Colossians 3:20—Does Paul contradict Jesus when he exhorts children, “obey your parents in all things”?

Problem: While Paul told children to obey their parents in everything, Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). Surely children should not obey a parent who commands them to curse God, or hate Jesus, or kill their brother.

Solution: A text must be understood in its context. The “all things” in Colossians 3:20 does not include things that displease the Lord, since the very next phrase says, “for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Furthermore, in the parallel passage in Ephesians, written at the same time, Paul explicitly qualifies this command, saying, “children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). This makes it clear that a child is not to obey his or her parents if they command the child to do something against the Lord.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.