This article is dedicated to the memory of my mother-in-law who passed away from pancreatic cancer, my dad who died from brain cancer, and my stepdad who passed from heart issues (at the healthy age of 90). It is also written to honour the courage of my father-in-law as he has heart bypass surgery, and my mother as she battles dementia. May God bless any reader who is facing their first Christmas season without a parent.
The 10 Commandments are not a highly popular topic in today’s society. Their controversial removal from public schools is old news. If one were really interested, one could still find volumes of commentaries, expositions, and applications – which contain far greater thought and teaching for life than offered by today’s secular educational institutions.
Sadly, it is rare that one would make this research venture. The Commandments are just a bunch of rules, right? And our permissive society is all about freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom to disobey authority, including parents, if they feel it infringes on their rights, feelings, whims, vanity, self-absorption…
Strange though, when push comes to shove, secularists and the religious agree you shouldn’t steal, kill, lie, cheat on your spouse, or be envious…all part of the proscriptions handed down from above. Most also agree that honoring parents is important.
Did you know the fifth decree was the first commandment given with a promise (Ephesians 6:2)? Exodus 20: 12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” It sounds like this offers far more freedom than it does restriction.
If one would like to reap the rewards of that promise, then we’d better decide what it really means (even if obedience is your priority over rewards).
First, you must know it includes an extremely high standard. For in the Sermon on the Mount, we have Jesus taking the sixth Commandment, “You Shall Not Kill,” and declaring you are guilty of murder if your thoughts and feelings for others are ones of anger and hatred (Matt. 5:22).
Jesus also reviews, “You Shall Not Commit Adultery,” and equates looking upon a woman with lust as committing adultery with her in your heart (Matt. 5:28).
With Christ-like standards such as this, what are Christ’s expectations for honoring your parents? Christ would expect you to up the ante.
Principle One: Advance the true spiritual heritage and faith your parents delivered to you.
You want to disappoint your parents? Then fall away from the true faith they handed down because you were too enlightened or self-interested to adhere to it. Not only should you follow it to honor them, you should advance God’s kingdom in thought, word, and deed. It might involve surpassing your parents’ knowledge theologically or biblically, but never lording that over them. *
The main tip for that to be successful is contained in another commandment…the Great Commandment, and golden rule: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 …‘Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22)
Principle Two: Attempt to care for parents beyond what they cared for you when they raised you.
Many of us bear or have carried the burden of aging and ailing parents. My wife’s mom died of pancreatic cancer. My wife moved back home to nurse her mother while fully parenting our young children. My father-in-law just had bypass surgery for his heart. My dad died of cancer that progressed from his lungs to brain. My mother is in a state of moderate dementia.
Many of you can relate and will insert your personal experiences here in your heart and mind. (As an aside, we certainly should be praying for each other in the body of Christ due to all these circumstances.)
While it’s true our parents had to tend to our bumps and bruises, disappointments, and heartaches, children have to observe and care for them in their serious illnesses, life threatening conditions, and ultimately death. A giving heart is required in these circumstances.
What a blessing it is that God has given us the opportunity to give back to our parents in this manner of servanthood!
Principle Three: Treat the parent-child relationship as sacred.
Our loving Heavenly Father is Holy, Just, Righteous, and Good. He is Love. While our parents will struggle in their humanity, think of God as parent and how He shares His role with your parents. You will obviously have disagreements, sometimes where you are actually right, but realize that God gave them a position similar to His (wow, that means that those of us who double as parents share in that too!).
While we are sometimes frustrated or even angry with our God, we know He remains our source of strength, life, and salvation. Our parents will also always be our other source of life.
Proverbs 6:20-23: 20 My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. 23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.
Don Wilton sums everything up beautifully, in an article entitled Honor Your Father and Your Mother, which was in Decision magazine in June 2013. This truly gives a picture of freedom:
The promise of a long life is the promise of God’s lifelong protection, guidance, deliverance, and provision. Surely, there is hardly anything more precious than living in a loving relationship with your parents. In fact, you did not choose your parents. God did. And His design is for you to live your entire life in a continual state of honor and blessing.
*Sadly, society is failing at advancing the faith passed onto them. Millennials are leaving the church at a faster rate than ever before, and are less likely to come back than in the past. Oh yes, there are excuses, mostly about the failures of the church, as if it wasn’t made up of humans. The point is that this is failing mothers and fathers. See 2 Timothy 3:1-4 and consider if it seems familiar:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.