“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
We live in a time in which the dishonoring of parents is becoming increasingly commonplace. Young children disobey their parents without fear of discipline. Teenage rebellion is seen as a normal and accepted stage of life. Our society perpetuates such dishonoring through public school culture, popular music, media, and social media. But when young people are trained to dishonor their parents, it is not a switch that is so easily turned off when adulthood is entered. The elderly then are continually pushed to the corners of life and society, often treated as unwanted burdens for someone else to care for. Society is built for the young individual and not for the family. The result is societal instability, chaos, and disorder. As John MacArthur says, “The key to societal stability is reverence and respect for parents and their authority.”
The dishonoring of parents has resulted in such tragedy because, at the heart of dishonor for parents, is dishonor of God. Disregard for parents is a disregard for God’s Word. Such disregard does not make for God’s blessing on a people.
One of the reasons for this rebellion against God is because the modern man has bought into the lie of egalitarianism and has rejected the God-ordained hierarchy which is built into the fabric of human life. Hierarchy is seen as an injustice. But hierarchy is clearly implied into the command to honor your father and mother. It implies that there is a natural authority in your life which you did not choose, for you were born into it, like it or not. So if hierarchy is seen as an injustice to the modern man, then he must dishonor his parents. We see this in the elevation of children – their desires and wants control the decisions and parenting of their father and mother. The public schools perpetuate this dishonor of parents by encouraging students in so-called gender-transitioning without the knowledge and permission of the parents. Why do they do this? Because that is justice to them. This has led only to devastation, heartbreak, and sky-rocketing suicide rates. Or in other words, short lives.
Now we also know that a big reason for this is because parents themselves have refused to discipline their children in a godly manner. They have refused to take their children out of the public schools they so disagree with. They have refused to raise their children in church. They have taught their children to dishonor them by dishonoring their own parents. They have refused to stay faithful to their spouse and have lived in a generally unhonorable fashion. Abortion culture teaches that parents have no obligation to their children, therefore, why would the children have any obligation to their parents, should they make it out of the womb. But we are concerning ourselves today with the command to honor your father and your mother. One person’s sin does not justify another person’s sin.
Typically when we think of the command to honor your father and your mother, we think of little children obeying their parents. While that is absolutely included, it goes beyond the obedience of little children to their parents. This command is for both children and adults of all ages. Some commentators even argue that this command is PRIMARILY about the responsibility of adults to honor their parents in old age. So not only do I want all the kids to listen closely today, but this is just as much for us adults as well.
What does it mean to “honor” your father and your mother? When we think of “honor,” we probably think of respect, holding in high regard, or esteeming someone. While this is true, the more biblically we can define the Bible’s own terms, the better. The Hebrew word for “honor” is the same word used in the bible from which we get the word “glorify.” This also comes from the same word as “weight.” So if the command to honor your father and mother conveys the idea of glorifying your father and mother, what does this mean? Think of all the different ways the Bible talks about glorifying someone. In the Psalms, the heavens declare the glory of God. Proverbs say that the glory of young men is their strength. Jesus, the Son, glorifies the Father. 1 Corinthians 11 says man is the glory of God, women are the glory of men, and long hair is the glory of women. To glorify conveys the idea of showing, telling, displaying, or proclaiming the glory, weight, value, or worth of that person or thing being glorified.
In a similar way, children are reflectors of their parents. Looking at someone’s children will generally tell you a lot about their parents – they are little glorifiers of their parents. This reality may also be at the heart of our modern egalitarian impulse. Parents don’t want the weight of that responsibility and so they have a need for the radical egalitarian individualizing of children.
Having said this, the Bible POSITIVELY commands us to honor our father and mother. This means we are not to passively go about reflecting our parents, but we are to actively HONOR them. In God’s hierarchical world, we owe our parents honor simply because of the position and place God has put them in, in relation to us, which is to say, over us. Honor is not just for the very best of parents, but all children are to honor their parents.
How do we honor?
So practically, how do we honor our parents? There are three overarching ways that we see in the Bible which have all sorts of practical out workings. So, you may think of all sorts of other applications that I don’t mention today. That would be a good family discussion to have in your home this week.
The first way we honor our parents is by praising them. Now certainly, I don’t mean that we should worship our parents. We just talked last week about how we are to have no other gods, and we are to worship God only. But there is a lesser way in which we honor our parents by praising them. For example, how do we talk about our parents to others? Kids, or teenagers, do you complain about your parents to your friends, or talk bad about them? If you do, you are dishonoring your parents. No matter the disagreements we may have with our parents we should not talk bad about them behind their backs. Not only would we be dishonoring our parents, we would be gossiping as well.
One place we get this idea is Proverbs 31:28, speaking about a godly woman, it says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman who is honored by her children. They rise up and call her blessed. Even though your mother may fall short in many ways, it is honoring to speak about her, and to her, about all the ways she loves you and cares for you, and just because she is your mother. This should certainly be how we publicly speak about our mother, but also how we speak in the home. For example, it is good to regularly thank her for the meals she makes and the things she does to take care of her home. Honoring father and mother should not just be a public display, but a practice in the home.
In the Proverb we read, it is also the husband who praises his wife. It is very important for us dads to model to our children how to honor the matriarch of our home. We should give thanks to her for her work and what she means to our home. This is especially true for boys, as it is a common temptation for boys to disrespect their mothers. Fathers must not allow this from their sons in their home, and must model to their sons and train them how to treat women, and their mother with honor. All of this goes for the fathers as well. Wives, how do you talk to your husband, or about your husband, in front of your children? Do you show them how to honor their father, or do you undermine his authority with your words? How do you talk about your husband to other women? Do you complain about him, or show him honor? Women especially have the power of persuasion and can either build or tear down their home with her words.
Listening to Them
A second way that we honor our parents is by listening to them and hearing their words and instruction. This is the refrain of the Proverbs, “My son, listen to my instruction.” The first place this is done is by children in the home obeying their parents. As Paul says in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” So, boys and girls, the most important way you honor your parents is by obeying them.
For adults who have their own homes, we obviously don’t obey our parents in this same way. Yet, we still honor them by listening to them. This means we give weight and respect to their counsel in various matters. Even if we do not end up making a certain decision they advised, it is still honoring to them, to give weight to their wisdom and what they have to say, as our parents.
A third way that we honor our parents is by serving them. There are many ways children in the home can serve their parents beyond simple obedience. It is honoring to parents for children to think of ways that they can proactively serve and help their parents without being asked or told. Older children can help with younger children or help with other tasks as mom takes care of the babies. Sons can help their fathers by doing manly yard work or things like that.
For adults, we also never grow so old that we cannot honor our parents by serving them. Particularly we serve them, and indeed have an obligation, to care for them in their old age and infirmities.
Consider 1 Timothy 5:3-8.
Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
While the church is to care for widows, the first people who are responsible for doing so are that widow’s children or grandchildren. Paul says that doing so is showing godliness to their own household and making a return to their parents. For all the care our parents give to us as babies and children, it is the least we can do to care for them in old age. Paul says this is pleasing in the sight of God, and anyone who doesn’t care for his own relatives, or household is worse than an unbeliever. Paul is essentially saying that it is a basic Christian duty and godliness to care for our parents who need it. Certainly there are situations we can find ourselves in, especially in our society, or with unbelieving parents and family, which prevent us from being able to do so. Nevertheless, this is a general rule.
Or consider Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Mark 7:8-13.
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)[d]— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
So, the Pharisees broke the command to honor their father and mother by manmade traditions masked in serving God instead of parents. Jesus is essentially saying that this basic Christian duty of caring for parents, is serving God. Disregarding the care of our parents is dishonoring them, which is disobeying God, and is hypocrisy if we claim true religion. Jesus said they were breaking the 5th commandment in doing so.
Honor your parents like you want your children to honor you. Honor your parents despite all their sins and faults, like you want to be honored despite all your sins and faults.
If you honor your parents, it is more likely your children will honor you. But most importantly, honor your father and mother, because you honor God, and because God has cared for you eternally in Jesus Christ despite all your sins and faults. For all the grace that we have received, it is nothing in comparison, to show grace and love to our parents.
Think of what a testimony this can be to unbelieving parents – loving them as they have not loved you… Is this not a picture of, and a testimony to, the gospel of Jesus Christ? We have failed to love and honor Him as we ought, and yet, despite our sins and failures, He has loved us, and stooped to serve us with an everlasting love far beyond comprehension, far beyond what we deserve. We actually deserve to be cast out from the favorable presence of God for all eternity, but God, who is full of mercy and loving kindness, has brought us into His presence, into His home, into His family through giving us His beloved Son. If we have received this, then we can give just a small taste of this to our parents, who maybe have failed miserably in their responsibility to us.
Your Father and Your Mother
The application of this principle of honoring your father and your mother extends beyond just our biological or legal relatives. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 12:46-50.
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
From this I just want you to see that there is such a thing as legitimate spiritual family. And as such, we have obligation to them as well. Those who do the will of the Father, are our mother, brother, and sister. This is family in the faith. Jesus was saying that He has obligation to these, just as His biological family. This is profound. This command extends to our heavenly Father, who is God. Above all, we are to honor Him. But this also extends to our spiritual family. We are likewise to honor the church and faithful men who have come before us. We can show honor to the church without falling into the errors of Rome which elevates ecclesiastical authority over the authority of scripture. And certainly the Bible calls us to honor others, and so we can honor them without falling into the worship or veneration of saints. Paul even uses this familial, motherly language in speaking about his ministry to the Thessalonian church, as he says in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” Indeed the faithful church is like a mother to the brothers, and so deserving of honor. Paul says elsewhere that elders in the church are deserving of honor, good ones of double honor.
The commandment to honor our father and mother also contains a promise, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” In the first instance we have a covenant specific promise that if they obey, they will live long in the land that God was giving them. This promise, even for them, was a national covenantal promise, not a guarantee for every single individual. Sometimes infants, or newborns, or young children die, and did in Israel, not as a result of breaking this command, but by God’s providence and divine ordination. Nevertheless, for the nation of Israel, the mystery of God’s providence of course did not negate the reality of this promise for them. Sometimes they did die for breaking this command. The prophet Ezekiel pronounces judgment on Israel BECAUSE they dishonored their fathers and mothers. This promise of living long in connection to honoring parents is seen throughout the Proverbs, as well as the inverse of it. This promise contained in the fifth word of the law of the covenant is seen played out in the case laws of Israel. Consider Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
So, while this is a covenant specific promise with specific application in Israel’s civil laws, there is a general principle here we see today. For example, if you heed the wisdom of your parents, their instructions are for your good in life. If you disobey them and live recklessly and in sin, there are many ways in which you could die young because of that. Or, for example, if you honor your older parents by bringing them in your home and taking care of them well and letting them experience the joy of being in a household with their grandchildren, under God’s providence, that will extend their life, when they would more likely wither away with little joy in a cold sterile nursing home with strangers. If you do that, you are teaching your children to do that for you, and thus, extending your own life, so to speak. We cannot know God’s secret will for our lives, but these are general truths.
Finally, let us consider Jesus. Turn to Luke 2:41-52.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[g] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[h] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature[i] and in favor with God and man.
Did Jesus honor and obey His earthly father and mother? Yes, absolutely He did. He never once dishonored them or sinned against them. He perfectly obeyed them. The perfect Son perfectly obeyed His sinful earthly parents. Kids, this shows you, that even when your parents sin against you, you can still obey them. But sometimes people can be a bit confused with this passage, wondering how Jesus honored His parents when they were looking for Him and couldn’t find Him. It seems as if Mary delivers a mild rebuke to Jesus for this. Yet, Jesus’ answer shows us that He was first honoring His heavenly Father, being in His Father’s house, where He had to be. He was where He was supposed to be. Doug Van Dorn even suggests that Mary’s rebuke was simply her worry that Jesus had possibly broken the fifth command and sinned, since she knew He was to be the Savior of His people from their sins. Jesus assures her, He had not sinned. And it says Jesus was submissive to His parents.
Not only did Jesus the boy perfectly honor His father and mother, but Jesus, the dying man, honored His mother. Remember in John 19 as Jesus was suffering and dying on the cross, He looked upon His mother Mary, and instructed His beloved disciple John to care for her, Joseph having already died. In His dying breath, suffering for the sins of the world, Jesus maintains honor for His mother, by ensuring she is taken care of.
We also see throughout Jesus’ life and ministry that He perfectly honored His Father in Heaven and glorified Him. As Jesus prays to the Father in John 17:4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”
Just as Jesus honored the Father, so the Father honored the Son. So that, to truly honor your father, means to honor our heavenly Father, and to truly honor our heavenly Father, means to honor the Son, Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus says in John 5:22-23, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” This was such a hard statement for the Jews. Jesus was saying, if you truly keep the 5th commandment, if you truly honor the Father, then you will honor me, the Son. This was such a hard thing for them, because in rejecting Jesus, they were breaking the 10 Commandments. This is hard for any of us. Do you realize that every false religion rejects Jesus Christ, while many of them say they worship and honor one God in heaven. They dishonor the God they claim to worship in rejecting the Son, whether it’s Judaism, Islam, or a number of other false religions. True religion, and true obedience to God, is only done through Jesus Christ, the Son.
Why? Because He is the only Son who perfectly honored the Father, and He did so on our behalf. We cannot honor God perfectly, we need the obedience of another. Jesus was the perfect Son, who was treated as a rebellious son. And as Israel’s law demands rebellious sons be put to death, Jesus the perfect Son was put to death in the place of rebel sons, as if He were the rebel son, bearing our rebellion on Himself, that we might not be counted as rebel sons, but as perfect sons. We are the rebellious sons deserving of death, and the only way we don’t get what we deserve is if a perfect son steps in our place. And He did.
And in doing so, Jesus was then raised from the dead. He took the curse of a cut-off life, but through the power of God, was raised from the dead unto everlasting life, never to die, thus receiving a long life, if you will. And so we, in Jesus, die in Him, and rise with Him, to everlasting life, a long life forever in Him.
So if you have sinned against your parents, if you have dishonored your father and your mother, and you have, your sins can be forgiven through Jesus the perfect Son. If you have experienced earthly consequences of dishonoring your parents and suffering from disobedience, you can receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, and be redeemed and restored from your error. So honor your father today, by honoring the Son, Jesus Christ.
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