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Friday, September 17, 2010 | Comments (16)

When God addresses children directly in Ephesians 6, He gives them an amazing incentive for obedience. Here’s the deal: If you honor and obey your parents, you’ll enjoy a long, fruitful life.

Young people…does that seem like God is using a carrot-stick approach to entice you to obey? Let’s be honest—that almost sounds like the prosperity gospel, straight from the studios of the Trinity Broadcasting Network—“Obey the call to donate your money, and God will bless you with health and wealth.”

In today’s TBN-saturated environment, it’s easy to become jaded and look at God’s real promises with a bit of skepticism. How serious should you take God’s promise to you, His promise to fill your life with divine blessing? Listen in, as John MacArthur answers that question.

Listen to this 10-minute clip:

Launch Player  |  Download  |  Full Sermon

Now that you’ve listened to John, you understand the true prosperity that results from obeying and honoring your parents. Here are a couple questions you can discuss in the comment thread:

    1. TBN prosperity charlatans use trickery to manipulate obedience (i.e., “Send us your money!”). Young people, in what ways do you see parents manipulate obedience from kids in your generation?
    2. What is the prosperity and blessing you expect to receive from God as a result of obeying and honoring your parents?

Parents and the rest of you more mature readers, you can sound off too. Just because you’re not living under your parents’ roof doesn’t mean you don’t need to honor them any longer. Join in the conversation!


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#1  Posted by Frank Dornik  |  Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 11:18 PM

Question: What does God's Word say about the relationship between parents and single young-adult children living on their own (ages 21-25)? For example, is parental approval important or unimportant regarding the person they plan to marry?

#2  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 9:11 AM

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#3  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 4:36 PM

What's the best to do when unbelieving father tells a son or daughter to stop singing God's praises in another room cause the son or daughter had a joyful attitude when reading the bible? When I share God's Word to my dad, he says don't preach me. Just a thought.

#4  Posted by Je Ko  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 6:31 PM

If you are 52, then your mother must be at least 70.. One clear biblical principle is, we as children, should take care of our old parents (1 Tim 5:4~8), even if we may be separated from our parents by getting married; the question was whether you should associate with her. You are now part of another family, which consist of you as the head, and your wife and children. Other than the biblical responsibilities mentioned above, I don't believe you are obligated, in addition, to listen to her counsel, i.e. she has no authority over you. But I believe this is an opportunity to minister to an unbeliever (her behaviors as you described clearly indicate an unbeliever, if it is an accurate CHARACTERIZATION)- show her your love for her and minister to her with prayers and patience. God may have a plan for you to minister to your mother so that she may hear the gospel, be prayed for, so that she may be saved.

I don't know whether there is a room for applying the principle of protecting your family from your mother, since your children are already grown. Maybe others can add comments about this. May the Lord be merciful to us all.

#5  Posted by Peter Heffner  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 6:35 PM


Other more knowledgeable commenters may correct me if I am off, but I think that if her husband is dead, you at 52 are the head of your mother, inasmuch as you are her eldest, adult, male family member.

Regardless, you out of love must keep praying for her as you must be doing, and do all that you can to see that she gets the care she needs for her dementia (which is what you described). That she may have moments of clarity only makes it harder for you to accept her moments of irrationality as some form of dementia. Mental issues are extremely hard for family members to deal with. But since you still have dealings with her now in the middle of your life, I assume that she was never so cruel when you were young (or you would likely have moved far away long ago). Thus, this woman you see now is an abbreviation of that mother you apparently love so much. Picture her in your mind when she was her most beautiful.

These are her last days; you will be free from her soon. Make sure she has accepted Christ. This will help bring closure to you -- and eternal security for her.

That said, I hope the two of you are not living under the same roof. I pray you have the means to place her with whomever she best should be. This will honor her.

#7  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 7:29 PM

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#9  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Monday, September 20, 2010 at 9:27 AM

A few of the same general questions have surfaced related to a son’s obligation to his parents when he no longer lives with them, or when they are not believers. Here are a few generic guidelines to help you discern your responsibility in those situations:

First, the command to honor your parents is a command for life--absolute. It’s never absolved, irrespective of whether your parents are believers or unbelievers, and even when you no longer live with them.

There is a way to honor your parents even when they are unbelievers. You can pray for them, love them, respect them, obey them cheerfully when at all possible. And when your parents' commands are counter to the clear commands of God's Word and you are asked to violate Scripture, the truth of Acts 5:29 comes into play: "We must obey God rather than men." In such circumstances, you must refuse to obey you parent's wishes, but not in a defiant or insolent way. And you should accept the consequences of your disobedience patiently and without a display of defiance or anger. That’s what God’s Word says to do (see 1 Peter chapters 3 and 4). Also, part of honoring your parents when they are unbelievers is of course sharing the gospel with them with much prayer, love, patience, discernment and tact.

There is a clear parallel on how a wife is to win her lost husband to Christ with meekness, submission, humility, obedience, and prayer. You can check that out from a previous post in this series.

Sadly, not all parents desire to raise their children in the way of truth. But when Paul writes "Children, obey your parents in the Lord," he is saying that obedience is in the sphere of serving, pleasing, honoring, and worshiping the Lord. He is not saying that the respon¬sibility to obey extends only to those children whose parents are "in the Lord." So you mustn’t think God relieves you of the responsibility to honor your parents if they are unbelievers.

When a child is no longer living with his parents, there are a number of elements related to his responsibility in those kinds of situations, such as:

(1) What is the dynamic of the child/parent relationship?

(2) Did the child leave his parents’ home with their blessing?

(3) Are the parents believers, or unbelievers?

(4) Is the child seeking his parents’ counsel on a regular basis?

Parents don’t have some kind of demagoguery, autocratic authority and control over their child for the rest of his/her life. But again, the command to honor is life-long. I believe maturity and discernment (both products of a mind saturated with Scripture), along with prayer and godly counsel will give a child direction in those kinds of situations.

#10  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, September 20, 2010 at 4:57 PM


Thanks for sharing that. Show her that Jesus loves her and cares

for her. Give her a bible? Talk to a pastor at your church, so he and you can pray? Remember God provides us a way though struggles.

Remember God will help you. Keep praying. God bless.

#11  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Monday, September 20, 2010 at 8:29 PM

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#12  Posted by Bebe Atto  |  Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 7:11 AM

Dear Pastor MacArthur,

I thank God for your Teaching ministry, I learn a lot from you. regarding this blog, I believe the promise Paul mentioned was just following the quotation he used from the Old Testament, it can't be applied to this present dispensation. our blessings are spiritual not material. this promise was for the children of Israel; by keeping the commands of the law they were promised to stay longer in the land God had given them.besides, if we were truly promised prosperity by obeying our parents, means all true Christian who honor their parents should be prosperous, because the majority of us have parents not only the kids among us; I am afraid you may be teaching a kind of Prosperity Gospel.



#13  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 4:25 PM


It makes no sense at all for Paul to quote the Old Testament promise if he did not intend for children—and parents to apply it to our age. After all, Paul was writing post cross, post ascension, and post Pentecost. He was writing to the church. The promise extends to us and our children.

In his commentary on Ephesians, John MacArthur writes, “Though this blessings may not always be tangible, a family where children and parents live in mutual love and submission will have rich, God-given harmony and satisfaction that other families can never know. As for the promise of living long on the earth, the believer who honors his parents can know that his lifetime will be the full measure God intends, rather than cut short like those of Ananias an Sapphira (Acts 5:5-10) and certain members of the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:30).

R. C. H. Lenski writes, “But do some of the best Christian children not dies in childhood, in youth, in early maturity? Are some into in great affliction, crippled, very poor, etc.? Do not the wicked prosper (Ps. 73:3, 12)? Divine providence is full of problems for our finite minds. We can never hope to comprehend all the ways of God, especially those observed in individual cases. God promise stands; these problems, to which we have only such partial answers in this life, leave it unchanged. Let no one think that he may for any reason mock that promise. The sons of Eli did.”

James Montgomery Boice says, “This last promise is not a blanket assurance that every individual who honors his or her parents will live longer than every individual who does not. But it is a general promise that God’s material and physical blessing rests on those who work at being Christians in these relationships.”

John Calvin said, “The promise is—a long life; from which we are led to understand that the present life is not to be overlooked among the gifts of God . . . the reward promised to the obedience of children is highly appropriate. Those who show kindness to their parents from whom they derived life, are assured by God, that in this life it will be well with them.”

John’s interpretation and exposition of the text is in pretty good company. If he is called a “prosperity” preacher for being faithful to the text, so be it. God gives a serious warning to anyone who adds to or takes away from God’s Word. The promise of this text shouldn’t be withheld from our children. That was the point of the blog.

#14  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Children's obedience to parents produces a long life. This

sermon is saying alot that we need to know. Toys don't make

the child happy. cause it cause confusion, and giving more

things to make the child calm and happy. It's not healthy.

What it said in the sermon that we need to show children to obey their parents is actually teaching them to obey God. Right on!!

I don't see that often in this age.

One thing, a baby picks things from adults, some good or bad

habits can cause disobedience in later life. If we do or teach

our children what's right in our own eyes, not God's. It will

pass on to them. They will in turn do the same to their children.

With God's help, He will help us to raise godly children.

Best solution is raise children as it says in the OT.

'A child who obeys the parents, The child may live long in the land.'

Did I stayed on the point of the blog?

#15  Posted by Bebe Atto  |  Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 6:55 AM


this is what Alfred Martin wrote in Wycliffe Bible commentary:

"this must be taken as continuation of the quotation from the law and not as a direct application to the believer in the present dispensation. Although the principle is always true, the soon coming of the Lord, rather than long life, is the Christian's blessed hope."


#17  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:11 AM

I actually struggled with this verse after my father died at the age of 68. I felt it was too young for a man who had so lovingly and respectfully honored and cared for his parents. He had only survived his mother by four years after several years of caring for her after the death of his father. I humbly asked God about it in prayer. It was not too long afterwards that I read an article which stated that the disease my father died of usually takes people in their 40s. I felt like God was assuring me of His faithfulness and sovereignty. I don't know what age this verse is promising those who honor their parents but I do believe that it is a promise of God's blessing that He is faithful to keep.

#18  Posted by Rick White  |  Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 1:27 PM

I think the real difference between this teaching by Paul and the promoters of the "prosperity gospel" is that Paul didn't say this in order to solicit money for himself or his organization. He taught this principle for the benefit of the hearers. It is the hearers that will be blessed for following Paul's instruction. God has throughout all dispensations used an obedience and reward incentive to get his people to obey. There is nothing wrong with realizing that as long as we don't confuse physical rewards with trying to earn our salvation. That is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8,9

#19  Posted by randell danner  |  Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 7:15 PM

relationships of all kinds are a two way street. I would say it is amazing but only more typical of Christians today to say what the role of the child is but it also says for fathers not to provoke your children to wrath... At what point can one say enough is enough and as an adult go and live your life for God in part response to Jesus saying "let the dead bury the dead"?