“What Goes Around Comes Around”

By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

— Ephesians 6:1-4 NKJV

A little humour to lighten your day. Hopefully this one isn’t too deep:

Some of our senior saints in heaven were eyeing two recently arrived teenagers. The seniors commented to one another about the teens: “We don’t understand! Why are they staring at their thumbs?”.

We are living in a generation which has no foundation, no hope. All they have is their phones (and without them, all they have is their thumbs – NOW do you understand the above?).

In my community here in central New York, a typical evening is regularly interrupted with the news directing emergency personnel: “attempted overdose behind the library” or “attempted overdose next to the grocery store” (in our area, Byrne Dairy). And what was the drug of choice? One called “fentanyl” – it causes one’s heart to stop. And if not resuscitated in short time using an help called “Narcan”, then another teen’s life will have been snuffed out way too soon. And this is our town. I’m sure the story is the same throughout the nation. No foundation. No hope.

How can we change this? The answer is way too simple, yet often ignored: give the family a Biblical foundation. Not just to the so-called “wayward teen”, but to the entire family. How does that happen? Our verses here in Ephesians will be an huge help, a God-ward direction.


The minister began his sermon, “Children, obey your parents”. Then he wisely said, “let’s close in prayer”. Perhaps that is all that is needed.

The REAL intent of this verse is that the PARENTS are God’s representatives, whether Christian or not. And the child is to honor God by honoring his mother and father.

Let’s go back to the familiar Luke 2:48-52:

“So when they saw Him [12 year old Jesus], they [Mary and Joseph] were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”

49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Did you catch verse 51 where it says “[He] was subject to them”. And verse 52 says that under that subjection, He matured under their influence. “Wisdom…stature…favor with God…[favor] with men” is the whole gamut of a youth’s growth. Even our Savior obeyed His earthly parents!

Have you read Psalm 127 recently?

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…” (verses 1a, 3a).

The point is this. A child may say, “I want to serve the Lord NOW”. The reality is that the Lord is beginning that service by the preparation of obedience to HIM by that child’s obedience to his mother and father. Possibly when the child is older, on his own, his obedience to the Lord will be steadfast – for it is disciplined already!

Sometimes Mom and Dad are disagreeable for no apparent reason. Isn’t it true that sometimes trials come in our obedience to God for no apparent reason? In the same way, thus we are being prepared to obey.

On the other hand, no obedience to Mom and Dad now may mean no obedience to God later. Only by the interruption of God’s intervening grace might that young person’s life be turned around for His glory.

“Children, obey your parents”.

Second, SERVE THE LORD IN YOUR HEART (verses 2-3)

You DO recognize verses 2-3 from the Ten Commandments, don’t you? You DID, right? This is the first commandment with promise! These verses were given TO Moses in Exodus 20. They were later given BY Moses in Deuteronomy 5:16. To whom was he giving this recounting of the Ten Commandments? He was giving them to the second generation, those who were either twenty years old and under in Exodus 20 or who were born in the wilderness. Of note is Deuteronomy 5:24, “And you said: ‘Surely the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives.” The glory of the Lord was – and is still! – on display in the hearing of God’s Word!

Do you remember Psalm 119:9-11?

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Do you remember Proverbs 10:17?

“He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.”

At some time in life every man, woman, boy or girl has asked, “What do I want in life?” The ultimate answers?

I want to be different, unique, my own person.

I want to make my own mark in this world.

I want to (hopefully!) show that it is possible to honor God in a world that does not.

In our passage, the word “honor” is applied in the sense of “setting aside Mom and Dad as precious”. In turn, God promises a full life.


What is the responsibility of the parents? Proverbs 22:6 says it well: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Some of the saddest words in the Bible are found in 1 Samuel 3:10-13. Here are the Lord’s scathing words about the priest Eli and his children, found in verses 12-13: “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and HE DID NOT RESTRAIN THEM.” [my emphasis].

So, as we close this section of Ephesians 6, the question we must ask ourselves is this: “Is it possible to train up our children right? Will it really make a difference? Is it really true that ‘what goes around comes around’?”.

Have you read the history of Jonathan Edwards and HIS heritage? Permit me to quote from a fellow named Larry Ballard:

“Jonathan Edwards, was a Puritan Preacher in the 1700s. He was one of the most respected preachers in his day. He attended Yale at the age of thirteen and later went on to become the president of Princeton college. He married his wife Sara in 1727 and they were blessed with eleven children. Every night when Mr. Edwards was home, he would spend an hour conversing with his family and then praying a blessing over each child. Jonathan and his wife Sarah passed on a great, godly legacy to their eleven children.”

Mr. Ballard goes on to write:

“An American educator, A.E. Winship decided to trace the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death. Jonathan Edwards’ legacy includes: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 1 Dean of a law school, 1 dean of a medical school, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 65 professors, 75 Military officers, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers, 100 clergymen, and 285 college graduates.

“How may this be explained? Edwards was a godly man, but he was also hard working, intelligent and moral. Furthermore, Winship states, ‘Much of the capacity and talent, intensity and character of the more than 1,400 of Edwards’ family is due to Mrs. Edwards.’”

Children, obey your parents in the Lord. Fathers, bring them up in His nurture – His training – and admonition.

Because, you know. You DO know, don’t you: what goes around comes around!