Marriage and Family: Family
Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1

What Children Owe Their Parents

(and Themselves)

Jarvis Windom

Focus: Children owe their parents obedience, honor, love, and prayer. Children owe themselves a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Summary: I call this article a “sowing-and-reaping” message.  I direct the message to children, especially teenagers living at home, telling them how to honor their parents, why they should do it, and what blessings they will reap as a result, both now and in the future.  The concrete steps I outlines for children are obeying, honoring, loving, and praying for their parents.  Along the way, I also encourage parents by describing the joys of raising godly children. I will conclude the article by briefly exhorting everyone to live their lives for Christ, not because their parents want them to, but because they owe it to themselves.


Introduction: Strong Families Are Important

 u I flew to Baltimore a couple of months ago and sitting beside me was a woman probably about 60 years of age.  She saw me with my legal pad working on this article. She saw at the top the subject What Children Owe Their Parents.  She asked me what I did, and I told her I was an accountant.

 She said, “I can’t help but say that’s a very interesting subject.”

 I said, “We’re having a good time.  I’m just sharing with my people concerning the family.   Tell me, do you have children?”

 “Oh, I have grandchildren,” she said.

 “When do children feel that they owe something to their parents?”   I asked.

 She smiled and said, “When they have their own children.”

 My article today is a two-fold blessing.  It is a blessing for the parent when our children follow the example we have set as Christians.  It is an incredibly fulfilling responsibility and privilege to be a parent. Psalm 127:3 says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”

 The second blessing is the incredible blessing for the children. There’s a commandment God gives us: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land your God is giving you.” 

I’m especially talking to the kids, to the children, to the teenagers, to those who are still in the home, living at home with your parents.  Or those still under the care of their parents, such as in college.  This message is directed to you.

 This is what I would call a sowing-and-reaping message. God’s Word tells us there’s a relationship between what we sow and what we reap.  If you apply the principles I’m sharing, I promise that in the days ahead, when you marry and have children, you’ll begin to see some of the seed you’ve sown come back to you.

 I begin by citing from an article:  “The most significant problems we face in our society are found in the deterioration and the pain of the family.  There is a consistent drum beat about the nature of family in this country that is frightening and depressing.  Despite attention, money, and effort, our system of public education is failing to educate our children properly.  There is an epidemic of child abuse and neglect.  Children live in terrifying situations. Latch-key children face and succumb to temptations young people should never have to face by themselves.  Violence in this country is more likely to be perpetuated on children than on any other group—whether unborn children or those who live in poverty.”

 “The rising class of people in this country is poor families, especially those with young children.  The war on drugs proclaimed by the federal government is a battle that is being fought to save children—whether it’s crack-addicted babies or young terrorists dealing narcotics in urban settings, it is our children who are suffering and paying the price.”

 When I read that article, I thought it ironic.  Let me talk about my generation for a moment—the baby-boomer generation, those born the 5-10 years following World War II.  Now we are parents and/or grandparents.  We are seeing an awful epidemic of problems happening to children across our country.  Think about it: my generation decided to throw off all types of authority—whether it’s government authority, authority of police, or the authority of parents.  Our generation decided that anyone over the age of 30 couldn’t be trusted. Our generation decided to do our own thing.  Now all of a sudden we’re parents, and what we reap is well-known in our society.

 What I’m sharing with you today has ramifications for you and your home and your parents and your family today.  It also has unbelievable ramifications down the road. 

I. Children Owe Their Parents Obedience 

The first thing children owe their parents is obedience.  That’s a biblical principle. Children are to obey their parents. In Ephesians 6:1, Paul challenges children, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

 Paul didn’t give a reason why we are to obey parents. He just said obey them.  When I talk to my children about obedience, they ask, “Why obey?” Paul said that this is a principle.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s based on character.

 I heard a story the other day of two boys going to school, and they were talking about their families.  One boy said he had figured out a system for getting along with mom. He said, “It’s very simple. She tells me what to do, and I do it.”  What a thought! 

u Do you read the cartoon Nancy? She says,  “Things will be different when I’m an adult.  When I have kids of my own, I’m going to let them do whatever they want, whenever they want.” The next frame shows her rethinking what she just said. In the last frame, she says, “ As long as they do it my way.”

 The first principle is to obey your parents.

 II. Children Owe Their Parents Honor 

Number two: honor your parents.   One of the Ten Commandments tells us to honor our mothers and fathers.

 u I read something recently that said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be as brilliant as our children thought we were when they were young and only half as stupid as they think we are when they’re teenagers.”

 Let me explain what that word honor means.  To honor means to attribute or give weight to a person. Let them know that they have influence in your life, that they have authority in your life.

 That commandment is not addressed to parents.  It doesn’t say, “Be sensitive to your children.” Of course, that’s biblical, and we should. But that commandment is addressed to kids.  The reason it’s addressed to kids is because there are no perfect parents, just as there are no perfect children.

 Understand that God said, “I want you to give weight, I want you to give authority and influence to those parents.  Maybe you live in a home with a single mom or a single dad. I want you to give honor.  I want you to allow your parents to have influence over your life—even if they’re not perfect parents.”

 It’s not based on whether they’re doing a good job.  Just as parents are to love their children unconditionally, children are to love their parents unconditionally.

 I want to say something that is heaviest on my heart:  I believe the number one sin of the younger generation is a lack of gratitude, the lack of gratitude for what they have, what they’ve been given, the mindset that the world owes me something.   They lack respect and honor for the previous generations and the price that has been paid by that generation.

 Those of you under 40, listen to some observations about the generation that preceded yours.  In just five decades, life expectancy increased approximately 50 percent.  While cutting the work day by a third, the generation before us more than doubled the per capita output of our country.  These are the people who have given you a healthier world than they found.   Because of this, you no longer have to fear many epidemics such as flu, typhus, diphtheria, small pox, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, dreadful polio, and others.

 These remarkable people lived through history’s greatest depression. I’m talking about a real depression.  Many of these people know what it’s like to be poor and hungry and cold.  Even when I was growing up I had it easy,  I got one new pair of shoes a year and wore last years model for play.  I never went hungry but my father hunted so we had meat.  I think I had it a lot better off than most families.   Not like the parents that had it harder.  They determined that it would never happen to you; you would have a better life. You would have food to eat,  lots of meat, milk to drink, vitamins to nourish you, a warm home, better schools, and a great opportunity to succeed.

 Because they gave you the best, you’re the tallest, healthiest, brightest, and probably the best-looking generation ever to inhabit the earth.  Because they worked hard, you will work fewer hours, learn more, have more leisure time, travel to more distant places, and have more of a chance to follow your life’s ambition.  You can travel the world and see the most distant places.

 These people fought the ugliest wars.  These people defeated the tyranny of Hitler, and when it was all over, had enough compassion to send billions of dollars to help their former enemies rebuild their homeland. Representatives of these generations developed the highest court system and fought racial discrimination and began a new era of civil rights.  Maybe good and maybe bad as time will tell, but they rebuilt a system.


They have had some failures. They’ve not yet found an alternative for war or a perfect cure for racial hatred. But they have made more progress by the sweat of their brow than any previous generation. Don’t forget it. And if your generation can make as much progress, if you can do as good, some incredible things will happen on this earth in the next 25 years.

 u Jack Moore wrote a story about two teenagers.  One teenager was talking to another, “I’m really worried.  Dad slaves away at his job so I’ll never want for anything, so I can go to college. And Mom spends every day washing and ironing and cleaning up after me. She takes care of me when I’m sick.”

 The other kid says, “So what are you worried about?”

 The first teenager says, “I’m afraid they might try to escape.”

 A poll taken among parents asked what they would like from their children more than anything else.  Number one, across America, the answer was respect from their children.

 Let me give you four ways to respect your parents; every one of these things you can do.

 1. Write a note of appreciation to your parents.  Take some time. Send them email if they have it.  Do it regularly.  Every year I wrote a note to my mother for On her birthday.  Every year I bought her a present, but more important than the present is the note I wrote her.

 2. Express appreciation for your parents to your friends.  When you’re with your friends, let your friends know what wonderful parents or parent you have.  Let them know that you’re proud of your family. Your mom and dad aren’t perfect, but neither are you.  They love you, and you love them.  And express that to your friends.

 And if you really want to get brownie points, let your friends know how much you appreciate your parents when your parents are present.  You’ll have your parents for life then.  I’ll tell you—that will get you the car for the whole week!

3. Obey your parents completely and cheerfully.   Nothing is worse than having a child obey you when they’re acting as if they’re in prison while they’re doing it.

 4. Put their interests above your own.  We kept telling Bryan we can tell when he is mature.   He’s mature when he thinks of other people before himself.  The high mark of maturity is when all of a sudden you can literally put your parents or your brothers or your sisters or others ahead of your own agenda.

 Do not be afraid to speak your parents’ language.  Try to use strange-sounding phrases like “I’ll help you with the dishes.”

 Try to understand their music.  This may be going too far!   Listen to an oldies station until you become accustomed to the sound! 

Be patient with the underachiever.  When you catch your dieting mom sneaking a Snicker, do not show your disapproval.  Tell her you like your mom!   Just say, “I love you mom.”

 Encourage your parents to talk about their problems. Try to keep in mind that things like earning a living and paying off the mortgage are important to parents. 

III. Children Owe Their Parents Love 

A third thing you owe your parents is love.  While I’m talking about love, I want to talk about verbal affirmation.   I want to talk about visual hugging, warmth.  The power of touch is incredible.  And the power of verbal affirmation is terific.

 If you want to do an interesting study, go to the Gospels and look at all the times people touched one another.  In New Testament times, they greeted one another with a holy kiss. The Bible talks about members of the church laying hands upon others for healing and for prayer.  Count the times Jesus touched people.   Hugging is very important.

 The healthiest people in the world are those who are able and willing to hug, be warm, and show love.  It’s a sign of health and wholeness.  Parents, be warm with your children.

Hugging is necessary for physical and emotional health.  Hug your parents, both of them, and don’t always wait for them to hug you.  Parents, hug your kids with full frontal body hugs.  Don’t allow them to become adults with an emotional hole within.  Kids, nothing thrills your parents more—yes, teenagers—than for you to be in public and do such a thing as reach out and hold a parent’s hand.

 Every night when I was at home, I touched or wrestled with my son.  I always gave him back rubs, and we talk. We talk about life. We talk about friends. We talk about everything—just my son and me.  It does a lot for me; it does a lot for him.  Be open in your love with your family.   I still talk to my son and he is 31. 

IV. Children Owe Their Parents Prayer 

The fourth thing you owe your parents is prayer. Pray!  Yes, prayer, you heard me right, teens.  Kids, pray for your parents.  And let them hear you pray for them.  I told you a moment ago that the highlight of my day was and is being with my son and giving him time or touching and/or our praying together.  Really the highlight of my day is if he prays for me.  He also prays for his family.

 When you pray for your parents, children, pray for three things.  Pray for their walk with God.  Pray that they’ll continue to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. There’s the security of your home. Psalm 127:1 says without the Lord’s help, it is useless to build a house.   Unless the lord shall build the house the weary builders toil in vain...

 Pray for your parents’ love for each other. Pray that every day your mom and dad will fall more in love. Pray that they will be hopelessly in love.  Even gushy.

 Pray that they will experience joy in parenting.  That’s a wonderful prayer. Pray that your mom and dad will really enjoy the whole process of parenting.  Hebrews 13:17 applies to a congregation and their spiritual leader, but it also applies to children with their parents:

 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

 u Several mothers were talking together about what was the worst stage for children. One mother said,  “I think it’s the terrible twos.  I think that’s the worst stage.”

 Another said, “No, no. Wait till that child goes to school.  They go to school.  They meet friends.  That’s the worst.”

 Another said, “No, you don’t understand.  When that child becomes a teenager, I mean, it’s a strange person in the house!”

 Only one grandmother was present, and she said,  “No, you don’t really understand.  Wait until that child becomes 42.”  (Catch the humor?)

 u Parents never feel as if they get away from the responsibility they’ve shouldered. I saw a card recently that said, “Do not feel totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything. That’s my job. Love, God.” So pray for them to know this.

 Conclusion: What You Owe Yourself: A Life Dedicated to Christ

 u I saw an article the other day that was written by Lady that was  the daughter of a Preacher. She was talking about her heritage, her parents, and her children. She said, “The only thing that parents can take to the Kingdom of God is their children.”  This was her perception.

 But it’s not the parents’ choice. Children, you don’t owe this to mom and dad, but you owe it to yourself and to God. Don’t do it for mom and dad. Do it for yourself and God.

 u My two sisters are 2 & 4 years younger than I am. When we were teenagers, we all had a streak of rebellion and decided we wanted to make it on our own, to grow up let loose of the strings and make it only on our own our way.  I think we all turned our back on God.

Every day dad prayed for us.  Every day, for years my mother prayed and fasted occasionally for us.  She prayed daily that we would all turn to God.  I want to tell you something first hand and I hope it helps.  I can’t get away from the prayers of Mom and Dad.

 So you all owe yourself a dedicated life to God and your Savior Jesus Christ.  Let’s all of us get with it. Lets honor the parents as commanded by our God continuously.