Read Exodus 20:12. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long on the land the Lord your God is giving you.
This seems simple enough! Obey mom and dad and they will let you live! Enough said. Sermon done! Don't you wish? As we say in our house, "Fat chance, Fancy pants." As in everything else that God does, this commandment has far greater depth than may be evident. In fact, we will only scratch the surface of the meaning that can be found in this one verse of Scripture. I was complaining to my wife last night. "I need weeks to preach this thing. There's so much in this one verse." Well, that might be a good idea. Today we don't have time for that.
We often have heard that the first four commandments show our love to God and the last six show our love to man. It would not surprise me much that when the Ten Commandments are finally found, we're reading through the first table and we come to the Fifth Commandment and there'll be a little footnote saying, "Continued on the second table." I believe the Fifth Commandment is the bridge that connects the two tables of stone. Hopefully, by the end of this sermon I will have made that point more evident.
Also notice the Fifth Commandment is next to the Fourth. This is no accident. These two commandments are side by side because God did it that way. God does not have accidents. These two commandments are very much intertwined. The best way I know to illustrate this is with a modern Jewish story.
This story is about two grandfathers sitting next to each other on a plane. They had never met before. They were strangers. They just happened to be sitting next to each other. As they began to get acquainted, it was found out that one of the grandfathers was an atheist and the other was a Jewish. The atheist is traveling alone. The Jew is traveling with his children and grandchildren. As the flight continued, the atheist notices something. Every few minutes, one of the Jew's children or grandchildren would ask, "Grandfather, are you comfortable?" "Is the flight going well with you?" "Do you feel okay?" "Was your food okay, do you need some more?" "Would you like my peanuts?" "Did you get enough to drink?" "Grandfather, when you go to the back of the plane, may I escort you? Just let me know." And on and on. This went on for the whole flight, and finally the atheist turned to the Jewish grandfather and said, "I can't help noticing the great respect your children and grandchildren have for you. My children and grandchildren have no respect for me at all." The Jewish grandfather said, "Well, that is easy to explain. My children see me as one step closer to our ancestors who heard God's voice on Mount Sinai as He gave us the Ten Commandments. My children see me as one step closer to our ancestors, Adam and Eve, who were created perfectly by God. Your children see you as being one step closer to being an ape!"
Do you see what has happened? Do you see the connection between the Fourth and Fifth Commandment? When man forgot what God told us to remember about the Sabbath, we forgot Who created us. The Sabbath is a memorial to Creation, a weekly reminder that we did not evolve from apes. When our society forgot who our Creator was, the theory of Evolution began to be taught as fact. If Evolution is true, that means that our parents are less evolved than we are. If that is true, the Fifth Commandment makes no sense. Why honor that which is inferior. Modern technology has not helped the situation much, either. Suddenly, parents need to be taught by their children how to set the clocks on VCRs and how to turn the computer on.
A grade school teacher called the technical support man at his school to tell him that his computer hard-drive had crashed and he needed help right away. The tech-support man didn't believe him and gave him the run-a-round until he asked the teacher a question, "How do you know that it is your hard drive?" "One of my third-graders told me," was the reply. "I'm on my way."
If we believe in Creation, we realize that we are another generation away from God's perfection. We realize that our parents are a step ahead of us in wisdom instead of behind us. We don't always have to reinvent the wheel because our elders have already done it. We don't have to make the same mistakes that they did if we are willing to learn from them. It's hard for us to say, "They know better than we do." When we realize we don't have to fall in the same places they fell. We don't have to tread the same paths they tread if we are willing to learn from those who are a step ahead of us. We always learn more from our elders than we ever discover for ourselves.
Throughout the ages, children and parents have had their struggles, all the way back to Cain and Abel. But things have accelerated. Satan s time is short, and he knows it. His desire is to destroy the family bond, and he is pulling out all the stops right now.
This could explain a recent front cover article in a teen magazine for girls, "Do you really hate your parents? Like, who doesn't? How to deal with the detestables." That's what we're looking at today.
Where is this coming from? Look at 2 Timothy 3 to find out what is happening here. 2 Timothy 3:1-5. But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
Satan knows that destroying regard for the Fifth Commandment will destroy society. Notice how the commandment is worded. It does not say to honor your teachers, honor your employers, honor your government officials. It just says "parents." If we truly honor our parents, all of these other relationships will fall into line. Honor starts in the home. Satan knows that if he can destroy the parent-child relationship, all the others are a piece of cake. Pastor Gettys and I have many couples that come for pre-marital counseling. It"s usually a lot of fun. One piece of advice that we give to couples is, "Go and spend a week in our fiancee's parent's home with your fiancee." Why do we say that? We want the person to see how their true-love treats their own mother and father. This is how you will be treated. What is done in the home extends to society. How your boyfriend treats his mom is how he will treat you.
How we grow up treating our parents is also an indication of what we will think of God. This is another connection between the two tables of stone. Parents stand in the place of God to their little ones. Growing to honor them will help us to honor Him. This is where it gets scary for parents, or at least it should. When your child looks at you, what kind of God is he getting to know? Is he becoming acquainted with a God of love, a God of grace, of forgiveness, reverence, a God of joy? Or is he getting acquainted with a God who is a demanding tyrant, abusive, unreachable, and angry? A God that yells? More about that latter.
The first word of this commandment is "honor." This is from the Hebrew word which means "heavy." This is from a time when the heavier something was, the more valuable it was, not necessarily by size but by weight. "Is it really valuable? How much does it weigh?" The use of this word in this command shows a heavy responsibility that we have toward our parents. We are to consider our parents to be of great weight, of great value.
That brings up the question: Who are our parents? It's kind of like Jesus saying, "Who is your neighbor?" It's the question He was asked. "Who is our neighbor?" Who are our parents? This is getting hard to define in this crazy world. Notice that God says "Father and Mother." This may have raised eyebrows even then in the patriarchal society in which the commandments were given. "What? He's elevating mother to the same status as father?" Sure enough, God put fathers and mother on equal footing. Honor both of them. But today, we have parents, we have step-parents, we have biological parents, we have foster parents, we have single parents, we have unknown parents, we have adoptive parents, we have abusive parents, and sometimes we have some types of parents we can't even define. Same-sex couples are now being defined as parents. In some way, we are to find a way to honor those who have brought us into this world, and those who have raised us, and those who have discipled us. Ideally, those three descriptions belong to the same people, but that is not always the case. This world is no longer ideal.
Many ways exist for us to show honor to our different types of parents. The best way is God s way, the kind of family unit He designed needs to stay together at all costs. But we are not in an ideal world and things have happened.
One way of honoring our parents is through obedience. In fact the commandment is quoted: "Obey your parents" instead of "honor." Obedience is not necessarily forever. It has been said that our days of obedience to our parents may cease, but the days of honor never end. Ephesians 6:1 says, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Notice that God puts a condition in this command: "in the Lord." As long as your parents are not asking you to sin, they should be obeyed. Many children have decided to follow Jesus against their parents commands. Our relationship to Jesus must always come first.
Another way to honor your parents is through respect. You may not agree with what they say or how they act, but respect is due them. One should speak respectfully of their parents at all times, especially in public, especially in front of your own children. How you treat your parents is how your children will treat you! Watching you obey the fifth commandment will make it easier for your children to do the same thing. Then you don't have to be scared of your own kids like was illustrated by a bumper sticker I saw the other day, "Be nice to your children! They choose your nursing home." Parents should also respect their children as God"s creations. Ephesians 6:2-4 says, "Honor your father and mother" - which is the first commandment with a promise - "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Don't humiliate them in your discipline. Now, teenagers, I remember are easily humiliated no matter what their parents do. "They're just our parents and that's humiliating." I don't know why, but that's the way teenagers are. But don't egg this on by adding to it, by humiliating them in public with maybe a form of discipline. But don't go the other route where they can do no wrong and avoid discipline. To discipline means to disciple, to help them follow the proper path. I have seen parents who were disciples of their children instead of vice versa.
During Vacation Bible School, a visiting mother and child came in who I have never seen before or since. It was immediately apparent as to who was in charge. It wasn't the mother. The toddler was boss. This child wandered he wanted to in the Family Center, any room, any closet, and the mother just tagged along behind. He eventually wandered into the kitchen where people were busy preparing food for VBS and in a rush. The mother was a little ways behind. She became very agitated when she was nicely told that the kitchen was not a safe place for her child and that he might get hurt if he got in the way of someone working there. She said, "Well, what if someone gets in his way." You should have seen the look on the VBS worker s face! What if someone gets in his way? The greatest way to show your child respect is to be his parent. Too many parents today are more buddies with their children than they are parents. It is wonderful to be your child s best friend but one must be a parent first. This will earn the respect of your child.
You can also honor your parents by your affection. It is true, you cannot fathom how much your parents love you until you become a parent yourself. I remember the feeling I had when my first child was born. I hadn't known him more than three minutes when I knew that I would not hesitate to protect him with my life! That feeling has only increased as the years go by. You can only begin to return the love that your parents have for you. But try! They love every feeble attempt.
I know what some of you are thinking. I know what some of you have been through because you have told me. I know what kind of parents you have had. I know about the horrible abuses some of you have suffered at the hands of those who are supposed to love you so much. I have heard and witnessed stories that make me angry, that make me weep. Some of you have parents that are hard, if not impossible, to honor with obedience, respect, or affection. But when God gives us a command, he also gives us a way to keep it!
A way to honor our parents is with forgiveness. The ancient Jewish rabbis teach that parents are to be honored because they are partners with God. They cooperate with God by having children. God is the author of life, but parents are the medium through which He chooses to bring new life into the world. Parents don't always do a good job being God's partner. I know many of my own mistakes. I am far from an expert in raising children. But some parents make more than mistakes. Some become destructive. Many do a horrible job from conception on, but they are still to be honored in some way.
I knew a woman in Georgia whose father had abused her in every way imaginable. He was also, at that time, a highly respected pastor. The damage that was done to her many years ago is still being healed. She had a vision of what God was like through her abusive pastor father that is still being repaired. But it is being repaired because she is choosing the path of forgiveness.
God knows your past but He is most interested in your present and your future. You may have a ton of baggage in your life that is keeping you from the relationship with God that He greatly desires. That is why he begs us to cast our baggage on Him! This can be done through forgiveness. No matter what you have been through, you remain the final architect of your life.
Another way to honor your parents is by leading a life of integrity, success, and happiness. Parents love to see their children living meaningful lives in God's service.
Still another way to honor our parents is how we treat them when we become the care givers. Parents need not be afraid of children who honor them. Likewise, children need to honor their parents like another bumper sticker I saw said, "Humor your parents. They haven't written their will yet." When we truly honor our parents and our parents honor us, you know what that is? It s called, "Family." We don't have to be out for what we can get, but for what we can give. No matter how many years we need to care for our parents, it will seldom add up to what they have done for us.
"Once upon a time, when families lived in extended units, with children and grandparents living together, there was a home in which a man lived with his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. The meals they ate together were always a wonderful time of sharing. The grandfather just loved being there. As the years went by, the man s health began to decline. He couldn't help as much around the house as much as he used to do. His hands began to shake. He sometimes would spill his food on the table or even on the rug.
One day when he was shaking particularly badly the spoon he was holding broke his bowl, spilling food all over, on to the floor, on to the table and on to him, and on to his son. The son said to his father in anger and frustration, "Dad, I can't take this any longer. "Can't you control yourself? You will just have to eat by yourself in you room." And so the son gave his father a wooden bowl that could not break and for every meal would bring food to the father in his room.
Time went by and the meals at the dining-room table were much quieter and much neater. The old man was very lonely eating his meals in his room, but he didn't say anything because he didn't want to make his son even more upset.
Several weeks later the son came home and found one of his children making something out of wood.
"What are you making?" he asked.
"I'm making a wooden bowl," answered the young boy.
"It is very nice, but what will you use it for?"
"Oh, it is not for me, Dad, it is for you."
"For me? Wow, maybe I can keep fruit in it," said the dad.
The son answered, "It is not for you yet, Dad. I am saving it for when you get older and your hands begin to shake. When I see it is too hard for you to eat with us, then I will give it to you so you can eat in your room."
The father silently walked into the house and went to his own father's room. "Dad, I'm so sorry for what I have done. How many years did you take care of me, assuring me that I would grow out of my clumsiness? Never once did you make me eat a meal in my room; and look at what I have done to you. Can you ever forgive me for not giving you the respect you deserve?"
That night the old man returned to the dining-room table. Though the table was a little less quiet and a little less neat, the family was whole." (From "The Ten Commandments" by Dr. Laura Schlessinger)
Can you see why a promise is added to this commandment. Our days will be long for honoring our parents. Not just in number but in joy, in contentment, in family, and in the New Earth. The kind of people who honor their parents are the type of people who will honor God with their presence throughout eternity.
Hymn of Praise: #579, "'Tis Love That Makes Us Happy Scripture: Exodus 20:12 Hymn of Response: #655, Happy the Home
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last updated 9/1/2002 by Bob Beckett.