Obedience leads to happy times together.

Often people reduce the Fourth Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother,” to a
child’s obligation to obey. Certainly obedience is important, as a child honors his parents and
God by obeying them and God’s law. Obedience is the child’s way of saying that he trust that his
parents know and want what is best for him and for the common good of the family: “I trust that
you really love me and care for me.” The same is true in obeying God.


What are the duties of children toward their parents? Children owe respect (filial piety),
gratitude, docility and obedience to their parents. In paying them respect and in fostering
good relationships with their brothers and sisters, children contribute to the growth in
harmony and holiness in family life in general. Adult children should give their parents
material and moral support whenever they find themselves in situations of distress, sickness,
loneliness, or old age (CCCC 459).


As long as children are supported by their parents they are called upon to obey them in all
matters dealing with the common good of the family, just as Jesus obeyed his earthly parents
(Luke 2:51). In obeying parents a child obeys God, respecting God in his parents even if he
disagrees with them over what’s best for the family. However, if a child hears a call to carry out
God’s will and mission in a particular vocation—for example, to be a priest or to marry a
particular person, etc.—then the child must “render to God the things that are God’s” and follow
God’s will, just as Jesus was obedient to his heavenly Father, even unto death (see Luke 22:42;
Philippians 2:7-8).


Although we are always God’s child and so must always obey his laws, a child’s
obligation to obey his mom and dad ceases when he leaves his parents’ home to form his own
family. Then the child is a true adult and now responsible for the good of his own family.
Yet the child still must honor his parents, acknowledging their cooperation with God in
bringing them into the world. Adult children honor their aging parents by making sure that they
have their basic material needs met: food, lodging, basic spiritual and medical care, etc. This is
especially true when illness and old age debilitates an aging parent to the point that he can no
longer take care of himself. This does not mean that children must give a parent everything he
wants or take the parent into their own homes—for the good of their own family it may not be
possible. It always remains an obligation to treat them with respect, love and honor by providing
for their basic needs.


In love for Christ, husbands and wives are one flesh and share a reciprocal authority over
the family and each other, as St. Paul says: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”
(Ephesians 5:21). So a good wife anticipates her husband’s needs, just as a good husband puts the
wishes of his wife ahead of his own, since “he who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever
hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-
29).


A Christian should obey and serve his employer as though serving Christ:
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling,
in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as
servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will
as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the
same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free (Ephesians 6:5-8).

Of course, parents should treat their children (employers their employees) with respect:
“Parents don’t provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction
of the Lord… Masters, do the same to [your slaves] and forgo threatening, knowing that he who
is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him” (Ephesians 6:4,9).