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Ephesians 6:2-3--Do obedient children live longer?

Well, think of this. Your son is on the high chair, continually knocking his oatmeal on the floor. All at once you remember Ephesians 6:2-3, "Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth (NASV)"--one of the ten commandments. So you shout at the child, "If you don't quit doing that, you're going to die an early death!" Were you right or wrong? Does Ephesians 6:2-3 teach that disobedient children will live shorter lives than obedient children?

For the answer, check the context of the ten commandments in Exodus. The theme of Exodus 19-24 is the conditional Mosaic Covenant which God and the nation made with each other (Exodus 19:4-8; 23:20-33; 24:7, 12). The covenant said that, as long as the nation of Israel would be obedient to God, He would assure they would be blessed in their homeland. When they were disobedient, He would remove their blessings and throw them out of the land.

Apparently God's command that children obey their parents was an important test of national obedience and/or had wide implications because it is the only commandment of the ten which incorporated a summary statement of the entire covenant, ". . . that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you (Exodus 20:12, NASV)." The clause in Ephesians 6:2, ". . . that you may live long on the earth (NASV)," could also be translated, ". . . that you may live long on the land" ("gh" in Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1952 ed., p. 157). The commandment does not teach that obedient children will live longer. Rather, with the inclusion of the summary statement, the command indicates that, in some ways, it is the most important of the ten.

So, it is important that your child stop throwing his oatmeal on the floor, but his life will not necessarily be shortened if he is disobedient.

HOME September 30, 2010, Edition -- 1999-2002 Ken Bowles --