Rising to the Responsibilities of the Foundation Calling in Life
The calling as a son or daughter of our parents is the foundational calling given us by God in life. All other callings in life are influenced by our awareness, understanding, and faithfulness in that calling. In the previous articles of A Chariot of Fire, we defined a "calling" of God and began considering what it means to be called as a son or daughter of our biological or adopted fathers and mothers. When God calls someone, it involves a special relationship with specific responsibilities, privileges, and promises between the parties that produces hope and purpose. In the last article we discussed the special relationship between children and their parents. In this article, I want to direct your attention to some of the responsibilities, privileges, and promises of this foundational call. Perhaps you've already thought about this. I hope so. Let's see if we came up with some of the same ideas.
Responsibilities of Sons and Daughters in Their First Calling
1. Treat parents as holy.
I mention holiness first because the parent/child relationship should be the first place a child learns holiness.This forms a basis for understanding holiness in all the rest of the callings in life. God commanded His children to treat Him as holy in Leviticus 10:3 "Then Moses said to Aaron, 'It is what the Lord spoke, saying, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.'" Accordingly, He commanded children to honor their father and mother in the Decalogue. I believe honoring father and mother actually expresses the spirit of holiness.
The primary responsibility of a son, because of his calling, for instance, is to practice holiness by honoring his father. How does a son honor his father? First, a son honors his father by extending honor equally to his mother. Since she is one flesh with her husband, she is to be no less honored. As he practices honoring his father and mother in this way, he is rehearsing how to honor the church (the bride of Christ) and his future wife. These are his next two callings in life.
To treat someone as holy is to set them apart from all others in that category in a special way. We might gain additional insight if we think of the opposite of holiness: to treat as common or the same as others. For instance, God is to be treated as the one and only God. There are no others. We are not to relate to Him in a common way. In the same way, children are called to treat their parents as holy. Later in life, a man is to treat his wife as holy. A woman is called to treat her husband as holy.
Because being a son or daughter of a father is a holy calling by God, children must be taught holiness as the overarching motivation in their relationship with their father and mother. The following responsibilities of children toward their parents are an expression of the principle of holiness.
2. Be attentive to every word.
A son further honors his father and mother by being attentive to every word that proceed out of their mouths. We see that attitude in the Lord Jesus as the Son of His Father (Matt. 4:4). Just as the Lord Jesus never spoke on His own initiative, but spoke what He heard the Father speak, a son is to so honor his father's words. This entails not only listening to his father, but also obeying him (Eph. 6:1-3). We should recognize that God will honor the son that honors his father in such a way because the relationship between the father and son portrays the gospel and the Godhead. A son can expect God to bless his life as he honors God this way in his first calling. The same is true for a daughter, of course, and also applies to the mother/child relationship. Why can children expect God to bless if they honor God in their first calling? Because this responsibility comes with a promise: "it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." What hope that inspires!
It is the responsibility of the father to prepare his children for life. For instance, the son is responsible to look to his father for that preparation and instruction. Consider the following verses from the book of Proverbs.
Prov. 4:1 Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding.
Prov. 6:20 My son, observe the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother.
Prov. 23:22 Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
This, of course, has tremendous implications to the father and his calling to speak the words of God to his wife and children. One might ask, "Is a son to honor his father's words if asked or commanded to do something evil by an unbelieving or misguided father?" This is a difficult situation to be sure. From a jurisdictional perspective, if a father speaks wrongly and commands his child to do evil, and the child, not knowing it is evil, submits himself, the father will be held responsible for his words and the child not judged as severely by God. But if the child knows he has been asked to do what is wrong, then he honors God by making an respectful appeal to his father based on God's Word. He might further recommend a righteous way to fulfill the desires of his father. If there is no possible way to fulfill the command in a righteous way, then the son honors God by suffering for righteousness sake (I Pet. 4:12-16).
What happens if a son doesn't learn this responsibility of his calling as a son? Not only will he suffer as a son of his father, but as he grows older, he will not be prepared to hear the word of the Lord. He will not be prepared to respond to God's Word in such a way that he may be saved without much tribulation and reproof.
I'm not saying that a son who hasn't practiced attentiveness and obedience cannot be saved. God has been gracious and merciful to many of us who didn't learn this in our first calling. But we suffered many things and bear the scars of our disobedience because we had become so self-occupied. Many of us imitated our peers who spurned a relationship with their parents. We had no clue about the importance of our relationships with our parents.
Furthermore, it isn't easy to unlearn decades of practicing independence and self-will. Consequently, many of us struggle greatly in life until we learn this important lesson and apply it to all our callings in life. Even after being born again, if we don't repent of unfaithfulness in our responsibilities to our first calling as sons of our fathers, we struggle in our faithfulness to God in the rest of our callings in life. So being attentive to the words of our parents is vital to our practicing holiness.
3. Protect his father's name
A third responsibility of a child is to treat his father as holy by diligently caring for his or her father's name. As a bearer of his father's name, a son represents his father in his behavior and in his words. It is a responsibility of a son to give more care to his name than to any other name on earth because he is called to his father's name by God! As a topic for discussion in your family time, you might consider how the following verses relate to this responsibility.
Prov. 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold.
Titus 2:6-8 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
Deut. 5:11 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Deut. 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you.
Prov. 19:26 He who assaults his father and drives his mother away is a shameful and disgraceful son. (How can a child assault his father's name?)
Prov. 20:20 He who curses his father or his mother, His lamp will go out in time of darkness. (How can a child curse his father or mother by being careless with regard to their name?)
As a son is faithful with his father's name, he is practicing for his next calling as a son of God -- to honor the heavenly Father's name above all names. As you can see, if a son is aware of this responsibility in his first calling, he will have laid a good foundation for doing the same in the remaining callings in life. On the other hand, if a son practices taking his father's name in vain and bringing shame to his name, it should be no surprise that when that son becomes an adult, his conscience will be hardened in this area. To take the name of the Lord in vain may also become his habit. A son who treats his father's name as holy is being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a blessing at a young age if he understands why he is honoring his father's name!
4. Bring joy to his father
What an important lesson to learn early in life! If a son learns that he is called to think of the joy of his father above his own pleasure and happiness, can you imagine the blessing in life that will bring? What difference would it have made in your life? Wouldn't it be a tremendous means of grace later in life when that son becomes a son of the living God and learns that he is to live for the joy of the heavenly Father?
Why should a son or daughter live to make their father joyful instead of sorrowful? Because it is a responsibility of their calling that has the promise of blessing in the future callings in life. What insight can you gain from the following verses in Proverbs regarding this responsibility?
Prov. 10:1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.
Prov. 15:20 A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother.
Prov. 17:21 He who begets a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.
Prov. 17:25 A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him.
Prov. 19:13 A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.
Prov. 19:26 He who assaults his father and drives his mother away is a shameful and disgraceful son.
Prov. 23:24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.
Prov. 23:25 Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you.
Prov. 29:3 A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth.
One might also consider how this relates to God's command in Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you." As you teach your children to consider their calling to bring joy to you as their parents, you can give them the promise that as they practice doing so, they will be prepared to do the same thing with their elders later in life. They also should learn this by your example as they watch you bring joy to your elders because that is a part of your calling as sons of God. They may also learn it by observing their mother bringing joy to their father by the way she submits to him since that is her calling as a wife.
How does this affect us as adults?
Most of the struggles we have as adults stem from our not practicing the responsibilities mentioned above in our foundational calling as children of our parents. For instance, a husband may often fall into the sin of pornography because he didn't learn to treat his father and mother in holiness. What should be saved for a special relationship with his wife, he accords to other women, and thus fails to treat his wife as holy.
I found that God often allowed my children to display blatantly that for which I needed to repent. If a wife struggles with submitting to her husband, it would not be surprising to discover that she finds her children stubborn and unsubmissive to her leadership. Could the lack of respect from children be God's way of revealing to the parents their place to repent for not respecting their parents when they were children (and maybe still as adults)? Are we being inattentive to all of God's Word in our lives or to the words of our mates, yet expecting our children to be attentive to us? I think you can see the point. Many of us need to take up the responsibilities of our first calling as sons and daughters of our parents and repair or restore relationships -- not because our parents were righteous or did everything right, but because it was God's calling in our lives.
Are children released from these responsibilities when they turn 18?
I might address a common misconception that once a son or daughter turns eighteen or leaves his home he or she no longer has to obey his or her father. If this calling of God were only temporary and revocable, then we might come to that conclusion, but there is nothing in the scriptures that indicates that children no longer have responsibilities to their father as they grow older. In fact, just the opposite is revealed.
The older a child gets, the wiser, more mature, and more humble he or she should become. As long as our parents are alive, they are to be honored and treated as holy. A young lady in college wrote, "My relationship with my parents has drastically changed over the past year. I think I have finally left some of my many immaturities behind and can finally accept and benefit from their wisdom and counsel."
There are no scriptures which state that an older son or daughter should not treat their parents as holy in the same way they did when they were younger and at home. In fact, the commands in the Proverbs were to sons who were old enough to have wives, be tempted by harlots, invest money, drink wine, and work their fields. I can almost hear the gasps! Am I saying that a married daughter is still responsible to obey her father over her husband? No, for the father has placed her in another jurisdiction under her husband in his stead. But, she still should treat her father in a holy relationship with honor, attentiveness, and a desire to make him joyful.
What about the fatherless?
What is a child to do whose father is either absent or who abdicates his responsibilities? Is it wrong, for instance, for a son to look to another man? It seems wise for a son to first ask his father (if he is available) for permission to seek guidance from another man. An "orphaned" son might ask God to provide someone to be a "father" to him for Jesus promised, "And He said to them, 'Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life'" (Luke 18:29).
God has also promised to be a father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5; Ps. 146:9). My father died when I was twelve, but God was faithful to provide many fathers to me through the years who helped prepare me for life. I'm grateful for the blessing of a step-father, coaches, and other mentors who prepared me in many ways. In some areas of life, He didn't provide direction through other men in order to lead me to Himself. The emptiness became the impetus that led me into the most important calling in life -- that of being a son of God. After I came to Him as my Father and cried out to Him, He became a Father to me to teach me about my calling as a son of my earthly father as well as a son to Him.
Let's call them to their calling!
As parents, it is our role to call our children to God's calling. They won't understand why they should listen, obey, and honor us unless we teach them. In this article, I hope you've received a vision for explaining to your children the importance of their relationship to you. Fill them with hope for the future as you show them how their faithfulness in this calling will prepare them for the blessing of God in their future callings. We'll think more about this in the next issue. Until then, may God be glorified in our lives as we walk in a manner worthy of our calling.