wrong. That child was loved so much that we were willing to correct them in spite of the pain for both of us. I have found that the next morning the painful part of tears and prideful resistance of the correction is forgotten and there is peace and a renewed embrace and understanding of right and wrong.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

I have found that God deals with me in much the same way. My heart is rebellious and there are always lusts of the flesh that capture my interests. These lusts for food and pleasure in my heart are part of prideful selfishness to obtain anything I want with no concern for the impact to others. A child that is screaming “me, me, me” cares only for his own needs. A child that grows up to be an adult that has never been disciplined against the selfish desires will be an adult that has no problem cheating and stealing to get what they want out of life.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

God’s word is vocal on how we are to correct our children and how we are to accept correction from the authorities over us. Everyone has authority that they submit willingly or unwillingly. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians quotes from the Ten Commandments and highlights an interesting fact about the command to honor your parents.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV

Paul calls out the link between obedient children and a society that is well organized and long lasting. Paul in another letter lumps disobeying parents in with the worst of the worst things people do.

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 ESV

A child trained to obey earthly parents is an adult that will obey a heavenly father. Jesus is calling us to follow him and the authority he has from the Father. Jesus is calling you…

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

The Family Life of Jesus

Jesus was once a child and the Bible communicates two fundamental truths about his childhood that we as children and parents would do well to carry out in our own families.

First as parents it is our job to raise our children in a home where God is a priority. For Joseph and Mary it is clear that they raised up Jesus in a family that put priority on the religious requirements of their day and time. As first born in their family they dedicated Jesus to God according to the Law that is required for them as Israelites. While this is just one example of a religious ceremony it is assumed that this lifestyle is part of who they are as a family. I expect that they also spent time as a family talking about God, and living a life that God would want from them.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24 ESV

Second as children it is important that we honor our parents and submit to their authority when we are young. When Jesus was twelve his parents took him to Jerusalem for Passover and then started to return home from the festival without him. Once they realized that he was missing they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. When they found him he was in the Temple learning and amazing others with his knowledge. Yet even in this Jesus kept in mind God’s command to obey parents and submit to the order that God ordained. Jesus returned home to continue to fullfill his role as a child even if he might have been ready to be out on his own. The result is that Jesus in childhood continues to gain wisdom and favor with those in the community. Children that obey parents and respectfully listen to adults are a joy and benefit to the community at large.

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51-52 ESV

What are some additional things we can take away from the family that Jesus grew up in? I am sure based on what we know about this family that they would have taken the Law of Moses seriously. When I think of the Law of Moses I think of the 10 commandments. There are two types of commands in the 10 commandments. Commands 1-4 are commands that deal with the relationship between man and God like not using God’s name as a profanity or a curse. The second set of commands 5-10 are commands that deal with the relationship between man and man. Do not steal, or kill are famous examples. However the first command in the set that deals with our relationship with others is this…

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 ESV

God starts with a command of asking us to Honor our parents and give them respect deserved or not. God also gives a promise with this command that if we do this our days in the land we are living might be long. None of the other commands related to our relationship with other people comes with a promise like this. The family unit, the relationship within the family and the children honoring their parents is foundational to peace and longevity in your life.

Proverbs has wisdom about how to live an earthly life that honors God and those around you. In this wisdom it is common to find advice from adult to child about how to approach life.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Proverbs 1:8-10 ESV

There is also wisdom that talks about the foolishness and haste of youth who think they know better than adults that have lived a few more seasons. God’s wisdom and knowledge is here for those that will pause to listen, but youth that did not respect and honor their parents will grow up to be adults that will not respect or honor God their creator. I think about my own youthfulness and my desire to get out in the world to make a name for myself. I was so foolish and let me just put it this way… the me of now thinks the me of 20 years ago was an idiot. Don’t blame God or parents for the stupid things you did in your youth.

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:2-3 ESV

So children pause, look, and submit to authorities in your life. There will be a time for you to make your own way. Lord willing you will have learn something valuable from those who have gone before you. Parents, you have a great responsibility and stewardship in the children that God has blessed you with. Here is one final thing that the parents of Jesus would have had on their mind as they raised Jesus and his brothers and sisters…

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Parents, are you talking about God as a family at home? Are you talking about God in the car when traveling? Are you talking about God in the morning before rushing off for the day? Moses said to teach them diligently. Are you diligent about the things of God in your family? Moses said to write the words of God on the walls of your house. Do you decorate your home with scripture? In my home office over my desk is a framed picture that has the words of Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord”. Have you made Jesus a central focus of your life and family?