The Ten – Give Due Respect
On a cross Country flight a rabbi was seated next to an atheist. 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 responded, 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. The first command is foundational for the other nine, and the fifth command serves as a basis for the last six. By starting with this command it 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.
Another piece of ground work for us to build on this morning: growing up I was taught that this command was addressed to children. Now I believe children were included this the command, it’s important to remember that the commands were given to the grown men and women at the base of the mountain. These adults needed to be reminded of the necessity of honoring their parents for a couple of different reasons.
First, they were just released from 400 years of slavery. They spent generation after generation 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 still do the same thing today, but we just call it retirement.
Next, They lacked the social structure that would provide for people in need. Maybe you have noticed 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. Unfortunately 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, and to look out for the good for one another.
And, It is the first command with a promise. God says that those of us who honor our parents will have long life and health.
Don’t buy into the thought 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’s parents took in his elderly grandfather. The grandfather was feeble; his hands shook so when he ate the silverware rattled against the plate and he often missed his mouth. His food would dribble onto the tablecloth which upset the mother who was tired of dealing 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 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 young 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 again.
The moral of Grimm’s little story is that 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 in your life. That’s why today I thought it would be a good idea if we spent our time together talking about a few ways that 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 boy was standing in the back seat of the car, riding down the road. My friend told him to sit down and put on his seat-belt. After telling him a third time his little boy defiantly said, No, I will not sit down! So my friend pulled the car over and gave his son a spanking and then told him if he didn't sit down he would get one worse that that. His little boy sat down and through the tears said, I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside. I’ve seen that before; 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. And God says honor your parents not just because of what they have done, but simply because of who they are.
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. 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 God tell us 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.
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 stupid. 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.
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."
As a counselor, nothing makes my skin crawl quicker than for someone to tell me that all of their problems in life go back to the mistakes their parents made. The idea is that you can't help the way you are; it's not your fault. Your parents messed you up. You’re the victim.
We seem to have forgotten that the Bible doesn't say that parents are 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 parent has helped me more than anything else to honor my parents' efforts. Being a dad to Trafton and Rylan 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. Your parents might not have been perfect, but they gave you the opportunity to be here today.
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. 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 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.
Then we need to, Meet Their Needs
We read in 1 Timothy 5, But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.....But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse 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. 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, clothes, education, and other needs apart from loving care and personal involvement. 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. No 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. 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.
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: make family a priority. It's a rather somber fact of life that neither children nor parents are around for long. Someday those children won't be in your home, and someday those parents will be gone as well. Life is too short and the price is too high to put off the honoring for another day. Value your family and make them a priority.