Sermon: Proud ParentsPosted: September 6, 2015
The Fifth Commandment: Honour your father and mother.
One day a rabbi was seated next to an atheist on an airplane. I know sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.… but it’s a good story. Every few minutes one of the rabbi’s children or grandchildren would come to his seat to see if he needed anything – food, drink, something to read. They’d just come and check on him. The atheist commented, “The respect your children and grandchildren show you is wonderful. Mine don’t show me that respect. ”
“Think about it,” the rabbi said. “To my children and grandchildren I am one step closer to the God who created the Hebrews, the God who spoke to us at Sinai. To yours, you are merely one step closer to the apes.”
That story, in a not-so-subtle way, communicates an important message. Being the people of God has a profound impact on how we treat other people, especially the ones closest to us. It stands in stark contrast to the bumper sticker that says, “Be nice to your children; they’ll choose your Old Age Home ” Or the one that reads, “Honor your father and mother; they haven’t made their will yet.
“ There were three reasons that this command was needed.
1) Remember that the ones who were addressed by God through Moses were just released from 400 years of slavery. They had lived in a culture that devalued age, as you got older it was harder to work and if you could not work, you were worthless. We do the same thing today. It’s called early retirement.
2) They lacked the social structure that would provide for people in need. That’s why there are so many commands about how they were to provide for the poor and even for strangers who were living in their land. There were no retirement plans or pension funds; so older people had to rely on their children when they could no longer care for themselves. But God knows that we are inherently selfish, that’s why the New Testament is filled with Commands to Love one another, Care for one another, Give preference to one another, look out for the good for one another.
3) It is the first command with a promise. God says that those of us who will honor our parents will have long life and health. Now I don’t believe that there is some king of mystic magical connection between long life and loving mom and dad. I have known scoundrels who have lived long lives and know people who loved their family dearly die at a young age. But that’s not the promise. Guess where children learn to honor their parents? From their parents. If an adult doesn’t honor his parents then he is teaching his children not to honor him.
One of Grimm’s fairy tales is about a little boy who lived with his father, his mother, and his elderly grandfather. The grandfather was feeble and his hands shook. When he ate, the silverware rattled against the plate, and he often missed his mouth. Then the food would dribble onto the tablecloth. This upset the young mother, because she didn’t want to have to deal with the extra mess and hassle of taking care of the old man. But he had nowhere else to live.
So the young parents decided to move him away from the table, into a corner, where he could sit on a stool and eat from a bowl. The young mother said, “From now on, you eat over there.” And so he did, always looking at the table and wanting to be with his family but having to sit alone in the corner.
One day his hands trembled more than usual; he dropped his bowl and broke it. The young father yelled, “If you’re going to eat like a pig, you’re going to eat out of a pig’s trough!” So they made the old man a wooden trough, put his meals in it, and told him to eat out of it. And he did.
Not long after that, the couple came upon their four-year-old son playing out in the yard with some scraps of wood. His father asked him what he was doing. The little boy looked up, smiled, and said, “I’m making a trough, to feed you and Mamma out of when I get big.”
The next day the old man was back at the table eating with the family from a plate, and no one ever scolded him or mistreated him again.
If we are going to truly honor our parents, there are three things we must do.
Paul said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother.” (Ephesians 6:1-2a). Children are to obey their parents. But honor or respect is more important than mere obedience. It’s possible to obey without showing respect. You can do as you’re told and still be rebellious at heart.
It’s like the little boy who was standing in the back seat of the car, riding down the road with his parents. His parents told him to sit down and put on his seat-belt because they were concerned about his safety. His father told him once, then twice, then a third time. His mother looked back and asked him to sit down. He defiantly said, “No, I will not sit down!” His father told him if he didn’t sit down he would give him the spanking of his life. So the boy sat down. But then he said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”
There’s obedience, but there’s no respect. We tend to honor people whom we think deserve it or earn it – we honor great athletes with awards, we honor successful politicians with positions of authority, we honor successful people with plaques. But God says that we are to honor our parents not just because of what they have done, but simply because of who they are. This may be a hard pill for us to swallow, but God didn’t say to honor your parents if they’re honorable. Nowhere does God say that respect must be earned before you have to give it. God simply calls us to honor our parents simply because they are our parents. Nowhere in this commandment does it tell us that we are to honor them because they are great parents, or even good parents. We are to honor them because of the position they hold in relation to our lives.
Value Their Advice
Another way we honor our parents is by valuing their advice. Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction…” That’s not always an easy thing to do because most of us have gone through a stage where we didn’t think their parents know much of anything at all. I was like most teenagers; I believed that my parents were stupid. But I’ve learned something over the years. Just because I had more education than my parents it didn’t mean that I was smarter. There are some things that nobody learns except by living, having experience, failing at some things and bouncing back.
Let Them Know You Appreciate Their Efforts
There are some things that are just proper and right. One of those things is showing honor to the man and woman responsible for bringing you into this world, feeding you, taking you to the dentist, sitting up with you when you were sick, and doing the million and one other things that go with being a parent. So God says, “Honor your parents.” It’s the right thing to do. Even after children have grown up and have families of their own, they still have a responsibility to honor their parents.
We owe our parents a huge debt of gratitude. They deserve our honor for the simple reason that they have done so much for us!
I have no doubt at all that what has helped me more than anything else to honor my parents’ efforts is being a parent myself. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s difficult and it’s costly, not just in terms of finances, but of time, energy, and emotions.
If we can honor our parents for nothing else, we can honor them because they took on a difficult job. I encourage you to let your parents know that you appreciate what they’ve done for you.
I want you to see that this command of honoring your father and mother is so special that it has a promise attached to it. What is that promise? “…That your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
Paul quotes this command and he says, in Ephesians 6, that this “is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”
How we treat our parents not only impacts them, it also impacts us. There is a blessing or a curse for us based on our treatment of our parents. To honor or fail to honor our parents is a choice that takes us down one of two roads. The choice is ours.
It is important for us to honor our parents and the time to do it is now. The day will come when we will be unable to show them the honor that we would like to give.
Some of you don’t have your parents with you any longer. I hope you don’t have to look back and say with regret, “You know, I never told my father how much I loved him. And as many times as I was in her house, ate her delicious cooking, and received her unfailing love, I never told my mother how much I loved her.”
If you still have your parents but have been reluctant, embarrassed or simply thoughtless about giving them explicit statements and expressions of your love, don’t make the mistake so many others have lived to regret. Spend time with them. Drop them a note or call just to let them know you are thinking of them.
One last word — a challenge, really — to those of us who are parents: be honorable. Even though our honor isn’t based on our worthiness, we still need to live a life that makes it easy for our children to honor us.
We are to be teachers of what is good and right. We’re to teach our children the values that build character and the God that defines those values. And we’re to model for our children God’s values and his integrity and unconditional love. If we take our role as God’s authority in the home seriously, we have reason to hope that when our children leave home they will always choose to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.
The principle at the heart of this fifth commandment is this: make family a priority.