Obedience​—An Important Childhood Lesson?

“PARENTS Want Individuals, Not Kids Who Obey.” So read a newspaper headline. This bit of reporting was based on the results of a survey done in New Zealand, which revealed that only “22 per cent of respondents thought children should be taught obedience at home.” The survey also found that parents today believe that it is far more important to teach children such matters as good manners, independence, and responsibility.

In this age of individualism and self-interest, it is not surprising that most people hold a dim view of obedience and of teaching it to children. But is childhood obedience simply to be dismissed as something old-fashioned and out-of-date? Or is it among the important lessons that children can learn and benefit from? More important, how does Jehovah God, the Originator of the family arrangement, view obedience to parents, and what are some of the benefits that flow from such obedience?​—Acts 17:28; Ephesians 3:14, 15.

“This Is Righteous”

To the first-century Christian congregation in Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous.” (Ephesians 6:1) Thus, the primary reason for such obedience is that it is in harmony with the divine standard of what is right. As Paul put it, “this is righteous.”

In line with this, we note that God’s Word describes parental discipline in love as an object of beauty, “a wreath of attractiveness to your head and a fine necklace to your throat,” and as something “well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Proverbs 1:8, 9; Colossians 3:20) In direct contrast, disobedience to parents elicits divine disapproval.​—Romans 1:30, 32.

“That It May Go Well With You”

Paul pointed to another merit of obedience when he wrote: “‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:2, 3; Exodus 20:12) In what ways may obedience to parents result in one’s well-being?

To begin with, is it not true that parents have the advantage of age and experience? Though they may not appear to know much about computers or some other subjects taught in school, they do know much about living and coping with life’s problems. Young people, on the other hand, lack the balanced thinking that comes with maturity. Thus, they tend to be rash in decision making, often yielding to negative peer pressure, much to their own detriment. Realistically, the Bible says: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy.” What is the remedy? “The rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.”​—Proverbs 22:15.

 The benefits of obedience go far beyond the parent-child relationship. For human society to function smoothly and productively, there must be cooperation, which in turn requires a measure of obedience. For example, in a marriage, it is readiness to yield, rather than being demanding and insensitive to the rights and feelings of others, that results in peace, harmony, and happiness. In the workplace, employee subordination is a requisite for any business or endeavor to succeed. In relation to governmental laws and regulations, obedience not only frees one from punishment but also brings at least a degree of safety and protection.​—Romans 13:1-7; Ephesians 5:21-25; 6:5-8.

Young people who disobey authority often become misfits in society. In contrast, the lesson of obedience learned in childhood can extend rewardingly throughout one’s life. How advantageous to learn this in childhood!

The Grand Reward for Obedience

Obedience not only brings happy family relations and other lifelong benefits but also provides the foundation upon which can be built the most vital relationship of all​—that between a person and his Creator. As the “Grand Creator” with whom is “the source of life,” Jehovah God rightfully deserves our complete obedience.​—Ecclesiastes 12:1; Psalm 36:9.

The word “obey” in its various forms occurs more than 160 times in the Bible. Additionally, there are hundreds of references to God’s laws, orders, commandments, judicial decisions, and regulations, all of which call for submission. We are left in no doubt that God views obedience as a requirement for enjoying his approval. Yes, obedience is an indispensable ingredient for building a relationship with Jehovah. (1 Samuel 15:22) Sadly, the natural human tendency is not obedience but disobedience. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” says the Bible. (Genesis 8:21) Therefore, the lesson of obedience has to be learned not only in childhood but throughout life. Doing so brings a grand reward.

Recall that, as the apostle Paul put it, the command to be obedient to parents comes with a two-fold promise, namely, that “it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.” A confirmation of this promise is found at Proverbs 3:1, 2: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you.” The grand reward for those who obey is a personal relationship with Jehovah now and everlasting life in a peaceful new world.​—Revelation 21:3, 4.

[Pictures on page 30, 31]

Obedience brings happy relations in the family, at the workplace, and with Jehovah