#56 Brought Up After the Fashion of the World

4. Now children are not to obey parents who are so foolish that they bring up their children after the fashion of this world. God is to be more highly regarded than parents according to the first three commandments. I call it being brought up after the fashion of the world when parents teach their children to seek nothing but the pleasure, honor, possessions, or power of this world.

To wear decent clothes and seek an honest living is a necessity, not a sin. Yet in his heart a child must be reconciled to the fact that it is an awful pity that this miserable earthly life cannot well be lived, or even begun, without the striving after more adornment and more possessions than are necessary to protect the body against cold and for nourishment. Thus the child must be taught to do against its own will what the world wants. The child must put up with fools and with that kind of evil for the sake of something better and to avoid something worse. Queen Esther wore her royal crown, but yet she said to God, “Thou knowest that the sign of my high estate which is upon my head has never at all delighted me, and that I abhor it as a filthy, menstruous rag. I never wear it when I am alone, but only when I have to and when I face the people.” The heart that is so minded wears adornment without peril, for it wears and yet does not wear, it dances yet does not dance, it lives well yet does not live well. And souls such as this are the secret hidden brides of Christ. But such souls are rare, for it is hard not to take delight in great adornment and display. Thus St. Cecilia wore golden clothes at the command of her parents, but underneath she wore a hair shirt next to her skin. (Luther’s Works, v. 44 p.83-84).

#55 Sacrificing Your Child By Letting Them Go Their Own Way

Thus God’s commandment falls absolutely to the ground, unwittingly, and ostensibly for good reasons. Then is fulfilled that which is written in the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, that the children are destroyed by their own parents [Isa. 57:5; Jer. 7:31; 32:35]. They do what King Manasseh did. This king sacrificed his son to the idol Molech and burned him.47 What else is it but to sacrifice one’s own child to an idol and burn it when parents train their children more in the love of the world than in the love of God, and let their children go their own way and get burned up in worldly pleasure, love, enjoyment, lust, goods, and honor, but let God’s love and honor and the love of eternal blessings be extinguished in them?

O how perilous it is to be a father or mother, where only flesh and blood are supreme! Indeed, it is because parents are commanded to teach their children that the knowledge and keeping of the first three and the last six commandments depend on this commandment. As Psalm 78[:5–6] says, “How strictly has God commanded our fathers to make known his commandments to their children, that the generation to come might know them and declare them to their children’s children.” This is also the reason God bids us honor our parents, that is, to love them with fear; for that other love is without fear, therefore, it is more dishonor than honor.

Now see whether everyone does not have enough good works to do, whether he be father or child. But we, blind men that we are, neglect such works as these and seek elsewhere all sorts of other works which are not commanded. (Luther’s Works, v. 44 p.83).

#54 Undisciplined Children Because of “Natural Love” Dishonors 4th Commandment

3. There is still another kind of dishonoring of parents, much more dangerous and subtle than this first, [a dishonoring] which decks itself out and lets itself be regarded as a true honoring of parents. That is when a child has its own way and the parents allow it to do so out of natural love. In this case they honor one another and love one another. On all sides it is a precious thing; the mother and father are pleased and the child is pleased.

This plague is so common that instances of the first kind of dishonoring are very rarely seen. This second kind of dishonoring arises from the fact that the parents have been blinded and neither know nor honor God in the sense of the first three commandments. For this reason they cannot see what the children lack, or how they ought to teach them and bring them up. It is only to please men and to get ahead that they train their children for worldly honors, pleasure, and possessions. The children like this, and, of course, they obey very gladly without any back talk. (Luther’s Works, v. 44 p.82-83).

#53 Godly Parents Break Their Children’s Sinful Will

2. This work appears easy, yet few see it rightly. For where the parents are truly godly and love their children not just in human fashion, but (as they ought) instruct and direct them by words and works to serve God in the first three commandments, then in these eases the child’s own will is constantly broken. The child must do, not do, or put up with whatever his own nature would gladly have otherwise. Because of this he finds occasion to despise his parents, murmur against them, or worse. Love and fear depart when God’s grace is not there. Likewise, when parents quite properly—though at times unjustly—punish and chastise, the soul’s salvation is not imperiled; the evil nature is just unwilling to accept it. Besides all this, some are so wicked as to be ashamed of their parents because of their poverty, lowly birth, ugliness, or dishonor, and allow these things to influence them more than the high commandment of God, who is above all things and who has, with benevolent intent, given them such parents, to exercise and try them in his commandment. But the matter becomes still worse when the child in turn has children of his own. Then love for them increases, while the love and honor due to the parents declines.

But what is said and commanded of parents must also be understood of those who, when the parents are dead or not there, take their place, such as friends, relatives, godparents, temporal lords, and spiritual fathers. For everybody must be ruled and subject to other men. So we see here again how many good works are taught in this commandment, for in it all our life is made subject to other men. That is the reason obedience is so highly praised, and all virtue and good works are included in it” (Luther’s Works, v. 44 p.82).

#52 Honor is More Than Love

The first work is that we should honor our own father and mother. This honoring does not consist in merely showing them all deference. It means that we obey them, have regard for what they do and what they say, esteem them highly, give way to them, and accept what they say. It means that we endure their treatment of us without complaint, so long as it is not contrary to the first three commandments, and, in addition, provide them with food, clothing, and shelter when they are in need. For it is not without purpose that he has said, “Thou shalt honor them.” He does not say, “Thou shalt love them,” although it means that as well. But honor is higher than mere love, and includes within it a kind of fear which unites with love and has such an effect upon a man that he fears offending them more than he fears the ensuing punishment. It is just as there is fear in the honor we pay a holy place, and yet we do not flee from it as from a punishment, but draw all the more near to it. True honor is such a fear mingled with love. The other kind of fear that is without love is the fear of those things which we despise or avoid, e.g., the fear of the hangman or of punishment. There is no honor in that, for it is fear without love: in fact, it is a fear mixed with hatred and hostility. We have a proverb of St. Jerome about this: What we fear, we also hate. God does not want to be feared or honored with that kind of fear, nor does he want our parents honored with this kind of fear, but rather with the first kind, the kind mingled with love and confidence” (Luther’s Works, v. 44 p.81).

#51 After a Sound Thrashing, Cookies!

By soothing the Galatians this way Paul prepares their minds to bear the fatherly rebukes with filial feeling. This is like tempering absinthe or bitter medicine with honey and sugar to make it sweet again. Thus when parents have given their children a sound thrashing, they soothe them by offering them cookies, cakes, pears, apples, and such little presents, by which the children recognize that the parents meant it for their good, even though the punishment was severe. (Luther’s Works, v. 26 p.417)

#50 Harsh to the Face, Affectionate in the Heart

On the other hand, if one stubbornly insists on the force of the Greek word, namely, that κατὰ πρόσωπον, “according to face,” always means “according to appearance”—as in John 7:24: “Do not judge by appearances”—this still does not demand the conclusion that there was hypocrisy on Paul’s part. On the contrary, the sense will be this: Paul was indeed in earnest when he opposed Peter and rebuked him verbally, but he did not do so from a malicious heart. It is in this way that Ecclus. 7:24 speaks: “Do you have daughters? Be concerned for their bodies, and do not show your face cheerful toward them.” Thus parents are stern to their children “according to face,” not from the heart, yet not hypocritically either. And every Christian should maintain cordial pleasantness and a feeling of unity when reproving a brother and disagreeing with him. But even of God Himself it is said (Lam. 3:33): “For He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.” But who would say that God plays the hypocrite when He scourges men and rejects them? Thus Paul rebuked Peter with a real reproof. He was harsh toward Peter “to his face” but affectionate toward him in his heart. Therefore Peter’s guilt was real and deserving to the highest degree of reproof, and in neither man was there any hypocrisy of the kind St. Jerome supposes. There was, however, that earlier hypocrisy by which Peter compelled the observance of Jewish and legalistic practices. (Luther’s Works, v. 27 p. 214).

#49 Fathers Do Not Neglect Your Own Household

It is the duty of good parents to instruct their children from childhood in the fear of God on the basis of sound literature of Christian women. Here we see that a pig will train a pig, but that human parents do not know anything. Such a man is not even pagan; he is beastly. Matrons, Paul wants to say, have no need to wear themselves out with foolish and self-chosen works. They have tasks at home to keep them busy, but they turn away from these to pilgrimages and the like. It has been truly said that a father will find eternal life in his offspring; that is, a father has plenty of opportunity in his household to practice his piety, and if anything is left over, to distribute it to his neighbor. But let him see to it that he does not neglect his own household. (Luther’s Works, v. 29, p. 54 on Titus 2:8)

#48 Matrons Train Younger Women to Love Their Husbands and Children

Thus he instructs matrons to be good teachers and to train younger women to love their husbands and children. I have said what it means to love one’s husband, namely, not merely to cohabit with him but to respect one’s husband, to regard him as lord, to submit to him in all things, not to be domineering. This is a rare quality in a woman, for the female sex inclines naturally toward what is forbidden to it; it wants to reign, to rule, and to judge. From this there come marital discord, blows, and beatings. To love children means not only to educate them for the world but to see to it that they are provided for in body and in soul. For such love the rod and discipline are required, as Prov. 3:11 and 23:13 say; and Ecclesiasticus says (Ecclus. 30:1): “He will whip him often,” because there is foolishness in the heart. Such love is also rare. People love their children for the sake of the pomp of the world. They adorn and save their possessions for them. They do not enrich their souls with the arts, with study, with sound literature. (Luther’s Works, v. 29, p. 54 on Titus 2:8)

#47 Be Careful, Children Often Ruined By Universities

Here belongs Molech, that is, a king. For these people make great lords, doctors, and masters who are skilled in ruling others. We can see before our very eyes how no one can become a preacher or a pastor unless he is a master or doctor, or has at least attended the university. One must first crown the donkey; then he goes forth and rules. And the parents do not see, or if they see they pay no attention to the fact, that nowhere is youth more grossly corrupted and misled, since no one prevents it. That they fall into fornication, gluttony, and other open wickedness is the least of their corruption; but that they are instructed in false, heathenish art and ungodly, human doctrine is the fire of Molech. No one can bemoan that enough, for through it the most devout and clever lads are miserably ruined in the universities. So great is the wrath of God over this valley of Topheth and Hinnom [II Kings 23:10; Jer. 7:31] that those who learn most and best and live in chastity are ruined more miserably than those who learn nothing and live in fornication. For the latter learn nothing which ought to be unlearned again; they are well aware that they are doing wrong. The former, however, absorb poisons of which they can never rid themselves; they hold evil to be good and teach this also to their pupils. All this is what accounts for the fact that the sun of the gospel is darkened and obscured by human teaching. (Luther’s Works, v. 36 p.224