The gift of parental authority

Posted on August 14, 2015 · Posted in Authority, Parenting

Authority is a gift of God to his people and especially to families. Authority is often abused on the one hand and grossly neglected on the other. However, it is important not to frame one’s view of biblical authority based on the abuses of others.

Viewing authority as gift requires something of an attitude adjustment for many. The world, under the direction of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3) wants authority to be viewed as arbitrary, uncaring, stifling, and cruel.  Authority is said to curtail imagination, stunt creativity, restrict freedom, and diminish individual worth. These misconceptions have filtered down to families.

In contrast let’s see how the Bible speaks about authority. The first thing to remember about Biblical human authority is that it is derived and not earned. Husbands are not necessarily people of better character than their wives. Parents are not necessarily better people than their children. Law enforcement officers are not automatically more honest than those they protect.  These positions of authority, and every other form of authority, are established by Christ. (Colossians 1:15-20) So, our respect for authority is not directly tied to the person in authority, but to the Person who established that authority.

Secondly, human authority reminds us that all of creation is subject to the rule of God. We all live and die at God’s will and pleasure. This is not a popular notion in our culture, but it is true.

Thirdly, authority is established by God for our benefit. In 2 Corinthians 13:10 Paul says that God has given authority to build up and not to tear down. Building up is a primary benefit of authority. Too often parents think of authority as a tool for controlling children so that things are orderly or as an instrument of punishment.

Paul says that authority is to be used to build up.  This means that to exercise authority biblically, much thought, consideration, and prayer must be given concerning how to accomplish this. Authority is not designed to be dispensed in a shoot from the hip mindset.
Building up is done with pleasant words, not primarily stern commands. Words that are crafted to build up according to the needs of the hearer are pleasant words. These are true words of authority.

The need for kind, constructive, building authority is the same in all families. You see, when you exercise authority, you are speaking directly for God. You certainly cannot claim that children should obey you because of your wonderful character or flawless track record. When you exercise authority it must be done in the name of Christ and none other. Authority is about building up, it is about leading your children to cross of Christ. I pray these thoughts will spur you to begin this journey. May your children will come to bless and thank God for his loving gift of parental authority.

Shepherding a Child's Heart

Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.