The Ten – Give Due Respect
There is a preachers story about a rabbi who was seated next to an atheist on a cross country flight. I know sounds like the beginning to a bad joke. A Rabbi and an atheist walk in to a … But I love this 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 was impressed and said, The respect your children and grandchildren show you is wonderful. Mine don't show me that respect. The Rabbi smiled and said, Think about it, 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’s a really important message. Being the people of God has a profound impact on how we treat other people, especially the ones closest to us. Today we get to the fifth commandment and the first thing we notice is that it is a transitional command. The first four addressed how we relate to God. The last six address how we relate to each other. That’s why when Jesus was asked which commandment was the most important, which command carried the most weight, He said that He could reduce the ten commandments down to 2: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-30)
Just like the first command to not have any other god is foundational for the other nine, the fifth command serves as a basis for the last six. God introduces how we must love our neighbor by saying we must honor our parents. This suggests that the home is the primary source of values, ethics and morality. Where a failure to honor God keeps us from obeying the other commands; a failure to honor our parents results in an inability to show honor and compassion to our friends, neighbors and strangers.
Something else we need to address before we get into the command. Remember God has already invited us into a relationship, and now He is telling us what the relationship looks like. The fifth commandment is not a way that parents get their 12 year old to behave. While this commandment applies to our children, we need to remember that the commands were given to the grown men and women at the base of the mountain. Everyone who is in a relationship with God needs to do the work of honoring their parents.
All of the commandments have to be interpreted through the lens that God was inviting people who had just come out of 400 years of slavery into a relationship. For the last 50 generations or so, they lived in a culture that devalued age. The older you grew, the less work you could accomplish. So every year you lost value.
Plus living in slavery there was no social structure in place to help people in need. Have you considered how many commands are concerned with how they were to provide for the poor or the strangers living in their land. There was no Social Security, no retirement plans, so older people had to rely on their children when they could no longer care for themselves. That’s why the New Testament is filled with commands to love one another, care for one another, give preference to one another, and to look out for the good for one another.
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 my dad’s favorite phrases when I was growing up is that he was not raising me, he was teaching me how to raise His grandchildren. And that is true, but he also showed me how he wanted me to respect him by the way I saw his respect his parents.
That’s true for you as well, the way you are living your life teaches your kids how to love and show compassion. It’s not what you say, it’s what they see you doing, how you live your life. This morning I want to share a few ways that I want to be honored by the boys, and I imagine it’s how you want to be honored as well. So lets look at a few things we need to teach our children through the way we can show honor to our parents:
First we need to, Respect Them
Paul said, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother. (Ephesians 6:1-2a). While children are to obey their parents, it’s more important that they honor and respect them. It's possible to obey without showing respect, I mean you can do as your told and still rebellious at heart.
A friend of mine told me about a time his little girl was standing in the back seat of the car, riding down the road. My friend told her to sit down and put on her seat-belt. After telling her a third time his little girl defiantly said, No, daddy I will not sit down! So my friend pulled the car over and gave his daughter a spanking and then told her if she didn't sit down she would get one worse that that. His little girl sat down and through the tears said, I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside. There you go; obedience without 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. Yet God says honor your parents not just because of what they have done, but simply because they are created in His image.
This may be a hard pill for some of you to swallow, but God didn’t say to honor your parents if they’re honorable. We like to think that people have to earn our respect, but that’s not a Biblical principal. Actually I can’t find a passage that says respect must be earned before you have to give it. God simply calls us to honor our parents because they are our parents. Nowhere in this commandment does God tell us to honor them because they are great parents, or even good parents. We are to honor them because they are created in His image. Which is precisely why we must respect everyone, because we are all image bearers of God, regardless of whether we claim Him as our Father or not.
Next we need to, Value 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 knew much of anything at all.
This might surprise you, but I was a pretty typical teenager and there was a time when I believed that my parents were ignorant. And to be honest there were a lot of things they didn’t know anything about. Just like there are many things that my boys are dealing with that I am ignorant about. If you would have told me when I was 17 that there would be a time when everyone had a video camera on them at all times and we would be bullying one another through social media I would have called the folks in the white coats to come put you in a rubber room.
But I've learned something over the years. Just because I have more letters behind my name and diplomas on my wall doesn’t mean that I am smarter. There are some things you can only learn by living, having experience, failing at some things and bouncing back. You parents have already traveled the seasons of life that you are now traveling. They have some experience that you have yet to gain, so they might have something to say that will provide a little clarity. That’s why we must value their advice.
Thirdly we need to, 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, getting your cavities filled, 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. Today’s English Version translates Proverbs 23:22: "When your mother is old, show her your appreciation."
Nothing makes my skin crawl quicker than for someone to sit across from me and say that all of their problems in life go back to the mistakes their parents made. We live in a society that celebrates this idea that you can't help the way you are; it's not your fault. Your parents messed you up. You’re the victim. When I was a child and I stayed home from school sick, my mom would let me watch TV and every commercial was for a trade school, if you didn’t like where you were in life learn to drive a truck, or become a welder, or become a nursing assistant. But today every commercial is for a different lawyer or law firm. Because you are a victim, and someone need to pay so “call me Alabama.”
We seem to have forgotten that the Bible never says to honor your parents only if they were perfect. Honoring our parents isn’t based on how much we approve of the job they did with us. God is saying that we should make our parents feel treasured simply because they have given us life and the opportunity to be here today.
I have no doubt that being a dad has helped me more than anything else to honor my parents' efforts. Being a dad is the hardest job I've ever had. It's difficult and costly, not just in terms of finances, but of time, energy, and emotions. Your parents might not have been perfect, but they gave you the best they could offer.
Most of us here this morning had parents that bought and cleaned your clothes. You had parents that took you to the doctor, who gave you a home and food. From the moment we came into this world our parents kept us warm and fed us and protected us to the best of their ability. They might not have been perfect, they may have even been selfish, but anyone who has been a parent will tell you this is a difficult job. We owe our parents a huge debt of gratitude. If we can’t honor our parents for anything 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.
Then we need to, Meet Their Needs
We read in 1 Timothy 5, If any widow has children or grandchildren, then go to the descendants first and teach them that it is their spiritual responsibility to care for their own family, to repay their parents and grandparents because this is what pleases God... But if someone is not providing for his own relatives and especially his own household, then he is denying the faith and is worse off than an unbeliever. Honoring your parents involves, among other things, providing for them when they can no longer provide for themselves.
When I read this verse this week the word repay jumped out at me. How can we ever begin to repay our parents for their time, money and love? Part of the answer comes in meeting their needs. God always intended for the family to be the chief agency by which the needs of the family is met. Obviously, simply providing financial support for one's parents in their old age falls far short of honor if it isn't done with loving personal involvement. Whether it is a parent or a child doesn’t matter, the fact remains the same: money can be an expression of love but it can never a substitute for love.
A child can no more honor his parents by simply paying their bills than his parents could have responsibly raised him by only paying for his food. Parents need to feel that they are not an imposition in the lives of their children, that they have a place where somebody remembers them, cares about them, and takes time out of a busy life to pay attention to them. When our parents need our help, we honor God by meeting their needs.
Finally, Forgive Their Failings
We need to end here today because some of you here this morning are in real pain, maybe anger, maybe a little of both because you’ve been deeply hurt by your parents. I don’t have any doubt, there were times in your life when it seemed that your parents did not put your best interests first, they weren't loving enough or they spent too much time at the office and not enough time with you.
I understand that in a gathering this large, there are some of you here this morning that grew up in homes where terrible evils and horrible sins were committed against you by the very people to whom God entrusted your safekeeping. I want you to understand that God is not saying here, Just get over it. Ignore the pain, and deny that it ever happened. Perhaps there is the need for you to confront your parents and to discuss your pain in the hope that you can work through it together. In doing so, you can be free to truly honor your parents in the years ahead.
For some of you, confrontation and reconciliation are not possible, maybe because your parents have passed or maybe because they are unwilling to accept responsibility for their sins against you. If this is your case, I want to encourage you to pray that you will not allow bitterness to control your life, that you can have a spirit of forgiveness toward those who hurt you, and that you won't continue the cycle of pain by inflicting on your children what you had to suffer through. Pain has a way of drawing you closer to God.
The power is this command to honor your father and mother is the promise attached to it, That your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. When Paul quotes this command in Ephesians 6 he adds 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. To honor or fail to honor our parents is a choice that takes us down one of two roads to a blessing or a curse. 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.
If you still have your parents let me encourage you to express your and thankfulness for what they have done in your life. 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: You get to decide if you are going to honor someone. For so many of us, we want to make a decision of whether someone is worthy of our love, our honor, or our respect. We will honor the people who deserve honor, we will love the people that deserve our love. When the truth is God tells us to love with no regard of whether someone is lovable or not. We are to honor our parents regardless of wether we feel they deserve it or not. Because our ability to love and honor other people depends on our relationship with God, not our relationship with others.
As we gather at the tables this morning we have a chance to commune with God and with one another. The question I believe this commandment is calling us to answer is: Am I living a life that Honors Others?