Obeying Ungodly Parents

Should children obey their parents if one or both of them is on drugs or involved in some other grotesque sin? They may be giving wrong instructions. Ephesians 6:1.

You refer to Ephesians 6:1, which states, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right."

We must understand that the Lord sets up several authorities in our lives. We are to obey the laws of the land. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Children are to obey their parents. We are to submit to our employers at work. And, certainly above all, we are to obey the Lord. However, the Lord is not ignorant of the fact that these authorities will occasionally conflict. Our boss at work may tell us to do something ungodly. The government may make a law against something that Christians are supposed to do. And, sometimes, parents may ask us to do something that is wrong. In all of these cases, the answer is always the same: we must obey God before man. If the two conflict, we are to follow God first.

For instance, when the officials of Jerusalem told the apostles that they could no longer teach in the name of Jesus, Peter replied, "We ought to obey God rather than men." That is, when men command us to do something in direct conflict with what God has told us to do, we are to obey God first. On another occasion, Peter and John said, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20). Though Christians are clearly commanded to obey the laws of the land, an exception is to be made for those laws that run counter to the direct commandments of God.

This applies to children obeying parents as well, although the authority of parents is probably even greater than that of the state. This is seen in the very verse we are discussing: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." Children are to obey their parents "in the Lord." I believe this refers to that which is right and godly. For instance, if a parent commands a child to steal, it would be right for that child to disobey his or her parent in that matter. They are to obey in the Lord--in those things that are not direct disobedience to the Lord.

However, I do not want to give the wrong impression that ungodly parents lose all authority over their children. In other words, the fact that a parent lives an ungodly life (as in your example, they are on drugs) does not remove their natural authority as a parent. An ungodly parent may honestly look out for the welfare of his or her children and those children are to be obedient in all things that are right. It is only when the command given by the parent would cause the child to disobey God that disobedience to the parent is allowed. An ungodly parent retains his or her authority as long as it is used in the things allowed in the Lord.

Finally, in order to avoid misleading someone, I must deal with one other possibility. Some parents are terribly hurtful and abusive toward their children. I believe that these parents have truly forfeited their right to be parents and that it is right and proper for others to come to the aid of the children. This is a touchy subject because many government agencies are now calling proper discipline abuse. However, that does not change the fact that real abuse exists and it should not be taken lightly. Children in such cases should be removed from the parents and brought up by those who will love them. A teenager in an abusive situation should seek for help. I hope these comments help.

David Reagan
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 24:23

These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.