Kevin DeYoung / Oct 30, 2016 / Exodus 20:12
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Sermon Summary / Transcript
Our Father in heaven, we’re so grateful that you’ve given us the privilege of calling you our Father. It’s not what we deserve. It’s not our natural birthright, but a privilege that you have granted to us through faith in Christ. We thank you for giving us earthly fathers and mothers, whether we knew them, liked them, disliked them, or loved them with all of our hearts. We thank you for designing the family with parents who have authority over their children, for our good and the good of the world. We have a lot to learn, both as children and parents, so we pray that you would help us to listen to your word, understand it, and obey. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name, amen.
For the past several weeks, we’ve been working our way through the Ten Commandments as part of our series on the book of Exodus. This morning, we come to the fifth commandment:
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12
And all the parents said, “Amen!” I’m glad to see that only some of the kids left for the children’s worship time. We still have many children here. In fact, all of us are children! Anyway, I had thought about having all the younger kids come up to the front—but then I’d be in charge of all of them, and that seemed like a bad idea.
Exodus 31 tells us that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with two stone tablets. This is almost certainly in reference to two copies of the law. Even though we often see pictures of Moses with two tablets, and though we refer to them as the two tablets (or tables) of the law, they were almost certainly not divided into two. Rather they were two copies of the same thing. This was very typical for covenants in the ancient Near East. You’d have one for each party. You couldn’t just throw it onto a copy machine, so you had to bang it out on two different pieces of stone.
For Israel, one piece went into the Ark of the Covenant, signifying the Lord’s copy, but the other was for them to remember. So, even though those tablets were most likely identical copies, we often speak of the two tablets (or tables) of the law.
There is evidence that the Jews and early Christians thought somewhat along these same lines. In the New Testament, there are several places where only the commandments of the second table are listed, such as when Jesus talks to the rich young ruler in the gospels. Also, in Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 1, there are step-by-step progressions through the different commandments of the so-called “second table” of the Law. Jesus seems to operate with this understanding when he says, “The whole law can be summarized in two commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Typically, what we’ve referred to the first table of the law has to do with the vertical commandments: how do we love and worship and honor God (commandments 1-4)? Then, the second table of the law has to do with our horizontal obligations under God’s authority: how do we love our neighbors?
This fifth commandment, then, is a transition from the first table to the second. If the foundation for the first table was the first commandment, then the foundational commandment for the second table is the fifth commandment. We may not think of it in that way, but it’s certainly the case. “Honor your father and mother” is the foundation upon which love for our neighbor is built.
Think about it. The parental relationship is the first and most important relationship. It shapes all other relationships. When you come across a very kind, considerate, capable student in your class (if you’re a teacher in high school or a student in college), or come across someone in your workplace who seems very hard-working, conscientious, responsible, and considerate, more often than not you owe a great debt of gratitude to that person’s parents. You ought to thank not only those parents, but the good sense that he or she had to listen to them. Now, there are all sorts of exceptions: good parents with bad kids, and bad parents with good kids. But in general, that’s the way the world works—the way that God has set up and designed things.
Parents are supposed to know a little bit more than their kids. Now, it seems to happen that by the time you reach 15 or 16, your parents suddenly don’t know anything anymore. Then, by the time that you have kids, they start to know things again. There’s a weird gap right there where they don’t know anything.
But God designed it this way. In this relationship with our parents, we learn what it is to have someone in authority over us, to listen to people, to honor them, and to do things that we sometimes don’t want to do. Someone else has a say over us, so we’re going to trust that they know better. Augustine said, “If anyone fails to honor his parents, is there anyone he will spare?” This is where we learn to live with other people. This is where we learn that there are authority structures in the world.
Yes, there is certainly a way in which parents will grow to be friends with their kids. But parents, we understand that that’s not the role that God has given to us. We want our kids to love us and (at some point) to enjoy being with us—sometime later, perhaps. But God has given us authority. Part of what we’re helping them learn is that they’ve come into a world in which there is moral authority and structures of order. The family is where we learn about respect and obedience, and hopefully (if it is a good family) about love and protection.
It is no wonder that, when totalitarian regimes throughout history have tried to exert control over people, one of the chief mechanisms by which they’ve done so is severing that attachment to the family—making allegiance to the state the building block of society, rather than the honoring of parents. As a recent book I read said, “The power of the state and the power of the family are often at odds.”
I don’t want to dwell on that macro point, but before we get into the particulars of this commandment, I do want us to see that it’s bigger than just saying, “Kids, take a bath when Mom and Dad tell you to take one.” Civilizations, societies, cultures, and countries do not flourish apart from social order, trust, and mutual respect. All of that is meant to be taught and imbibed in the incubator of the family. It’s not too much to say that loving your neighbor begins with listening to mom and dad.
So what does this commandment have for us? “Honor your father and mother” is a serious commandment. Just listen to what Moses says later (Deuteronomy 21):
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
I’d bet they would hear and fear! Thankfully, we live in the New Testament economy of salvation. All of these civil infractions have now been transposed into church order, with structure, membership, and discipline. Thankfully, the parallel for us would be some kind of church discipline, not capital punishment.
Actually, does this passage give you a better sense for how scandalous and remarkable the story of the Prodigal Son is? He ran away. He was a glutton and a drunkard. Yet, at the moment when the father should have presented him before the elders to be stoned, while he was yet a long way off, he ran to him and said, “This son of mine was lost. Now he’s found.” There is good news for wayward children.
But we see here how serious this infraction was. We also see that cursing parents was deserving of death in Exodus 21, Leviticus 20, and Proverbs 20 and 30. As Calvin said, “Nature itself ought, in a way, to teach us this. Those who abusively or stubbornly violate parental authority are monsters, not men.” Do you want to dress up like a monster for Halloween? Don’t listen to your parents. That’s a real monster. Hence, the Lord commands that all who are disobedient to their parents should be put to death. If they don’t recognize those whose efforts brought them into the light of day, they aren’t worthy of its benefits.
That was a different time, and we have a different sort of attitude toward parenting today, but listen! We need to listen to a 500-year-old voice like to again tell us something of the seriousness of this commandment.
I want us to look at four questions. One, what does it mean to honor our parents? Two, are there limits to honoring our parents? Three, why should we honor our parents? Fourth, what might it practically look like for us to honor our parents?
What Does it Mean to Honor Parents?
Kids, teenagers, and students: listen. You’ll be happy to know that the commandment doesn’t say that you must always hang out with your father or mother, or always be happy when they’re walking right next to you in a public place. But it does say to honor them, as opposed to stubbornness, not listening, rebellion, or refusing to follow.
Again, Calvin is wise here: “Honor requires three things: reverence, obedience, and gratitude.” The reverence is not because our parents always are deserving of it in themselves. I stand before you as a father who is very aware of his inadequacies and shortcomings. I’ve had many occasions where I’ve said, “I can’t believe I just spoke or acted like that.” It’s not because we’re always deserving of it, but because of the position of authority that God has granted to us. We have been given a noble title. Mom. Dad. Mother. Father. That’s why almost all of us would insist that our kids shouldn’t call us by our first names. It’s not just out of a sense of respect, but also because, “Everyone else can call me Kevin. Only you can call me Dad.” There is a reverence there.
The word “honor” is the Hebrew word “kevod”, which you’ve heard before. It’s the Old Testament word for “glory” or “weight”. To be a parent is a weighty thing. To be given the title of mother or father is to be designated with an office of great significance. So we show respect and reverence for that.
Obedience means that we do what our parents say while we’re a part of their household. Even when we’ve grown and left the home, we make an effort to do their wishes whenever we can. Obedience, of course, implies that parents are giving commands and passing along instructions. We aren’t hoping that children figure things out for themselves. We aren’t leaving them to their own devices and finding a way to be their best friend. No, we’re giving them orders.
We don’t have to be the only ones to give our kids instruction, but we are the responsible ones. No matter how you choose to educate your children—whether homeschool, public school, or Christian school—you are the one who is responsible to ensure that what they are learning is good and right, and will help them to grow in Christ.
We’ll come back to gratitude at the end—but kids, if you’re listening, you need to know this about your parents. They didn’t tell me to tell you this, but I know they would want me to. We really love to do nice things for you—most of the time. We really do. We like to get you things and see you happy. We like to know that we’ve done something that gives you some sort of joy in life. You know what would be really nice? If you didn’t forget it instantly. We’ve all had this experience as parents. You get up and say, “Hey, kids! Today is donut day! Get in the car. We’re getting donuts!” We’d like to think that ought to carry over for a good five seconds. Of course, it’s over. They’re off to the next thing that they want.
Gratitude is one of the chief ways we can honor our parents. Of course, I didn’t understand this until I was a parent. The life of a parent is one of constant sacrifice. It’s joyful, but it’s a sacrifice of our money, time, energy, desires, sleep, and sometimes tears. It’s an office and responsibility of great sacrifice. One of the ways that we can show honor to those who have sacrificed so much for us is by being grateful.
So what does it mean to honor our parents? Think of that word: “kevod”. It is to recognize the weightiness of the position that has been granted to them as moms and dads.
Are there Limits to Honoring Parents?
Kids, if your minds have wandered away, now you’re coming back and listening. Are there limits to honoring parents? Yes, there are. Authority can be abused.
In Acts 29, we see a principle that has to do with government, but also with parents, church leadership, and any other authority over us: if the choice is between obeying God or obeying men, we obey God. If your parents command you to do what God forbids or forbid what God commands, you cannot and must not obey your parents. One way to think of this is that the first table of the Law takes precedence over the second. But even in those (hopefully rare) cases, there’s still a way to be respectful and honor your parents—even if they’re asking something of us that they don’t have in their authority to ask.
Parents should not expect the same obedience from grown children as they did when they were small children. We see a divine design in Genesis which Jesus later reiterates in Matthew 19: a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Even in the ancient world, where people often literally lived under the same roof, and would almost certainly have lived in very close quarters to one another, there was still a leaving and cleaving. A new unit was still being formed. With that newness comes a severing of some of the old obligations. It’s not an entire separation, but there is a change.
In our culture, where some people don’t get married, and where others marry later in life, I think that moving out of the home establishes that same kind of break. There are limits to this parental authority. When the mom is 50, she can’t expect to call up her 25-year-old daughter, tell her “You must do this with your children. Here are all the things that you are doing wrong,” and have her simply say “Yes, I will obey.” There are limits. The parental authority is not absolute.
But in American culture, our problem is likely not a knee-jerk obedience to parents. If we were to weigh out the greater danger on the scales, for almost everyone here (whom you’re rubbing shoulders with) the danger is not, “I’m just giving immediate deference to my parents. I’m not seeing the ways in which I need to break and establish my own identity.” That doesn’t tend to be the problem in this country, especially among Western or Anglo cultures.
Parental authority is not absolute, but that’s no excuse for a lack of respect for parents, or elders in general. We have to realize that almost everything in our culture mitigates against this kind of respect. We don’t have the sort of culture which says, “You know what? When you get older is when you’re most wise and deserving of respect.” What we have is, “When you get older, you should take a backseat. Youth culture equals pop culture, and pop culture equals whatever 15-25 year-olds are into.” Our culture doesn’t tend to honor the generations who have gone before us.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful, counter-cultural thing for people to step into a church like this and find the opposite? “Here is a place where we value age and look to the wisdom of our elders.” As long as I am still somewhat counted among young people, I’m going to bang this drum, so that people don’t think, “You’re just saying this because you want people to listen to you.” No, I’m saying that you ought to listen to people who are a lot older than me. That’s one of the things which I have tried to do as a pastor here. I count it as one of my greatest privileges as pastor that I’ve always served with elders who were old enough to be my dad—or maybe, when I started, my grandparents! They’re men whom I can look up to and respect, no matter what degree I have or whether or not I have the title of senior pastor. These men have gone farther in godliness than I have in many ways, and I ought to listen to and respect them.
That’s true for those older than us, and it’s certainly true for our parents. As older people, don’t think, “Well, I don’t know the latest trends. I don’t even know what hashtag means. I don’t get all of this slang, and I don’t know how to set up a Facebook account.” Actually, you probably do, which is why all of your kids and grandkids are on Instagram or Snapchat now! Instead of thinking that, think, “The Bible has given me a place and a position. I offer myself freely if anyone will have the good sense to listen.”
We assume that it is the rite of passage for teenagers to rebel—that it’s just what they do. But that’s not just what they do. When they do, it’s sinful. Yes, there is a natural development and progression of establishing your own identity and figuring stuff out for yourself. All of those things are true. You don’t parent someone who’s 15 the way that you parent your 5-year-old kid. But let’s not assume that this natural independence gives us a license for rebellion, disrespect, stubbornness, or disobedience. Rebellion is not your right as an American teenager. There are limits to obedience and honor to your parents, but don’t press it too far. That’s the danger that most of us are in.
Why Should we Honor Parents?
Ephesians 6:1 says we are to obey our parents “in the Lord”. It’s part of your devotion to Jesus to you honor your mom and dad. Sometimes a young person comes to Christ as a teenager or in college, but their parents weren’t Christians (or weren’t very serious Christians). Sadly, when they get on fire for the Lord, it can make them worse as a son or daughter. They go home and think that they know everything that their parents never knew. Maybe you do know something about faith that your parents don’t, but surely you don’t want to show your unbelieving parents that becoming a Christian has made you less respectful and willing to honor your mom and dad.
Instead, when you come home, they ought say, “I don’t know what happened to you at college this semester. You’re talking about church all the time and wanting to read your Bible. It’s a little weird. I think that you’re a little carried away with this religion stuff. And yet…I can’t deny that you’ve changed. You’re wonderful to be around. Maybe there is something to this God whom you profess to believe in.” Our obedience and devotion to Christ leads to obedience and honor for our parents.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20
By implication, not listening to our parents displeases the Lord. If you wonder, “What can I do today that would make God smile?”, Colossians 3:20 gives us one of those things: you can obey your parents. Even Jesus obeyed his parents—and he was perfect, and they were not! Children, youth, and students, if you ever have a moment where you think, “I know so much more than my parents. In fact, I feel like I’m living life much better than my parents. I’m much closer to perfection than my parents”—congratulations, you’re a lot like Jesus, and Jesus never disobeyed his parents.
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. Luke 5:51
I can understand. If my kids were submissive to me, I’d treasure that in my heart too. In all things, Jesus—the second person of the Trinity, perfect in all of his ways—was submissive. When Mary or Joseph told him what to do, he did it!
You know that song which we sing at Christmastime: “Once In Royal David’s City”? It has a verse which I’ve always thought was a little schmaltzy, but it’s true:
And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He. Cecil Alexander – Once in Royal David’s City
That’s always rubbed me the wrong way. The point of Christmas is not that he came down so that we could be good children like him. None of us will be as obedient as he was. Yet is there anything in that line that’s untrue? He would honor and obey, and Christian children should be as he was. He is our example.
But what we see most explicitly here in Exodus 20:12 is that this is the first commandment with a promise, as the New Testament will tell us. In Ephesians 6, Paul gives a variation on the promise: “Honor your father and mother […] that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” When Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you”, it’s not just talking about living a long time. The writers of the Bible were not dumb. They lived in a real world where people died. It wasn’t like everyone who was really good lived to be 100 years old, and everyone who was really bad died early. Living long in the land was more than just chronology. The phrase really has to do with abundant life. “If you want to enjoy to the full the blessings that God has for you in the Promised Land, you’ll listen to your mom and dad.” That’s why Paul says it slightly differently. “…that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
So on the one hand, it’s a reward, but it’s more than that: it’s a promise. He’s not saying, “Hey, if I see ten obedience points today, you get an extra year of life!” No, it’s a recognition of the way that the world works—the way in which God has designed things. It’s not a mathematical formula, but you will generally be much better off after learning to honor your parents.
Isn’t this great? This is so good of God! He could have just said, “Honor your father and mother…or else.” Paul could have said it was “the first commandment with a big threat”. But instead God said, “Let me lay this out for you. You’re going to want to do this. It’s not within your sin nature to do it, but I’m asking you: don’t you want to live long in the land?” “Yeah, I want to live long in the land.” “Don’t you want to experience blessings in life?” “Yeah, I want to experience blessings.” “Don’t you want things to go well with you, instead of having disasters?” “Yes!” “Alright, honor your father and mother.”
Anyone in the social sciences field, whether liberal or conservative, has come to the place where they have to acknowledge study after study which show that the best predictor for health as an adult and for all the other things that you’d want—making it through school, staying out of jail, keeping off drugs, not being promiscuous, or whatever other pattern of social benefit(rather than social deviance)—is what happened there in the home. Again, there are all sorts of exceptions which go better or worse than what the stats say, but that’s the best predictor: whether you had a mom and dad who loved you and were there for you, and whether you listened to them and followed them. This is the way that the world works.
This commandment is good for parents. We get that. All week, I was telling people from the church, “You’ll want to be here on Sunday.” I told my friends, “You’d better be here. Front row!” I’m surprised we don’t have more people in the front row. You might want to come to both services. Maybe your kids need to hear it twice. Yes, as parents, we like it. This is a good one.
But it’s not just good for us. It’s good for children. This is not about making the lives of our children miserable. It’s not as if God said, “Okay, you’ve got to really have a stiff upper lip for 18 years. You’re going to be miserable. It’s going to be bad. But you know what? Then you get to do it to the next generation.” No, this is for our good. It’s good for parents, for children, and for society and culture.
Kids, you need your parents. They’ll tell you that, but let me tell you that on the authority of God’s Word. Listen very carefully. This is especially for the teenagers somewhere out there. The very moment when you think that you don’t need your parents anymore is the precise moment that you likely need them more than ever.
When you’re 7 or 8, you don’t even think about life without your parents. You need somebody to feed you. Then you grow up and get to a point where you think, “I don’t know. Maybe I could do this on my own. Maybe what my friends want is a little more important. Maybe what they’re doing is going to serve me better than what my parents think I should be doing.” When you get to the point you think, “I don’t really know that this is a relationship which I need—at least not the way it was”—it’s at that moment when you need your mom and dad more than every before, to love and encourage you, to set appropriate boundaries for you which you wouldn’t think to set for yourself, and even to sometimes keep you from yourself and protect you from things in the world which you might not see as real dangers.
Yes, moms and dads need to learn sometimes that they can’t protect their kids from everything. They need to trust God. But this commandment is good for parents, for society, and for kids. It’s the first commandment with a promise.
How Can we Obey this Commandment?
Let’s get real practical. How can we obey the fifth commandment? For starters, we could say that the commandment is larger than just parenting. There’s a long tradition of understanding this commandment (and all of the commandments) as having a broad application. Christians have always understood that the fifth commandment is not just about parents and children, but about that relationship as a template for any other relationship of authority we may have in our lives.
The New Testament says that slaves ought to obey their masters—or, as we would say in our context, employees ought to listen to their employers. Wives are to submit to their own husbands as to the Lord. Hebrews 13:7 says to obey your leaders in the church and submit to them. 1 Peter 5:5 says that younger men ought to be subject to the elders. Romans 13 says that we ought to be subject to the governing authorities. Titus 1:1 says to be submissive to rulers and authorities, obedient for every good work. Finally, 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to fear God and honor the king.
Thankfully, we live in a country where there presently is freedom of religion and speech. We have the freedom (and sometimes the right) to speak against our leaders. We see this in the Old Testament. The prophets often denounced the kings. There is a place for this. In a republic, we have an opportunity to effect change by affirming or criticizing those in leadership over us. Many of us have had occasion in this tumultuous campaign season to be critical of all sorts of people running for office. Most of those criticisms are probably warranted. Yet, we are to fear God and honor the king. We are to be subject to every governing authority, even the ones whom we didn’t vote for or who we can’t believe would get elected. We are subject to them. Even as we are critical of them, we must do so in a way that shows respect for the office and position which they have been granted—sometimes as a great means of grace, and other times as a means of judgment.
That’s one way to obey the fifth commandment, but as I bring this to a close, I want us to think in particular about this parental relationship, since that’s the explicit point of the commandment. I have five things we can say. Maybe some of the kids here have zoned in and out. I understand what that’s like. Maybe you’ve been drawing a picture. It’s okay. My kids do some great artwork during church. Maybe you are drawing a picture of what the pastor looks like, all funny, with his hands stretched out. That’s fine. But if you haven’t been paying attention, I think it would be good to listen for the last few minutes.
This will be for all of us. I want to give you five simple things that you can say that will help to show that you honor your father and mother. I’ve been trying to get the attention of the kids and the young people, but this is really for all of us. You do realize that when all of the Ten Commandments were given, their immediate audience was grown men. That’s why it says to not covet a neighbor’s wife. So the first line of applications would have been for adults. How do they honor their parents, even if they’re out of the home? None of us are off the hook. This isn’t just a message for those who are less than 18 years old. We never graduate from this commandment. So I want to just give you five simple things you could say.
Here’s the first one: “Yes, mom or dad.” Prompt, cheerful obedience is a way to honor your father and mother. “Son, could you sweep up the floor real quick?” “Yes, mom.” I can tell you that that would sound amazing! I’ll let you even cheat: just a smile would be fine. Even not saying “ugh” would be a start! Don’t say “ugh”, or “I didn’t make the mess!”. If you want to get your mom into one of her favorite lectures, try saying “I didn’t make this mess.” Oh boy, here she comes: “You want to talk about cleaning up messes that you didn’t make? Sit down for a moment!” Don’t even go there. But that’s one thing you can say: “Yes, mom.” Wow. That would be amazing.
Here’s the second: “Thank you, dad or mom.” I love it when my kids say that. They’re pretty good at doing it. I know that sermons like this are hard for some of us, because our relationship with our mom and dad is hard, or because they have long since passed away. But if you live with your mom and dad, or you still have them somewhere, it would be a good thing to (at some point either today or later this week) give them a call and say, “I just want to say thank you. I don’t know if I said it enough. I’m sure I didn’t say it after all the meals, cooking, cleaning, and Christmas presents. I just want to say thank you.”
Here’s the third thing: “I’m sorry.” That’s probably even harder than the first two. Don’t do what famous people when they don’t really mean it: “I’m sorry if you were offended.” “I’m sorry, but what they did was worse.” Just say, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I knew better; or I didn’t know better, but now I do.”
There’s a classic essay by C.S. Lewis. It’s in his collection of short works called “God in the Dock”. Back in 1940, he penned a striking article for The Guardian (a British Newspaper) called “The Dangers of National Repentance”. The idea was that there sometimes is danger when we apologize for things that we don’t really do ourselves. It is good to have solidarity with a people, with the church, or with a country. There is a time to do that. But “The first and fatal charm of national repentance,” he writes, is “the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting from our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing the conduct of others.”
As he says, “When a man over forty tries to repent of the sins of England and to love her enemies, he is attempting something costly; for he was brought up to certain patriotic sentiments…” Then he goes on to say, “Younger people, an angry, restless minority who have drunk in with their mothers’ milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for manners, feel no such cost.” Then he says this: “The communal sins which they [younger people] should be told to repent of are those of their own age and class—its contempt for the uneducated, its readiness to suspect evil, its self-righteous provocations of public obloquy, its breaches of the Fifth Commandment. Of these sins I have heard nothing among them. Till I do, I must think their candour towards the national enemy a rather inexpensive virtue.”
This is 1940, during World War 2. People were saying that they ought to confess their sins before the Germans. He’s saying, “Okay, maybe there is a place for talking about not loving your enemies, but before you get there, what about the fifth commandment?”
Who knows what sort of healing it might bring in some of your parental relationships to simply say “I’m sorry.” If you have it in your mind, “I know that it’s 85% my parents’ fault. They’ve never acknowledged or said anything. If I say this, they’re going to think that they never did anything wrong”—look, let the Holy Spirit do his work in their life. The Holy Spirit is doing work in your life. Maybe he’s bringing you to a point where you can say something you should have said years ago: “I’m sorry.”
Here’s the fourth thing we can say: “Let me take care of that.” Not only do we say this as helpful children in the home, but even more so as we have to care for our own parents when they age. Listen, if there are any parents who are in that position: when your child says, “Let me take care of that,” one of the things that will be really hard for you when you’re on the other end of needing care is to say, “Thank you” to your child, rather than, “No, I don’t need anything. I’ll keep driving this car until it goes off a cliff.”
You know when Jesus gave this weird illustration in the gospels about this thing called corban? It was some kind of honor, respect, or support for parents. One of the things that was happening was that, instead of supporting their parents as they should, people were saying, “What was my corban, I now give to the Lord. Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that, instead of helping you out, I’ve written a check to the church in your honor. I killed two birds with one stone. I gave to the church, and now I get to say that I did that instead of helping you.” Jesus says, “Don’t do that. You have a responsibility.”
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8
There is not just one way to do this. There are good institutions, homes, and all sorts of facilities. Other times, parents live with us for a while. But we honor our parents throughout their entire lives. We honor them when they aren’t pretty or perfect, because that’s how God loves us. In fact, isn’t that the fourth commandment? If you trust him, God will give you rest when you don’t deserve it. Then, in the fifth commandment, we continue to honor our parents even when it may seem like they don’t deserve it, or it isn’t easy, or there seem to be diminishing returns.
Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22
Finally, say “Hello.” Stop by! Pick up the phone! Send a picture! Try to text! Make a point to be there for the holidays, if you can. There is probably nothing that a mom or dad—especially a mom—would like more in all the world than to see all of their kids and grandkids in one place. Does it always happen? No, it can’t always happen. But it means the world to a parent when you just say “Hello.” For some of us, that may be a start. Pick up the phone and say, “We haven’t talked for a couple of weeks. How are you?” Even if you have say, “Pastor was preaching this sermon, and he told me I should call, so what do you want to talk about?”, it’s a start. Just keep talking. Keep saying hello.
If you don’t have children or living parents, or you don’t even know who they are, you will please God—the God of families—by loving the family of God. In some ways, Jesus even relativizes the traditional family unit. He says, “Whoever does the will of the Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” This is why kinship terms are used so frequently in the New Testament church. Paul can say he’s a spiritual father, and they are his children. We are his brothers and sisters. There are opportunities for all of us to follow these commandments. We have a heavenly Father to honor, and all of the family of God to love and serve. For those of us who still have children and parents, that would be a good place to start.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we love you. Thank you for being such a good and perfect heavenly Father. As we know, experience, and receive your love, and learn to honor you, would you help us to honor our earthly parents as well?May it go well with us, and may we live long in the land and enjoy all the blessings you have in store. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Transcription and editing provided by 10:17 Transcription
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.