May 12, 2019
Norwalk First United Methodist Church
The Ten Commandments
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Commandment 5 – Honor Father and Mother
Exodus 20:1-2, 12
As we resume our study of the Ten Commandments on this Mother’s Day Sunday, we come to a commandment that is very important: Honor your father and your mother. In fact, this commandment is so important that it is one of the only commandments in the entire Bible that gives a reason for observing it: “That your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Many years ago, the comedian Bill Cosby put it very simply, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”
We think we are familiar with this commandment because we hear it quite often. Many times parents will use it to keep their children in line. Many of us think that honor your father and your mother means “Obey Mom and Dad.” But that is a shallow reading of the commandment and woefully incomplete.
You see, we need to honor our parents so that we build a society that long survives. The corollary to this is a society in which children do not honor their parents. That is a society doomed to self-destruction. In our current time, this connection between honoring parents and maintaining civilization is not widely recognized.
In his book, Words from the Fire, Albert Mohler, Jr. writes this: “We live in an age of intentional orphans. All around us are people who would disregard and disrespect their patrimony, who would reject the tradition and throw off all the inheritance of father and mother in order to be as orphans. The modern psychotherapeutic community tells us that we must kill off our parents if we are to be authentic selves and grow into true adulthood.”
Mohler goes on to write, “Abraham Lincoln spoke to this when he told the parable of a man on trial for murdering his parents, who then threw himself on the mercy of the court, claiming that he was now an orphan.” This generation is similar to many generations before us who reject their parent’s traditions by rebelliousness and rootlessness. They cut themselves off from tradition, culture, wisdom, experience, and truth. Why would we want to intentionally orphan ourselves from our family traditions and inheritance?
Many parents seek to be loved by their children but not honored, since honoring implies an authority figure which many parents reject. Yet, neither the Ten Commandments nor the Bible elsewhere commands us to love our parents. This is particularly striking given that the Bible commands us to love our neighbor, to love God, and to love the stranger. But the Bible does make the demand to show honor to our parents. Nowhere else in the Bible is their anyone whom the Bible commands us to honor. More about this in a moment, but first would you pray with me?
So many of us think that this commandment is addressed to children. But God did not stick a commandment addressed to children among others that deal with things like adultery, murder, idolatry, and taking the Lord’s name in vain. God was not looking for a way to involve the children in this tenfold moral code.
This commandment is addressed primarily to adults. To honor the one true and living God is to honor father and mother. It is about honoring father and mother, and receiving the patrimony, that is our inheritance, legacy, or birthright. While the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God, this commandment falls in the final six that deal with human relationships amongst ourselves.
Covenantal faithfulness begins at home. The covenantal relationship of marriage mirrors the character of God’s relationship with His people. When children and adults learn to honor their father and their mother, they in turn begin to realize the relationship we are to have with God. God is our Father and Mother and we learn to honor him as well.
Mohler writes, “Our relationship with our parents in terms of the most formative period of our lives will to a great degree indicate our relationship with God. We either come under the authority of our parents willingly, or we respond to that authority with a spirit of rebellion. Our response to our parents indicates how we will respond to our Creator.”
Mohler continues, “Within this covenant at Sinai, God told Israel of the behavior expected of His covenant people, and the structure and relation of God’s covenant families. Covenant families demonstrate His own character and are a testimony to Himself.”
In the Old Testament, the Lord speaks of Israel as “my firstborn.” The beginning faith in God was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, both honoring their birth father as well as their spiritual father God. The relationship of a child to a parent is weaved throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We are told to honor father and mother. In the nation of Israel, to dishonor a parent is to bring dishonor upon the entire nation.
Now this is a very different concept from our own times. Case in point is what happened in France in 2004. Mohler wrote this: “As a heat wave spread throughout Europe, fifteen thousand elderly persons died in France alone. What shamed the nation is that many thousands of those elderly parents who were allowed to die were abandoned in their homes. Their bodies were left in their homes as their children and grandchildren went on family vacation without interruption, neglecting to take care of their own grandparents and parents.”
Mohler goes on, “The French have now made this a matter of national law. Article 207 of the French civil code now says that adult children are legally responsible for their elderly parents. Why does it take a civil act of the French government to tell children that they are to honor mother and father?” Folks, to abandon father and mother is to dishonor the Creator who made us.
Another one of our problems is that we have a lack of a biblical, long-term vision for the family. We don’t see ourselves as care taker of children, grandchildren, and more. We are not transgenerational. Even in many Christian homes today, parents often see their responsibility in terms of getting children from infancy to graduation from college and then we think our job is done.
The biblical vision, however, is of the father taking responsibility, not merely for his children, but for his grandchildren and countless generations to come. Because we lack this biblical, long-term vision for family, the family ministry in our churches is so superficial, so ineffective, and so wrongly directed. It is focused on short-term problem solving, not transgenerational problem solving. Biblically defined and summarized, parenting includes the responsibility to love, to care for, to provide, to nurture, to protect, to teach, and to discipline. Parents are to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord so that they would bring glory to father and mother, because in doing so, they will bring glory to the Creator God.
So, what does this mean for us as Christian parents. Well, we have two main responsibilities. The first is to teach. According to Deuteronomy 6, we are to teach our children “when we sit in our house, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise.” We must seize every opportunity to teach. This not only includes formal teaching, but also the modeling that takes place between a parent and child. Your children are listening to your every word and watching your every action. In all that you do, does it honor God?
You see, you, your children, and their children, are part of the promise because you are part of the family. The promise is in this commandment. “You are to learn to live as a child of this promise so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God has given you.” A Christian home is to be the first school, the first church, and the first government. The mother and father are to be schoolmasters in the home. It is our responsibility to make sure our children are knowledgeable about the Word of God. Parents, we have failed our children if we raise them ignorant and immature in knowing the things of God. Intentional instruction must lead the way followed by a modeling of behavior and practice.
The second is to be a magistrate. In other words, as Christian parents, we are to be the dispensers of discipline to our children. Unfortunately, discipline is not very popular in our parenting today. However, those of us raised in Christian homes know that our parents could be described as judge, jury, and executioner. Mohler says this, “It is an inescapable parental responsibility to discipline the child, a fact revealed in Scripture. A rebellious, disobedient, disorderly, untaught, unruly child is a terrible curse upon a family.”
Much to the shame of the church, this is not taught as much as it should be in our churches. In our age today, many parents believe that the parent’s will is not to be imposed upon their child. But the scriptural worldview is very different, our little darling is born in sin. He may look innocent, and she is no doubt cute, but that child is a sinner whose heart is planning treason at the first chance.
Many liberal psychologists today say that parents should not seek external conformity in our children, preferring internal self-actualization as the goal. Sound familiar. That theory in the 60s and 70s has gotten us to where we are today. People think they can do anything without consequences. They don’t care if they step on someone else’s rights or spiritual beliefs.
I can tell you right now, my parents were not greatly concerned with my internal self-actualization. I had better externally conform to my family’s and societies values. The Christian parent understands that external conformity is the very least that is to be expected. The internal alignment of the soul is instructed by the external conformity of the body. You and I just can’t say or do anything we wish. There are consequences for our actions.
There was a recent article in USA Today that profiled successful CEOs of large companies, and discovered that most of them were spanked as children. It is a stunning realization that those who have worked their way into positions of leadership were spanked as children. The theological lesson here: the seat of learning is a means of reaching the heart and soul of a child. Parents who love are parents who discipline.
The great preacher and scholar John Calvin wrote, “God calls us to Himself through our parents. We learn to be subject to God by learning to be subject to our parents, and parental discipline teaches us how to be disciplined by the Father God.” The bottom line is this: the Christian father is the patriarch and the Christian mother is the matriarch of the society, passing down the Christian faith and tradition by fulfilling their responsibility to be schoolmaster and magistrate.
As I close, I want to end with this by Dennis Prager in his book, The Ten Commandments. He writes, “Finally there are many ways to honor parents. The general rule is this: they get special treatment. Parents are unique; so they must be treated in a unique way. you don’t talk to them in quite the same way you do anyone else. You don’t call them by their first name. And when you leave their home and make your own, you maintain contact with them. Having no contact with parents is the opposite of honoring them.”
Prager then concludes, “And remember this, if your children see you honor your parents, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be, the chances are far greater that they will honor you.”
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” ity47 \