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Honour Your Parents

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  1. Who made you?

What are you like to your parents? What are you like as a parent, if you are one? They are some of the questions we need to think about as we come today to the 5th Commandment – honour your father and your mother.

            Before we start thinking in detail about it, let’s go back to the beginning. Your beginning that is. Who made you? Each one of us has or had a mother and a father in some shape or form. Normally they are or were our parents.

            But is that really who made you?

            David writes in the Bible in Ps 139:13-14 – ‘you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well.’ Who is David talking about? It is God isn’t it? Ultimately God is the maker of each one of us. Sure God uses fathers and mothers as his instruments to bring us life, but ultimately he is our maker. And he makes each one of us in his image.

            So who made you? God did, that’s who. God in his wisdom and love gave you life! And that makes you rather special doesn’t it?


  1. Why did God give us parents?

Because we are special God cares for us by putting parents in authority over children, although of course ultimately parents are themselves under God’s authority (although sadly in a sinful world this is always seen). Why does God see parents as important? 3 reasons…

-                          The parent/child relationship is modelled on God’s own relationship with his children – that’s us. So in Is 63:16 Isaiah writes ‘you, O Lord are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.’

-                          Secondly, families are needed, as the marriage service reminds us, for the good order of society. Families are the building blocks of society; in OT family seen as a miniature of the nation of Israel;

-                          And finally, so children can learn what it means to know God.  God sees parents as his representatives to their children. They are charged by God to bring up their children, so the children will know God’s love, grace and mercy. While children are indeed seen as a blessing from the Lord, children are not given to parents for their benefit, amusement, pleasure or use or abuse. Rather parents are there for them, to bring them up in the Lord. That is our responsibility.) So parents should provide for them, love them, nurture, instruct and discipline their children, in ways that reflect how God does these things.

ILLN – Here’s a few reflections I found on the internet. What does a son learn from his father? Simply: Whether to love women, or hate them. Whether to take pride in his work, or shrink shamefully from creative endeavour.  ... And what does a father learn from his son? Whether he is capable of warmth and nurturing, or fearful of intimacy. Whether he is a generous teacher and mentor, or an authoritarian. A father transmits to his son his vision of what it means to be a man. A son teaches his father humility.

            What does the Bible tell us parents are to do with these children God has given them? Not necessarily to be friends, but to be parents – to parent their children.

            Verses on outline, but just a few now …

Teach them God’s ways – Deut 4:9, 6:2-7, 11:19, 32:46; Ps 78:5; Joel 1:3 – so eg Deut 6:6 – ‘these commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.’

Prov 22:6 – train a child in the way he should go

May be times when discipline is needed, loving discipline – so Prov 13:24 – ‘he who loves (his son) is careful to discipline him.’ cf Prov 23:13, 29:15

Interesting that in 1 Tim 5:10 no widow was to be put on the list unless she met certain criteria including being well known or bringing up children.

But we need to parent carefully, especially us fathers. So Col 3:21 – ‘fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.’ Or Eph 6:4 – fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’

In summary I suggest parents are to bring their children up to know and love the Lord.

  1. How are children to respond to their parents?

But it’s not just one way traffic? How does God want children to respond to parents.

a)      Submissively: Christians are always to respond submissively to the authorities God institutes. So 1 Pe 2:13 ff – Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men, which goes on to include the king, governors, masters, husbands; and I would take it parents.

b)      Obediently: Eph 6:1 – ‘children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ Or Col 3:20 – children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.’

This is the ideal, but what will happen in a sinful world? Rom 1:30 sinful people disobey their parents; 2 Tim 3:2 – in the last days people will be disobedient to their parents;  and for Christian parents in some countries it may be as Jesus says in Mark 13:12 – children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.

c)      Lovingly – so 1 Tim 5:8 – ‘if anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for his immediate family he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

d)      Respectfully – so in 1 Tim 3:4 the overseer must ‘manage his own family well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect.’

a)      Which leads us on to Commandment #5

Ex 20:12 ‘Honour your father and your mother’

First of second bracket of commandments. First 4 focussed on duty to God, these last 6 look at our duty to other people. You may remember Jesus sums up these 6 commandments as ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.

            What does it mean?

b)      What does it mean?

a.       Firstly we need to remember the context. God’s word comes to all Israel, and primarily those of age. The adults who have come out of Egypt. We tend to think of it as young children, but it is more likely I think to be adults in view; caring for their older parents. Esp in subsistence culture, with no government pensions or dole, etc. I wonder whether we apply it only to our children and the way they treat us, so we can avoid our own responsibilities and obligations

            ILLN – so many stories of mature adults shunting their parents off to a nursing home because they want freedom. May be a good thing, many nursing homes and so on do a  fantastic job, and offer care that we cannot provide at home. But. We need to look at our hearts, our motives. Eg what to do with my dad. Eg Gill’s mum in Canberra – would she move, as a widow with 4 kids?

            We then are to honour our parents.

b.      And we need to remember that God takes this seriously.

Wilful disrespect of parents lead to the death penalty – so in Ex 21:15, 17 – ‘anyone who attacks his father or his mother must be put to death. And ‘anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ (cf Deut 21:18-21)

            ILLN – I read that in 1971, President KoBassa of the Central African Republic honoured Mother’s Day by rounding up all the men who were in jail for committing crimes against their mothers.  Then he executed them.

            Why so serious?

                                                                           i.      God’s word – disobey God’s word is to dishonour God

                                                                         ii.      Disrupts society – family is a basic building block

                                                                        iii.      Reflects badly on the character of God whose people they were, if they treated their parents like this

                                                                       iv.      Shows our honour for God – we honour our heavenly father by honouring our earthly ones

c.       how then to honour?

                                                                           i.      Generally what does honour mean? In the Hebrew = respect, glorify. It is more than just dutiful obedience. It is to = prize highly, to exalt. In some places it is equivalent to worship. Some references on outline (Prov 4:8 – prize highly; Ps 91:15 – care for; Lev 19:3, 20:9 – show respect for; inward esteem, expressed outwardly in conduct; Deut 21:18-21 – obey lawful commands (cf 6:1-3; Prov 6:20-24))

In general then we honour our parents by …

- Submit to their training, rebuke, instruction and correction

- Try to make old age easy for them and maintain them if needed (Matt 15:4-6)

- Pray for them!

- Show Christ to them

- Encourage Christian parents to go on in Christ

Honouring parents is not just about submitting to their authority, but caring for them, and also maintaining the faith they have passed on to us as we pass it on to our own children in due course.

            But I think the specifics of how we do this will depend on our age and stage of life won’t it? So think about different stages -

                                                                         ii.      At various stages of life?

1.      younger children, that is those who are still at home who are minors. Honouring is primarily through respect and obedience, except if they ask for something which is against God, for their relationship with God, honouring him and obeying him, is of first priority

2.      of age, but still at home – call is still the same

3.        What about children who have grown up and left home? I take it they are still to honour their parents as the commandment says, and repeated in the NT so it is still relevant to Christians. But it won’t mean obedience, nor will it mean that parents are their children’s first priority once they are married, for in marriage a man and a woman leave their families and establish a new entity which takes precedence over the old ones. But still have to work out how to respect our parents, and honour them, regardless of what they are like. Make sure they are cared for, treat them respectfully and well.

iii. Why do it?

Other than serious issues noted earlier this commandment has a promise – that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. There is some link between obedience to this command and blessings. Which is carried through into the NT in Eph 6:3 where Paul repeats the promise although with slightly different words ‘ that you may enjoy long life on the earth’ for the land of Palestine is no longer the place of blessing for Christians.

                                                             ii.      It seems then a straightforward commandment doesn’t it. Yet there are several problems we come across in trying to apply this commandment -

1.      what if we have non-Christian parents, or parents who dishonour God themselves: I think we need to show them Christ in the way we live

2.      our pride and self-centredness get in the way sometimes, so we can think we are more important than they are – we’re not; or we matter more than they do – we don’t; or we know more than those old codgers.

3.      or our children are just sinfully rebellious: What do you do when you don’t like their clothes, hairstyle, placement of earrings, music, etc? How will you treat them in such a way that they respect you?

4.      and then there’s the problem of idolatry or wrong worship. So we treat family too highly. Those people you may have heard of who ‘worshipped his family’, or ‘lived only for her family’. Serving God is more important than honouring our parents, but do it very graciously and wisely.

  1. Key principles

-         maintain the honour and dignity God has given to each person

-         live in the harmony and order God established in creation

-         reflect the character of God in our relationships with one another: love your parents as yourself

-         honour God by the way we honour those he has made: when we dishonour others, we dishonour the God who made them and gave his own life for them

-         the gospel of our Lord Jesus is about loving and serving others – as Jesus modelled this, so too we.

  1. Key questions?

-                          How am I honouring my parents, and in so doing honouring my heavenly father, trusting his word and bringing him glory?

-                          Do my children honour me, and if not is there something I need to change in me so they will do so?

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