Honoring My Parents (Exodus 20:12)
We’ve been looking at the Ten Commandments – at the ten values that God gave us with which we can build strong families. Today, it’s time to look at the fourth value – the one about the Sabbath – but I didn’t think you’d mind if we looked at the fifth value. Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God will give you.”
Today is the day that Hallmark has been waiting for. It’s Mother’s Day. Today, many of us will be going to restaurants, picking up the phone, and giving cards and flowers to our mothers. More flowers are sold on Mother’s Day than on Valentine’s Day. It’s time to honor our mothers for all they’ve done for us.
Why should we do this? ?Thousands of years ago, when God gave the Ten Commandments, God gave us values to live by. If we followed these ten values, then we would live the life that God intended us to live. We would have lives that have been designed by God.
God started by giving four values that have to do with him. God said, “If you want to live the life that I designed you to live, you’ve got to put me first. You’ve got to get rid of any substitutes. You’ve got to take me seriously. And you’ve got to follow the maintenance schedule.”? Successful living begins with putting God first. We can’t live the lives that God designed for us unless we get our relationship with him right. We’ve spent three weeks looking at these values, and we’re going to return to the fourth one next week.
But God didn’t just give us values that tell us how to relate to him. God also gave us values that tell us how to live with each other. Out of the Ten Commandments, God have us six that tell us how to live successfully in human relationships with other people. And the order isn’t accidental. Do you want to live the life that God has designed you to live?? Do you want to have successful and fulfilling relationships with other people?? Then it begins with this command – the first value that God gives about human relationships: “Honor your father and mother.”? This is the foundational value of human relationship. Your attitude toward your parents will color every other attitude in your life.
The word honor means to give weight. Honoring your parents means to view them as weighty – to hold them in high esteem, elevating them to a place of importance and reverence. This isn’t just a commandment for kids. You’ll notice there’s no time limit on this command. You can be eighty years old and your parents could be a hundred. We’re commanded to honor our mothers and our fathers no matter how old they are. We can even honor our parents after they’re gone, well into our own mature years. We can honor our parents’ memory.
Why did God give us this commandment?
1. YOUR PARENTS ARE INFLUENTIAL
Our parents shape our lives. You are who you are because of your parents. One author writes, “What relationships challenge us more than those we maintain over the course of an entire lifetime?? And what relationship has more potential for both love and hate – and joy and sorrow – than the parent-child relationship?” (Bill Hybels, Laws of the Heart)
Your parents gave you more than your genes. They gave you your outlook on life. They either affirmed or discouraged you in discovering your interests, your abilities, and your aptitudes. You began to see the world the way that they saw it. They either accepted and praised you, or they ignored and belittled you. Your parents shaped your outlook.
Your parents gave you your view of authority. You either reject or accept authority today because of your parents. Children learn from their parents that certain lines must be drawn, certain expectations must be met, and certain people must be respected and obeyed. How a child learns about authority in the home will determine how she relates to teachers, coaches, employers, officials – and ultimately, to God.
Your parents also shaped your values. As a child and a teenager, you learned what your parents saw as important or unimportant. If your parents chased success, you probably are chasing success. If they were tight with money, you’re probably tight with money. If they valued education, then you probably value education. If they had a genuine and growing relationship with Jesus Christ, then you probably learned the value of that relationship. You either accepted or rebelled against your parents’ values. Your values are largely a result of the values that your parents instilled in you. Your parents have shaped your life.
He was a man who appeared to have everything, and yet his marriage, family, and health were falling apart. He had ulcers, migraines, and occasional chest pains. His wife was ready to leave him. He owned his own business, and so he had the freedom to set his own hours. And he chose his hours: nineteen to twenty per day. The odd time that he was home, he was sullen and withdrawn. His anger was explosive, and he drank too much. He admitted that his life was a bundle of activity and accumulation, but he could never do enough, and he could never earn enough to be satisfied.
When asked about his father one day, his mood became dramatically altered. His counselor learned that his father had regularly told his son, “You’re a bum; you will always be a bum, nothing better!”? Without even knowing it, this man had set his life’s goal as proving his dad wrong. He wanted his father to say, “Son, you’re not a bum. I was entirely wrong.”? Sadly, his father had been dead for years, but his life goal hadn’t changed.
Even today, as a grown up, when you act in ways you don’t understand and can’t figure out your behavior, many times it’s because you’re still reacting to your parents. Many marriages have been ruined because a spouse has never resolved a relationship with a parent and they’re taking it out on their husband or wife or kids. They say things like, “You’re just like my mom.”? Surveys have shown that people who get along with their parents have far less stress in their lives. Your parents have been influential in your life.
2. YOUR PARENTS ARE IMPERFECT
Another reason why God have us this command is because our parents are imperfect. Mother’s Day isn’t about perfect parents. Nobody here had perfect parents. When it comes to Father’s Day, there are some cards I can’t buy, because if I bought them they wouldn’t be truthful. One of the reasons that God gave us this command, “Honor your parents,” is for this very reason: because our parents are imperfect.
There is only one perfect parent, and that is God. The rest of us are deeply flawed. Nobody has perfect parents, and you’re not a perfect parent either. Look at the families of the Bible. There’s not a perfect family in sight. Leonard Sweet writes:
There are more nut-cake families and fruitcake families than there are angel-food-cake families. You think you’ve got a dysfunctional family?? Try being a member of the Adam-Eve family. Or the Isaac-Rebekah family. Or the Zebedee family. My New Testament contains the story of nary a single couple who had normal marriages or a perfect family of life. Can you list me the names of the perfect families in the Bible?? A typical family looks more and more like a typical love affair, full of rapture one day, fury and disgust the next.
I’m learning the truth of what Susan Hill said: “The moment you have children yourself, you forgive your parents everything.”? Your parents weren’t perfect?? Join the club. Nobody has imperfect parents. God calls us to honor our parents anyway.
The fifth commandment isn’t based on merit. It doesn’t say, “Honor your parents if they’ve done a really good job. This command is based on obedience. It’s based on our relationship with God. If we want to obey God and enjoy the life that he’s designed us for, we have to take this step.
To put it another way, there are some parents who don’t deserve our honor. But we’re called to honor them anyway. Place value on them. Don’t dishonor them despite how they’ve hurt you. When you dishonor your parents, you hurt yourself even more than you hurt them. Honor your parents despite their imperfection.
One more reason why God gave this command:
3. YOUR PARENTS ARE WORTH IT
It’s not hard for me to honor my parents. My parents weren’t perfect, but they were awfully good. My mother gave of herself selflessly. She sacrificed herself to provide for her children despite the hardships that she faced. She never stopped loving me, even though I gave her plenty of reasons sometimes. Most importantly, she taught me about Jesus Christ. She introduced me to my Savior. My mother wasn’t perfect, but my mother is worthy of honor. That’s why I’m honoring her today.
A few years ago, a book came out called What My Parents Did Right. I like that title. It’s easy to focus on the mistakes that our parents made. But most of us – even those of us who were deeply hurt by our parents – can see what our parents, and even our grandparents, did right. That’s why we honor them today.
A physician, Joanna Siebert, wrote a letter to a church magazine with these words:
Today I visited an eight-year-old girl dying of cancer. Her body was disfigured by her disease and its treatment. She was in almost constant pain. As I entered her room, I was overcome almost immediately by her suffering – so unjust, unfair, unreasonable. Even more overpowering [however] was the presence of her grandmother lying in bed beside her with her huge body embracing this precious, inhuman suffering.
I stood in awe, for I knew I was on holy ground…The suffering of innocent children is horrifying beyond words. I will never forget the great, gentle arms and body of this grandmother. She never spoke while I was there. She was holding and participating in suffering that she could not relieve, and somehow her silent presence was relieving it. No words could express the magnitude of her love.
Most of us have been the recipients of a magnitude of inexpressible love – love that has come many times with few words. Perhaps only a tender touch. We honor our parents because it’s commanded. We do it even if they didn’t deserve it. But for most of us, our parents do deserve it. That’s why we’re honoring them today.
It’s not enough to send our parents a Hallmark card – even though that is costing more and more every year. My mother taught me to look for value, which is why I always look at the $1.99 value cards first to see if any of them are good enough. I like to think I’m honoring her by being frugal. But it’s not enough to by a card, or to buy flowers, or a gift, or make a phone call. The Bible gives us instructions on how to honor our parents.
The ways that we honor our parents change with time. It depends what stage of life you’re in. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you’re called to honor your parents. How can you and I honor our parents?
AS A CHILD, OBEY YOUR PARENTS
At our youngest ages, we’re called to obey our parents. Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.”? Colossians 3:20 says, “You children must always obey your parents, for this is what pleases the Lord.”? To obey means to listen to with intent to understand and obey. This isn’t a blank check to do whatever parents say. We should never obey our parents if they tell us to do something contrary to God’s Word. But children are called to obey their parents, even when they disagree and think that they know better.
There are some things a child just doesn’t understand. That’s why it’s important to submit to their parent’s wisdom. One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small boy into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, “Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?”
The mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. “I can’t, dear,” she said, “I have to sleep with your daddy.”
A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice: “The big sissy.”
There are a lot of things children just don’t understand. But children are called to obey their parents anyway. Most of us wouldn’t be here today if we had been allowed to disobey them. We would have died from crossing the street during rush hour, drinking paint thinner, or running with the wrong crowd. As children, obey your parents.
2. AS A YOUNG ADULT, APPRECIATE YOUR PARENTS
It’s natural and even good for children, as they grow older, to become increasingly independent of their parents. You begin to see their weaknesses as well – their hang-ups, their idiosyncrasies. It’s easy to think that you know more than your parents do, and to do things your way. But that’s not the way the Bible tells us how to live. Proverbs 6:20-22 says:
My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s teaching. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. Wherever you walk, their counsel can lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up in the morning, they will advise you.
The best way for a young adult to honor his parents is to pattern his life after the best of what his parents taught him. Develop the character that your parents patterned for you. Make them happy that you’re their child. Proverbs 23 says:
Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother’s experience when she is old. Get the truth and don’t ever sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and discernment. The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure it is to have wise children. So give your parents joy! May she who gave you birth be happy. (Proverbs 23:22-25)
In fact, it’s only at the age of young adulthood that you begin to appreciate all that your parents have done for you. They brought you into this world. They went to a lot of effort to raise you. I’m learning how much work being a parent is. My mother was a single parent and had four kids. She was outnumbered four-to-one. In my house, there’s a one-to-one ratio, and we still have a problem corralling the kids into the car. Have you ever thought how much easier your parent’s life would have been without you?? Have you ever thanked your parents for putting up with you?? Who else would have?
As a young adult, and even beyond that stage, we can appreciate how much it cost our parents to raise us. Parenting is expensive. One Canadian organization estimates the cost of raising a single child to age 18 as $160,000, and that’s without inflation and college costs. Do you think your parents could have used that money for other things?? Somebody has said that a parent is a person who carries pictures where they once carried money. So appreciate your parents in all that they have done. As a young adult, appreciate your parents.
3. AS AN ADULT, PROVIDE FOR YOUR PARENTS
There comes a time where the relationship changes between a parent and a child. When you reach adulthood, many times you end up married. The Bible tells the man that he is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. Your relationship has changed. You’re no lon ger dependent on your parents. But the relationship changes. We begin to provide for our parents. That doesn’t mean that our parents stop giving. It does mean that we start giving back.
What are some ways that we can give to our parents as adults?
STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR PARENTS – As I said, honor means that you treat something as weighty or important. To honor your parents means that you continue to treat them as important. You stay in touch with them and make them a priority in your life. Every time you call your parents, take time to be with them, and perform acts of kindness for them, you’re honoring your parents.
RESPECT YOUR PARENTS – This involves speaking well of them. You can do this even when your parents are frail, even when they’re gone. Leviticus 19:3 says, “Each of you must show respect for your mother and father.”? Speak kindly of them. You don’t have to obey them any longer, but you can listen to them. Hear their counsel. The Bible even gives examples of this: Moses got advice from his father-in-law, and Ruth listened to advice from her mother-in-law. Respect your parents.
MEET THEIR NEEDS -? The Bible calls us to meet the needs of our parents as they grow older. They could be relational needs. They could be practical needs. They could be financial needs. 1 Timothy 5:4 says that our first responsibility is to “show godliness at home and repay [our] parents.”? Listen to the words of Jesus:
God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘You don’t need to honor your parents by caring for their needs if you give the money to God instead.’ And so, by your own tradition, you nullify the direct commandment of God. (Matthew 15:4-6)
You and I have an obligation to help meet our parent’s financial needs. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “Those who won’t care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”? That’s pretty strong language. Jesus modeled this for us. When he was dying on the cross, one of his last actions was to make sure that his mother was cared for. We need to provide for our parents.
Somebody has said that every man passes through four stages. In the first stage, he believes in Santa Claus. In the second state, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. In the third stage, he is Santa Claus. In the fourth stage, he looks like Santa Claus. We’re called to love our parents through all the stages of life.
What’s the payback for this?? What happens when I honor my parents?? Ephesians 6:2-3 tells us, “This is the first of the Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘you will live a long life, full of blessing.'”? When we honor our parents, we avoid a lot of the sin and danger that could threaten and shorten our lives. When we honor our parents, we increase the quality of our own lives on this earth. Our own lives improve as we give our parents all that God commands us to. It affects every other relationship. It affects all of life.
It doesn’t matter whether you are old or young. It doesn’t matter if your parents were worthy or not. It doesn’t even matter if they’re still alive. Honor your parents.
We’re going to close in a few minutes by doing just that. But before I close, I want to remind you that no matter what kind of parents you have or had, there is a parent who has only ever loved you with a perfect love. He’s loved you from the minute you were born. He sacrificed dearly for you. He gave his own Son for you. He loves you and he’s here today.
You are who you are for a reason
You’re part of an intricate plan
You are a precious, perfect, unique design
Called God’s special woman or man.
You look like you look for a reason
Our God made no mistake
He knit you together within the womb
You’re just what He wanted to make
The parents you had are the ones He chose
No matter how you may feel
You are custom designed with that plan in mind
They bear the master’s seal
The trauma you faced wasn’t easy
And God wept that it hurt you so
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into His likeness you’d grow
You are who you are for a reason
You’ve been formed by the Master’s rod
You are who you are, beloved
Because there is a God.
Shall we pray.
Father, our parents weren’t perfect, but we thank you for them. Some of them were hurtful, and today we ask for your help in forgiving our parents. Give us the grace to honor them today.
Thank you for the way that our parents sacrificed for us. Thank you for all that they gave to us. Help us to honor them, so that we would be able to enjoy a full and long life on this earth.
I pray that today, we would also recognize you as our Father. Thank you for the eternal life that you offer to all who call on the name of Jesus. Thank you for your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.