The Bible on Children and Parents

According to the Bible, children are to treat their parents with great respect. In fact, if a child strikes or curses his or her parents it is as serious as murder, kidnapping or adultery. “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:15).

Notice that the parent does not need to be killed or even badly injured to deserve the death penalty, the child only needs to strike the parent. Such a concept would be outrageous in our society today when parents are dismissed by our leaders and even told that children should teach them instead of the other way around.

The very idea that parents should be held in such high regard so as to issue the death penalty for striking them is offensive. We might say that the family, not just the child needs to see a counselor or that the child might need anger management classes but the death penalty? Hardly.

Yet, the Lord commands that a child who curses or strikes his mother or father should be put to death. The Lord apparently has a different standard that we have, that should not come as a surprise.

“He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 21:17

What does it mean to curse one’s mother or father? The traditional understanding has not been using foul language, although we might think otherwise, but to use the holy name of the Lord to purposefully curse your parents. While this carries the death penalty, there has not been a nation operating under God’s law and no one has been put to death in over two thousand years.

The guiding principles at work in these passages of scripture are that there are certain things needed in order for a society to be stable and at peace. A biblical worldview places an importance on the family as a foundational part of a healthy society. Disrespect, rebellion, and violence toward one’s parents is as much of a threat as murder, kidnapping, and adultery.

We should also understand that this does not absolve parents of the obligation to not exacerbate their children but instead reminds us to start early in training up our children. When parents use proper discipline on their children to correct their selfish and rebellious tendencies they will have better behaved and more polite children who are a joy to the family and society at large.

By contrast, parents that allow their children to become insulant and disrespectful are a shame to the family and really no one can stand to be around such children.  Today, children are taught to be disrespectful and it is not uncommon to hear those children mouth off to their parents. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul warned of in his second letter to Timothy:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” -2 Timothy 3:1-5

The company we keep is as important for our children as it is for us. If we knew that our children’s friends were thieves or gang members, we would not allow them to hang out with them. The same should be true for the disrespectful friends, not to mention hanging out with their parents. According to the bible, these things are seriously equal in importance.