Grow some spiritual muscles
Tips for kids and their dads1 Children, do what your parents say. Jesus wants you to obey them. It’s the right thing to do. 2 Treat your father and mother with respect. In case you didn’t know, it’s the first of the Ten Commandments that comes with a promise.
3 Here’s the promise. You should respect your parents “so life will treat you kindly, and you’ll live a long time in the land.” 4 As for you fathers, don’t antagonize your kids. Don’t treat them so unfairly that you get them angry. Teach them. And when necessary, discipline them. But do both as though Jesus is doing it.
Survival guide for slaves and their masters5 Slaves, do what your slave masters tell you to do. Shake with fear about it. What you do for your masters, do with all the sincerity you can muster. Treat their request as though it’s coming from the Messiah. 6 Don’t put on a fake show for them by giving them your best only when they’re watching. Give them your best all the time. Work as though you’re slaves of the Messiah, doing what God wants you to do. 7 Work up some energy and genuine excitement about what you’re doing. Here’s how to do it: think of yourself as working for Jesus, not for some human.
8 Know this. When people do something good, the Lord not only sees it. He’ll reward them, whether they’re slave or free. 9 Slave masters, treat your slaves with the devotion I just told them to give to you. Stop threatening them. I want you to know this, and don’t have any doubt about it: you and your slaves have the same Master. He’s in heaven. And by the way, he doesn’t show favoritism.
Suit up for battle10 I’m going to close with this. Grow your spiritual muscles from the nourishing strength of the Lord. 11 Strap on all of God’s spiritual armor. You’ll need it to fight the devil’s tactics.
12 We’re not fighting flesh-and-blood humans. We’re fighting otherworldly beings. These are spiritual forces: leaders, authorities, and rulers of spiritual darkness and evil in the heavenly dimension. 13 Suit up into every piece of God’s armor. You’ll need it if you want to do everything possible to stand your ground on the day evil comes calling. 14 Do it. Stand your ground. Strap the belt of truth around your waist and tug it tight. Protect your chest with the body armor of spiritual integrity. 15 Slip on boots of the Good News of peace, to help keep you on your feet. 16 You’ll need the shield of faith, too. Its heavy armor will protect you from deadly flying objects and from your main enemy, Satan. 17 Don’t forget your helmet of salvation. And take the sword that the Spirit forged for you: the word of God.
Don’t stop praying18 Keep yourself in a spirit of prayer. Pray all the time, asking for the help you need. Keep at it. Never give up praying for believers everywhere. 19 Pray for me, too. Pray that when I need the right words to speak, they’ll find their way out of my mouth. Pray that I’ll be able to boldly tell people the mysterious story of the Good News about Jesus. 20 After all, that story is why I’m now the Lord’s ambassador in chains, under arrest.
Peace to you21 I want you to know more about how I’m doing. So I’m sending my dear associate and devoted helper Tychicus. He’ll bring you up to date. 22 I’m sending him to ease your worry about me, and to encourage you. 23 Peace to you, my fellow believers. May love and faith be yours, gifts from God the Father and from our leader, Jesus the Messiah. 24 May God show his kindness to everyone who loves Jesus with a love that will outlast time.
Some old manuscripts add a loophole by saying that the children who should obey their parents are the children whose parents are believers. That way, children don’t feel compelled to do something their parents tell them to do when the children know their parents are ordering them to do something wrong.
See Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16.
Often translated as “righteousness.”
Literally, ponēros, a Greek word that can mean “evil” or “wicked one.”
Paul tells children “do what your parents say” (6:1). What exceptions to that rule do you think he would have allowed, given the fact that it was legal for parents to sell their children into slavery to pay for a family debt?
Paul offers the kids a carrot when he says that they should treat their parents with respect so they can collect on the Bible’s promise that “life will treat you kindly, and you’ll live a long time” (6:3). Do you think there is any practical value in that promise— for people in ancient times or today? Do you think it generally works out that kids who treat their parents with respect do in fact find that life treats them more kindly and they live longer?
Paul’s advice to slaves is particularly troubling in our culture that sees slavery as thoroughly selfish and absolutely unjustifiable. So how can we justify cutting Paul some slack and allowing him to get by with telling slaves to work for their masters as though they are working for the Master (6:5-9)?
How do you react to what Paul says about our battle against “otherworldly beings” (6:12)? Do you think he is talking literally? Or is he using a bit of metaphor to describe the spirit of evil that can come from the hearts and heads of human beings?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells fathers, “Don’t antagonize your kids” (6:4). What are some examples of how fathers get their kids upset for no good reason?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul’s advice to slaves could seem fairly relevant to workaday grunts in our world today. Many people feel fairly well enslaved by their employer. What advice do you see Paul giving slaves in his day that might be helpful as a survival guide to working people today?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul describes several kinds of defensive gear we can use when fighting spiritual battles. Which of the following do you find especially helpful?
- belt of truth
- body armor of spiritual integrity
- boots of the good news of peace
- shield of faith
- helmet of salvation
- sword of the Spirit, the word of God
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells Christians “Keep yourself in a spirit of prayer. Pray all the time” (6:18). Really? How is that possible?