“Right away. All the way. With Respect.” I’m not sure how many times my children have heard those sentences. Where do they come from? Pastor Robbins has his own phraseology, “Prompt, complete, and joyful.” Either way, the Scriptures abound with illustrations and instruction on obedience. And a few highlight just how much weight God gives to how His people obey.
Ecclesiastes 5:4 is jarring in its assessment of those who don’t follow through when they should: “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.” The double condemnation hits hard. First God has no pleasure in the foot-dragger, and second, the foot-dragger is called a “fool”. That God is more than disappointed with those who don’t keep their word is obvious. That God called them “fools” is worth considering further. They are fools because delaying obedience gives no pleasure to anyone. Everyone suffers because of it, especially the delayer. The commitment or instruction doesn’t go away. The delayer has only made it more painful by making it take longer and increasing the consequences in being sluggish to follow through.
All the Way:
No example of incomplete obedience seems more compelling than what we find in the life of King Saul. In 1 Samuel 15 God commanded Saul to devote to destruction all the Amalekites. God had sentenced them to death for their capital crimes (a down payment on His judgment on all sin) and yet Saul and the people spared the King Agag and the best of the livestock. They only destroyed what was despised and worthless. God’s response indicates what he thinks of incomplete obedience: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments” (1 Sa 15:11). Partial obedience is not obedience. Partial obedience does not merit reward. Yes, jobs may be different. Sometimes there may be a limited capability, or time, or opportunity to get work done. But the ordinary assumption with obedience is that the one being asked is competent to obey completely. The partial-obeyer doesn’t just come up short. He rebels.
Respecting or honoring the one in authority has obvious implications. Paul turned to the fifth commandment to make his point to children: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.‘” (Eph 6:1–3). The promise of life is surely valuable. One of my favorite Proverbs, Proverbs 30:17, graphically shows the opposite: “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.” Kind of elevates the importance of honoring your parents, doesn’t it? Perhaps the reason God elevates respect in obedience is because a wrong attitude in obedience is a practical form of atheism. By it adult or child denies that God is watching and that He sees not only the outward actions but the heart as well.
As much as these things are measurable, and generally they are, parents need to observe and discipline with respect to both that and how children obey. Neglecting the “how” of obedience puts a child on a bad footing for life, but more importantly, in puts him in grave spiritual danger. It’s no little consequence to be a “fool” before God, to have Him regret His calling you, or to have your life cut short by God because of your sin. So if you’re a parent, and you’ve been overlooking delay, deficiency, and dishonor, then repent, and not just for your own benefit, but for the love of your child as well.