Your view of obedience controls how you give directions. Strange as it may seem, the way your garbage is taken out can reveal your functional understanding of obedience. The goal is to learn how to give holy, everyday directions that please God and bless your children.
Let me begin by asking you two questions:
Do you want your children to obey your directions and take out the garbage?
You might be thinking, “That’s a strange question; of course I want my children to obey me.” That leads me to the second question.
Assuming you want your children to obey you, do you act as if you expect them to take out the garbage?
Now you are sure I am asking stupid questions. “What do you mean, do I act like I want them to take it out? Of course I do!”
Okay, let’s examine some ways that parents typically ask for obedience. In this illustration, Joshua is eight years old. How many ways can Mom ask Josh to take out the garbage?
“Joshua, if you want to be helpful, you could take out the garbage sometime when you have some free time.” Or,
“Josh, take out the garbage right now!!”
“Joshua, I asked you yesterday and the day before and the day before that, would you please find time to take out the garbage!”
“Joshua, please think of things to do to help out, like maybe take out the garbage. Okay?”
“Mommy is sooo tired of taking out the garbage all the time. Josh, wouldn’t you like to help me?”
“Joshua, take out the garbage right now, or I will take away your TV privileges for three days!”
“When I was your age, I always had to take out the garbage every day, whether I wanted to or not. Now take out the garbage!”
“Joshua, this is it! I am not going to ask you again. Take out the garbage!”
“Joshua, if you do not take out the garbage this instant, you are going to get the biggest spanking of your life, and you will get it when your father gets home.”
None of these directives to Joshua fit the biblical concept of obedience. Yes, some of the instructions were direct, but many were not. Each reflects a parent who does not really expect to be obeyed. All of these attempts at securing obedience from Joshua fall into the category of manipulation and bargaining. You want the garbage taken out. Joshua does not want to take it out. You cajole, order, plead, bargain, in short, do anything you can to get Joshua to take the garbage out. After awhile you may even give up and take the garbage out yourself, just to end the unpleasantness and frustration.
God does not want your children to obey you simply because you are bigger than they are and can physically control them. Obedience is more than giving in to coaxing or threats. God wants your children to obey you because it pleases Him and blesses them. How can you tell the difference? Here is the request from a parent who expects Joshua to take out the garbage.
“Joshua, take the garbage out now, please.”
“Sure, Mom, no problem.”
Here, Joshua’s mom expects to be obeyed. She doesn’t ask Joshua a question, she gives him clear, pleasant direction. She doesn’t whine or plead or bargain or threaten. She speaks directly but pleasantly. Joshua knows exactly what she wants him to do and when. Joshua has been trained to understand that obeying Mom is doing exactly what he is told, right away, with a good attitude.
From Chapter Four of Everyday Talk. A full discussion of these points is contained in this chapter.