Some General Responsibilities of Children to Parents

by John Bunyan

There lies also a duty upon children to their parents, which they are bound both by the Law of God and nature conscientiously to observe: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Eph 6:1). And again, “Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col 3:20). There are these general things in which children should show forth that honor that is due to their parents from them.

First, They should always count them better than themselves. I observe a vile spirit among some children, and that is, they are apt to look down upon their parents, and to have slighting and scornful thoughts of them. This is worse than heathenish; such an one has got just the heart of a dog or a beast, that will bite those that produced them, and her that brought them forth.

Objection: But my father is now poor, and I am rich, and it will be a disparagement, or at least a hinderance to me, to show that respect to him as otherwise I might.

Answer: I tell you, you argue like an atheist and a beast, and stand in this full flat against the Son of God in Mark 7:9-13. Must a gift, and a little of the glory of the butterfly, make you that you should not do for, and give honor to, your father and mother? “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother” (Pro 15:20). Though your parents be ever so low, and you yourself ever so high, yet he is your father, and she your mother, and they must be in your eye in great esteem. “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (Pro 30:17).

Second, You should show honor to your parents, by a willingness to help them with such necessaries and accommodations which they need. “If any…have children or nephews, let them learn to show piety at home, and to requite8 their parents:” says Paul, “for that is good and acceptable before God” (1Ti 5:4). And this rule Joseph observed to his poor father, though he himself was next the king in Egypt (see Gen 47:12).

But notice, let them “requite their parents.” There are three things for which, as long as you live, you will be a debtor to your parents.

One 1. For your being in this world. They are they from whom, immediately under God, you did receive it.

Two. For their care to preserve you when you were helpless, and could neither care for, nor regard yoursef.

Three. For the pains they have taken with you to bring you up. Until you have children of your own, you will not be sensible of the pains, watchings, fears, sorrow, and affliction, that they have gone under to bring you up; and when you know it, you will not easily yield that you have recompensed them for their favor to you. How often have they sustained you in your hunger, clothed your nakedness? What care have they taken that you might have the means to live and do well when they were dead and gone? They possibly have spared it from their own belly and back for you, and have also impoverished themselves, that you might live like a man. All these things should duly, and like a man, to be considered by you; and care should be taken on your part to repay them. The Scripture says so, reason says so, and there be none but dogs and beasts that deny it. It is the duty of parents to lay up for their children; and the duty of children to repay their parents.

Third, Therefore show, by all humble and son-like behavior, that you do to this day, with your heart, remember the love of your parents. Thus much for obedience to parents in general.

Again, if your parents be godly, and you wicked, as you are if you have not a second work or birth from God upon you, then you are to consider, that you are more strongly engaged to respect and honor your parents, not now only as a father in the flesh, but as godly parents; your father and mother are now made of God your teachers and instructors in the way of righteousness. Therefore, to allude to that of Solomon, “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck” (Pro 6:20-21).

Now, to provoke you to consider this:

One. That this has been the practice always of those that are and have been obedient children; yes, of Christ Himself to Joseph and Mary, though He Himself was God blessed for ever (see Luk 2:51).

Two. You have also the severe judgments of God upon those that have been disobedient, to awe you. As,

Firstly, Ishmael, for but mocking at one good act of his father and mother, was both thrust out of his father’s inheritance and the kingdom of heaven, and that with God’s approbation9 (see Gen 21:9-14; Gal 4:30).

Secondly, Hophni and Phinehas, for refusing the good counsel of their father, provoked the great God to be their enemy: “They hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them” (1Sa 2:23-25).

Thirdly, Absalom was hanged, as I may say, by God Himself, for rebelling against his father, in 2 Samuel 18:9.

Besides, little do you know how heart-aching a consideration it is to your parents, when they do but suppose you may be damned! How many prayers, sighs, and tears, are there wrung from their hearts upon this account? Every misdeed of yours goes to their heart, for fear God should take an occasion by it to shut you up in hardness for ever. How did Abraham groan for Ishmael? “O,” said he to God, “that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen 17:18). How were Isaac and Rebecca grieved for the misbehavior of Esau? (see Gen 26:34-35). And how bitterly did David mourn for his son, who died in his wickedness? (see 2Sa 18:32-33).

Lastly, And can any imagine, but that all these prayers, sighs, and so forth, of your godly parents, will be to you the increase of your torments in hell, if you die in your sins notwithstanding?

Again, if your parents, and you also, be godly, how happy a thing is this? How should you rejoice, that the same faith should dwell both in your parents and you? Your conversion, possibly, is the fruit of your parents’ groans and prayers for your soul; and they cannot choose but rejoice. Rejoice with them. It is true, in the salvation of a natural son, which is mentioned in the parable: “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (Luk 15:24). Let therefore the consideration of this, that your parents have grace, as well as you, engage your heart so much the more to honor, reverence, and obey them.

You are better able now to consider the pains and care that your friends have been at, both for your body and soul; therefore strive to repay them. You have strength to answer in some measure the command: therefore do not neglect it. It is a double sin in a gracious son not to remember the commandment, yes, the first commandment with promise (note Eph 6:1-2). Take heed of giving your sweet parents one snappish word, or behaving in any way unseemly towards them. Love them because they are your parents, because they are godly, and because you must be in glory with them.

Again, if you be godly, and your parents wicked, as often it sadly falls out; then,

One. Let your heart yearn towards them; it is your parents that are going to hell!

Two. As I said before to the wife, touching her unbelieving husband, so now I say to you. Take heed of a parroting tongue: speak to them wisely, meekly, and humbly; do for them faithfully without repining;10 and bear, with all child-like modesty, their reproaches, their railing, and evil speaking. Watch fit opportunities to lay their condition before them. O! How happy a thing would it be, if God should use a child to bring his father to the faith! Then indeed might the father say, “With the fruit of my own body has God converted my soul.” The Lord, if it be His will, convert our poor parents, that they, with us, may be the children of God.

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