Whatever Happened to ‘Honor Thy Parents’?
ONE father said concerning his two sons: “Whenever I express my opinions, they act as though they barely tolerate me. Whatever happened to ‘Honor thy Parent’?” Similarly, the director of a family-service agency observed: “These days, young people don’t just talk back to their parents, they regularly defy their authority.”
Whether you are a youth or an adult, likely you have noted that many young people today disobey and disrespect their parents. This is a matter that should concern you, whether you are a youth or a parent. Why?
Because the parent-child conflicts you observe are part of a pattern, a mosaic of events, that marks these times as the last days. According to the Bible, the period called the “last days” comes before the final destruction of the worldwide system of things. (2 Timothy 3:1) There will, though, be survivors who will enjoy life under a real heavenly government.—Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:1-4.
But how does disobedience to parents fit in with what the Bible says about the present and the future? In previous issues of The Watchtower we have reviewed Jesus Christ’s prophecy at Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13. Jesus focused on world events that would mark “the conclusion of the system of things”: wars, earthquakes and lawlessness, to name a few. Now, however, we focus on a related prophetic description of this time period, found at 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Instead of just dealing with the external forces affecting mankind, the Bible here highlights the attitudes of people experiencing these dramatic events. It says:
“Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, . . . and from these turn away.”
Note that these words of the apostle Paul are a commentary on how the last days would affect people. Observe, too, that ‘disobedience to parents’ would be prominent during the critical period called the last days.
Fulfilled in Our Day?
‘How do we know that Paul was not speaking of conditions in only his day?’ some may ask. Since the apostle followed his prophecy with counsel to the Christian named Timothy, some understandably wonder if Paul really wrote about our day. (2 Timothy 3:5, 14, 15) Note, however, that Paul says that “in the last days critical times . . . will be here.” He must have been referring to a future development. Timothy was told to “turn away” from persons manifesting undesirable traits, since some in the congregation already did so. But Paul’s words show that in the future last days the situation would be more critical.—Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12; 3:6-14.
You may have heard, though, that some researchers claim that most youths today are really getting along reasonably well with their parents. In view of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, what are you to think of such claims? Before reaching a conclusion, let us view Paul’s prophecy against the backdrop of Bible history.
“Honor Your Father and Your Mother”
So said the fifth of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:12) These words were impressed on the minds of Jewish youths. (Deuteronomy 5:16; 6:6, 7) Disobedience to one’s parents was unthinkable—a capital offense in some instances! (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) The ancient way of life helped parents maintain this loving but strict control. The family structure was patriarchal. Parental roles were well defined. Children were viewed as an asset, a blessing, and chores in their agricultural society gave them plenty to do.—Compare Psalm 127:3.
However, as the nation veered away from Jehovah’s ways, family life deteriorated. Some 800 years after the Ten Commandments were given, the prophet Micah observed: “A son is despising a father; a daughter is rising up against her mother . . . a man’s enemies are the men of his household.” (Micah 7:6) Similarly, Ezekiel said of the city Jerusalem: “Father and mother they have treated with contempt in you.” (Ezekiel 22:7) Such gross disrespect for parents was symptomatic of widespread moral degradation. Therefore, God took severe disciplinary action against the entire nation.—Jeremiah 1:15, 16.
Viewed from this perspective, you likely agree that much of the conduct of 20th-century youths would have seemed shocking to Paul back in the first century. Present liberal views of childrearing were unheard of then. Hence, we need to bear in mind that studies painting a rosy picture of modern family life overlook God’s standards for children. (Ephesians 6:1-3) When the attitudes and conduct common among today’s youth are compared with God’s standards, we can understand why the Bible calls the present generation “disobedient.” Not that all children are necessarily rebellious. But disobedience is significantly widespread and intense—very noticeable.
Yet is ‘disobedience to parents’ really worldwide? Is there enough evidence of parent-child conflict to indicate that we are living in “the last days”?—2 Timothy 3:1, 2.
[Blurb on page 4]
‘Not all children are rebellious. But disobedience is significantly widespread and intense’
Disobedience to Parents—A Sign of the Last Days?
“THERE is a generation that calls down evil even upon its father and that does not bless even its mother.” (Proverbs 30:11) This describes well the generation since 1914. But have youths since then really been unique in this respect? If so, why?
Our Changing World
In times past, the family was a haven of love and support. There was no question about the roles and responsibilities of family members. Men were the breadwinners. Most women stayed home and cared for children and household chores. Together they taught their children values and principles. Children were often too busy handling household chores to engage in serious mischief.
The events since the outbreak of World War I in 1914 have shattered this idyllic picture. Just as Jesus prophesied, ours has been a century of brutal wars, lawlessness and food shortages. (Matthew 24:4-14) The effect? A drastic alteration of our way of life. This age of travel places immense distances between family members who make individual trips. Freed by technological advances from much of the drudgery of housework, many women trade homemaking for a place in the job market. Schoolteachers and day-care workers have become substitute parents. Children fight boredom as electrical appliances do the household chores.
These recent developments have greatly increased family tensions. Divorce rates have skyrocketed. So has the incidence of one-parent households. One single mother says about the difficulty of raising a child alone: “By the time I get home from the office, my children have been out of school for three hours. There’s no way I can keep track of what they’re doing. I’m sure my 16-year-old daughter is having sex with a boy in her class, and that my 13-year-old son hangs out regularly after school at the local pool hall.”
Casualties of the “Me” Generation
Perhaps no other generation has been so obsessed with personal “rights.” As a result, according to one prominent psychologist, parents “have gradually begun to permit their children to argue with them, to assert their own feelings and ideas, even to be a bit disobedient.” Is this healthy?
Pulitzer-prize-winning author Robert Coles said: “Many parents are afraid to bring up their children on their own—with their own convictions and their own moral faith. They’re intimidated by all these experts who write books about child rearing and tell them what to do.” As victims of permissive child-rearing theories, parents find themselves pandering to the whims of their children—only to be faced later with the truth of the Bible’s statement: “If one is pampering one’s servant from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one.”—Proverbs 29:21.
The Effects of Television
Recently the National Institute for Mental Health issued a comprehensive report entitled “Television and Behavior.” The report showed that TV, besides bombarding minds with reckless violence and immorality, has other disturbing effects on family life. For example, “in a surprisingly large number of instances,” the decision as to which show to watch is left to children, who “often have emerged as arbitrators of what the family will view; they have become family decisionmakers.”
The book Generation of Narcissus claims there is another insidious side effect of TV. It states that because of television “children experience the so-called real world from a unique vantage point. It is a world which seemingly extends outward from their own bodies.” Yes, it may be that the child addicted to television develops a view of life that is entirely self-centered.
All of these are factors that have upset the natural balance of family life. But are youths really reacting by rebelling against parental authority?
Disobedience—Overt and Covert
‘The increase of lawlessness’ among youths is one of the more obvious signs that some youths are revolting against parental authority. (Matthew 24:12) For example, it is reported that “a quarter of all serious crimes in Greater London [England] are committed by schoolchildren.” In the United States “juvenile arrests for violent crimes . . . increased 293% between 1960 and 1975; and the overall rate of juvenile arrests is growing 10% a year—twice the adult rate.” Reports from China tell of juvenile “murder, fraud, theft, rape, drug trafficking and rackets.”
Some of this brazen violence is even being directed toward parents. Sociologist Richard J. Gelles helped conduct a study that revealed that “more than 2-1/2 million adolescents [in the United States] were reported as having struck a parent at least once. Nearly 900,000 parents of adolescents . . . were either punched, bit, kicked, hit with a hard object, beat up, or were threatened by or had a knife or a gun used on them.” Such tragic acts underscore the Bible’s prediction that during the last days people would have “no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:3) Chilling, indeed, was the conclusion that “in all likelihood, both the rates and the projections underestimate the true extent of adolescent to parent violence.” (Italics ours.)—The Urban & Social Change Review, Volume 15, Number 1, 1982.
Sexual promiscuity is another way in which youths go against their parents’ wishes. In one survey of 160,000 American youths, 31 percent between the ages of 13 and 15 admitted to having had sexual relations. Between the ages of 16 and 18, 58 percent have. Japan similarly reports that “the incidence of sexual intercourse involving teenage girls has risen conspicuously over the past seven years.”
Some teenagers secretly use alcoholic beverages or addictive drugs. About 43 percent confessed to having smoked marijuana. The researchers concluded that marijuana smoking “is a regular pastime of many teenagers.” Half admitted that they would lie to their parents if asked about smoking marijuana.
Other youths, frustrated by parents who demand achievement but give them little support, quietly rebel by deliberately failing in school. Still others disobey* by refusing to be persuaded to follow their parents’ moral or religious standards. Only 53 percent of youths surveyed said they would follow their parents’ religion. The rest either said they would not or they were not sure. How disappointing this is to parents! A mere 17 percent said they wanted their parents’ advice on sex; fewer still would solicit their parents’ advice on drugs. Such clashes of viewpoint turn homes into battlegrounds.
What You Can Do
So it can confidently be said that ours is a unique generation, raised under unique circumstances. The worldwide trend toward disobedience, coupled with the other evidence, leads us to the inescapable conclusion that we are living in the last days.
Nevertheless, Jehovah’s Witnesses have found that a study of the Bible—not today’s conflicting child-rearing theories—equips them to deal with today’s problems. They find the command at Ephesians 6:1-4 to be realistic and practical: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous . . . And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” The Witnesses would, therefore, be happy to help you begin a systematic study of the Bible.
Even if you are not a parent, a study of the Bible will greatly benefit you. Further delving into God’s Word will help you to get acquainted with God and his purposes. This is the wise course, for the Bible urges: “Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zephaniah 2:3.
The Greek word for “disobedience” literally means “the condition of being unpersuadable.”
[Blurb on page 5]
‘Nearly 900,000 parents of adolescents were either punched, bit, kicked, beat up, or were threatened by or had a knife or a gun used on them’
[Blurb on page 7]
Said one single mother: “By the time I get home from the office, my children have been out of school for three hours. There’s no way I can keep track of what they’re doing”
[Picture on page 6]
Parents who have succumbed to permissive child-rearing theories often end up with a child that is a tyrant