Why Children Must Obey Their Parents

by John MacArthur

Scripture is clear that children are to obey their parents. Just read the Fifth Commandment. Obedience on the part of the child is the tool that brings him to maturity in all the proper ways. Parents must teach their children obedience. This is one of the most basic and obvious responsibilities of parenthood. It involves discipline, and, when necessary, chastening and correction.

Why must children obey? Because they lack maturity in four major areas of life that are essential for independence. Those are delineated in Luke 2:52 where we are told how Jesus grew as a child in all four ways: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Even though He was perfect and sinless, our Lord grew as a child mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Those are the ways in which all children need to grow.

1. Children need to grow in mental maturity. Children lack wisdom. They lack discretion, instruction, and knowledge. When a baby is born his brain is almost completely without information. Whatever he's going to know must be taught to him. He doesn't know what is right and wrong; he doesn't know the right foods to eat; he doesn't know what not to put into his mouth; and he doesn't even have enough sense to stay out of the street. All those things must be taught, and childhood is a time for learning them.

2. Children need to grow in physical maturity. They are born weak and unable to support themselves. It's a long process as they gain strength and coordination. At first they must be fed, changed, and burped. They can't fend for themselves or make it in the world alone. It is their parents' responsibility to protect them.

3. Children need to grow in social maturity. A child at birth is totally selfish. He wants what he wants immediately, and he thinks everything in reach belongs to him. It's difficult to teach a child how to share, what to say at the appropriate time, and how to be humble. None of those things come naturally to any child.}

4. Children need to grow in spiritual maturity. A child doesn't naturally grow to love God. Scripture suggests that even little children do have some innate knowledge of God (Rom. 1:19), but without proper instruction, they will drift away. Their own depravity will draw them away. It is the parents' responsibility to steer them in the right direction. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).

From Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur, (c) 1998.
Used by permission of Word Publishing, Nashville, Tenn. All rights reserved.