When To Stop Obeying Your Parents

It wasn’t my plan to post this on Father’s day; I wrote it last Sunday and then decided to sit on it for a few days to review it before posting. But here we are so I want to say, I praise the Lord and thank Him for my Dad. I’m so blessed in the Lord’s choice for me.

“What if my Dad tells me to build a nuclear bomb and blow up the Empire State building?” (Wherever that is…)

Thanks to listening to a few preachers I was well prepared for that question. I was teaching some kids about obeying their parents, and of course one of them asked, ‘what if my parents tell me to do something wrong?’

I immediately asked them how many times that had happened?

Never as it turns out.

Now of course if your parents tell you to directly disobey the Bible you can’t do that. But what about growing up, when can you stop obeying them?

We know honouring parents is a life long requirement, but there is obviously a point when we can stop obeying them. You’re (hopefully) not going to get to eighty five and still be asking for permission to stay out late.

While the point is obvious, the exact time when it happens is controversial.

I know my answer will be too liberal for some and too legalistic for others. So I’ll say, it doesn’t seem the Bible gives a totally direct answer on this. We have to rely on principles a little bit, which means your mileage may vary.

There is plenty here I’m not certain about, so let’s get a conversation going.

Age Is Irrelevant

Age has, mostly, nothing to do with it.

Admittedly a three year old, is never going to be mature enough to self govern. However maturity is not just granted at a given age, like 18.

In different cultures we see people being considered adult at 12, 13, 18, 21, and in much of the western world, 35 if ever.

It’s well documented how our societies have invented adolescence (a time with no adult responsibility and lots of adulty privileges), and pushed that time later and later. When our grandparents were getting married at 19 and 21, we’re getting married at 27 and 29 and wondering if we’re even ready then.

For example, teenage pregnancy is a very bad word now, when clearly there’s nothing wrong with it.

Maturity is not tied to age. It might be rare to find an 18 year old who is ready to be married and be a parent but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Not My House

I’m not sure I can point to any Scripture for this, but if you’re in your parents’ home, you’re under your parents’ authority. Yeah, you can be paying your way or earning your keep, but their house is still their domain.

I’m 25. I earn my keep. But living in my parent’s house I obey them. The way it plays out is far different than it did when I was twelve; I’m blessed with parents who have outstanding reason and common sense.

Dad says we live by the golden rule… he who has the gold makes the rules. There is a certain authority that comes from ownership.

Guys And Girls

Is the point of independence different for boys than girls?

I’m going to get shot for this. The Bible seems to say so.

A guy is to leave his parents and to go and get a wife (Genesis 2:24). A girl is to be given away.

A girl is under her dad’s authority until she is under her husband’s. (See Numbers 30).

What does that mean if she gets to 30 or so and hasn’t married? I don’t know. Under his protection? Probably. Under his authority? Maybe not. But can you have protection without authority? Err, yikes!

Some answers look like they’re left blank.

Now for a guy, he has more freedom to go out and be autonomous.

I hear some people make the case that the patriarchs were often in charge of multiple generations, but I think that is overridden by the command to leave your parents and cleave to your wife.

It would be wrong for me to marry a girl without her father’s permission. On the other hand it could be okay to marry a girl without my father’s permission (not that I could see that situation ever arising for me personally).

Marriage is a point where you do not have to obey your parents any more.

Leaving Home

Paul and Elijah never got married, and yet there was a point when they were no longer under their parents’ authority. Jesus was totally obeying His earthly parents at twelve, but not at 30.

You could have your parents’ blessing to leave home and set yourself up. If so that would be a point when you’re out of their authority.

But what if you want to leave home, and they don’t want you to?

That’s a hard one. At this stage I think I could leave even if my folks didn’t want me to. They’re unsure.

My main defence would be, the command to obey parents is to children, and I’m not a child.

Determining when you can call yourself an adult and leave is difficult, and perhaps most difficult for you to say about yourself. And again, is it different for girls?

Why Care About This?

The point of this post is not to encourage you to take more liberties. It’s to encourage you to be more deliberate in your obedience and your decisions.

I’m not looking for reasons for you to go against your parents. Even in a situation when I no longer needed to obey my parents I would still take their advice and input seriously. If they were giving me counsel I would have to have well considered reasons to go against it. It wouldn’t be just on a whim.

In conclusion, it’s the heart that matters to God. If your desire is to please Him, and obey your parents while it’s reasonable to do so then that’s the main thing. It would be a sad situation if you had to get to the point where you had to determine to leave, contrary to your parents wishes, but in a few circumstance, I guess it could happen.

I hope and pray you all have great relationships with your parents, as I do with mine.

I left a lot of open and undecided points. Weigh in with your views…

7 thoughts on “When To Stop Obeying Your Parents”

  1. very well put Luke. I like what you said. I noticed as the years went by mum and dad gave us more and more freedom to choose, and I really respect them for that. When I had finally left school and started working, things like bed times became “you can stay up as late as you choose.” Mum and dad had decided they had done their best by that stage and it was time to see how their teaching turned out. I still go to them for advice but it is no longer rules that they give me. (I still take their advice as wise counsel and usually follow it.) Still they let me leave home at 19 and sent me out with their blessing and a few more words of advice. I have often asked what the right thing to do is and their answer is “your and adult now it’s your choice.” However i don’t think they would let me make a big mistake without warning me.

    There was always a set of basic moral rules in their house which I would again have to obey if i were to move back in, but those rules I have since adapted to my house and if you wanted to flat with me I would require you to obey them.

    I also think that there is more to “honouring your parents” then just obeying them.

    My biggest question is, “when do you become an adult?” Is it when you leave home? is it when you buy a house? I have done both of those and i still feel like a kid; scared, unsure and lacking wisdom. I think mabye when I get married I will feel like an adult. I know this isn’t true because when I get married I will think mabye when I have kids. Adulthood probably isn’t a feeling, so does someone feel like enlightening me on what defines you as an adult.

  2. Good point! I would like to know when I’m supposed to feel like an Adult too. I Don’t want to feel like an overgrown teenager at 30! 🙂

  3. Great article! Going to share some of your points of view with the youth from our church.


  4. I have a situation…
    There is one special friend of mine who is very close to me and were happy having each other as FRIENDS..BEST OF FRIENDS..but her mother don’t want me to be friends with her daughter.. me and the girl is both PENTECOSTAL EVANGELICAL Christians.. we used to be great friends at first.. me and her mother used to be friends to..it all started when her mother knew that i have some special feelings to her daughter by the time goes by.. but i never did wrong things..i could not influence her daughter mean bad things.. I love God..I love her.. I love her parents too.. i understand that her mother don’t want her daughter to be in a relationship with a guy just yet because were still studying college..maybe after college..but her mothers point was..she said that I CAN NO LONGER BE FRIENDS WITH HER DAUGHTER neither communicating.. have I been bad? 🙁 i really don’t understand her MOTHER.. that’s why at this point of time… i lost her.. even as friends..her mother wont allow me.. its really painful.. but what can i do? i cant tell her that she must disobey her mother because of Ephesians 6:1…please help me? anyone? what will i do best? or is my friend doing the right thing?choosed the right decision to leave me? and no longer be my friend and cut off all our communications because her mother told her so?

  5. At your barmitva you become an aduld so around 12 13 you are not a child that has to obey there parents however you still honor them (hold th at high esteem) and it would be wise to seek there wisdom and counsel if it is a subject they have experience and knowledge in !
    God Bless

  6. I am married and my mother in law was telling my husband he still needed too obey her obviously I was but I didn’t want to respond quickly without knowing and studying this scripture. I like your article it makes allot of sense.

  7. You touched on this in your article, but different cultures look at parental authority and defining “child” differently. In India, parents choose who their children marry (and their children can be in their 20’s and 30’s). In the Philippines, most female children remain under their parent’s authority until they get married, and that could be well into their 30’s. In America, 18y or 21y is looked upon as “adulthood”. Discerning when a person is no longer a “child” and still under the mandate to obey their parents is difficult. I’m glad you brought this up. I am seeking to find the answer to this myself. The only thing I’ve come up with is that there is a point at which a child becomes an adult. When is still unclear. The parents of the blind man healed by Jesus, when questioned by religious leaders said, “ask him yourself, he’s a adult!” I wish the bible were clearer on when adulthood begins.

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