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Honor Your Father and Mother: What? Why? How?


Very few commercials are even worth watching, but every so often along comes a commercial that is worth watching on repeat.

For example, the latest series of Progressive Insurance commercials. The premise of the commercial is in helping first time homeowners not become their parents, guided by life coach, Dr. Rick.

And so as part of the commercial Dr. Rick coaches these new homeowners on what and what not to say, things that sound like something their parents might say, such as,

For example, when you’re at a restaurant, Dr. Rick says, “Guess what, the waiter doesn’t need to know your name.”

Or when attending a sporting event, Dr. Rick corrects someone by saying, “Let’s not talk about leaving before we’re actually at the game.”

Beyond the sheer humor of it, I think the commercials contain a beautiful and somewhat humbling message: Be careful just how much you tease your parents because chances are you're going to become them someday.”

Altogether, it’s a silly commercial that makes for a silly introduction to what is in fact a very important commandment, where today, we continue on in our sermon series on the 10 Commandments, by looking at the 5th, to “honor your father and mother.”

The more and more I mine the depths of this command I realize just how much there is that could be said about this one, so let’s dive right in. As we do, we’ll reflect on three questions in particular.

First, what does it mean to honor your father and mother?

Secondly, why should we honor our fathers and mothers?

And third and finally, what does it look like to honor our parents in everyday life and across various seasons in life?

What does it mean? Why should we? And what does it look like?

A couple notes up front. If you’re wondering to yourself, “You know my parents have passed away, my kids are all grown up” what could I possibly get out of this message, don’t worry, there’s something in here for you too.

In addition, for those of you who have difficult relationships with parents to this day, or who maybe were raised by parents who were absent or apathetic, or maybe even abusive or facing addiction, well, hang in there with me if you can. I hope you leave with hope today too. Alright.

Let’s start with that first question – What does it mean to honor your father and mother? What are we talking about when we talk about this word known as “honor”?

It’s a very specific word that our Lord uses here.

It’s a word that communicates something less than worship, something different than obedience, and something more specific than love.

Maybe one of the better words that we’re familiar with to help us grasp this idea of honor is the word respect.

After all, that’s essentially the dictionary definition of honor, “to treat someone with the proper respect due to the person and their role in your life.”

And while the language of respect gets us all the closer to this concept of honor, there’s one other word that I think is worth adding to the mix here, and that is the word, “weight.”

That’s right, “weight.” Like a heavy kind of weight, not a waiting room kind of wait.

You see, the word used for honor here in the 5th commandment is the Hebrew word kavod. Now, there’s no way I’m pronouncing that right, but I know this much, the word kavod is often translated as “glory” or “weight.”

And my goodness, if you’re a parent, you very well might immediately see the connection here. To be a parent is both a wonderful and weighty responsibility. To be a parent is a high calling, it’s a difficult job, it demands more from you than you could have ever imagined. To be a parent is a weighty thing. (By the way, parents also happen to do a lot of the “waiting around" kind of waiting too, but that’s beside the point.)

And so kids, if I can speak to you for a minute, part of what it means to honor your mother and father, in addition to those 5 words we talked about, is to remember that your parents have a big job when it comes to raising you, one that requires incredible love and sacrifice.

And so trust them, listen to them, do what they say (more on obedience in a minute), thank them, love them, respect them, honor them. God has placed your parents in your life not by accident, but on purpose. By the grace of God, he’s using them to help you to grow and thrive, and make you more like Jesus. So honor your father and mother. Chances are, they really are doing the best they can.

And kids, students, I understand if you are rolling your eyes right now as I say this, I get it, I did too when I was your age, and then I became, well, … a parent.

Of course, kids, students, this is not to say you’re always going to like everything your parents choose for you or agree with everything they do when it comes to raising you. In fact, when I once told my grandpa about a decision of my mom’s that I didn’t care for, he looked at me and said, “Take notes.” It was his way of saying, “I understand you don’t like it, and if you want to do it differently when you’re a parent, that’s great, but for now, you need to trust and obey. That’s how you’ll honor your mom in this moment.”

And so what does it mean to honor your father and mother? Love them? Yes. Respect them? Yes. Obey them when they tell you to do something? Generally speaking, yes. And yet even more, it’s about remembering the weighty, significant, crucial, sacrificial role in your life that God has called them to and then living in a way that reflects that.

You know, when I think about my own mom and her influence on my own life, I can look at her and say,

I am who I am and I am where I am because of her love and sacrifice for me.

And when I remember that and can say that about my own mother, the weighty role that she played in my own life, then that truth has a way of making me more gracious, more gentle, my generous in the midst of disagreement, or frustration, or tension. In a word, it helps me to show and demonstrate honor, even when I don’t really feel like it.

Honor your father and mother. That’s the first question, let’s now get to the second:

Why should we honor our mothers and fathers? I suppose the simple and straightforward answer here is “because God said so,” and yet notice what Paul says in Ephesians. He says,

“This is the first commandment with a promise – so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Look at that, it’s not as if Paul says, “this is the first commandment that comes with a nasty threat … “Boy, I brought you into this world, and I will take you out of it” kind of thing.

No. It comes instead with a promise. It comes with good news. Honor your parents, and why? In part, so that you may enjoy long life on this earth. In other words, generally speaking, you’re going to be best off listening to, trusting in, and honoring your parents. Generally speaking, they’re going to lead you in the right direction, they’re going to give you good advice, they’re going to share hard earned wisdom, whether it’s in matters of health, finances, relationships, following Jesus and more, that’s worth following, wisdom and direction that is for your ultimate good and flourishing.

You see, it’s no surprise that study after study to this day continues to find that the best predictor for health and flourishing as an adult is having grown up in a loving home with loving parents for it’s here in scripture that seems to echo this same principle.

And so honor your father and mother, for as it says, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

And it’s at this point in our message today, where some of you might be thinking, “My goodness, if it were only that easy, if it were only that simple.”

You see, here in this commandment God is lifting up before what is ideal, the joy and blessing of honoring your parents, and yet many of you know from experience what is all too real in our fallen world, relationships with your parents that are hurting and broken and maybe feel beyond repair. Parents who didn’t take the weighty task and high calling of parenting seriously. Or those who might have even acted or conducted themselves as parents in a way that was quite dishonorable at times.

I’ll be honest I don’t have easy answers to this. In fact, when it comes to what it looks like to honor parents who have lived rather dishonorably, I think it’s best that I not presume to know what you should do or how you should engage them, rather I think it best that I learn from those of you who have experienced it and lived it firsthand.

Nevertheless, in light of all this, here I was once again encouraged by something Jen Wilkin wrote in the book 10 Words to Live By, which a few of us are currently reading. She pointed us to the church. After all, the apostle Paul uses the metaphor of a family when describing the church. And so Jen, wonderfully, I think, writes, “the church is the family your family of origin could not be.” In other words, in a healthy church you can be sure to find men and women, spiritual mothers and fathers, who are older than you who are worthy of your trust and to whom you can show honor.

Alright, two questions down, one question to go. What does it mean to honor your father and mother? Why should we in the first place? And now third, what does it look like to honor your father and mother and how does this play out across the various ages and stages, seasons and circumstances of life? Answering this third question is going to be a bit of a lightning round. We’re going to get really practical and cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

Alright, so what does this look like in everyday life? Let’s start here, addressing questions with our youngest generation in mind working our way to our oldest.

To the kids and students, does honoring your parents demand that you obey whatever they tell you to do with no questions asked? Well, no. To answer yes, would be to give parents more power and authority than the bible gives them. After all, the verse in Ephesians says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” And so kids, students, if you find yourselves forced to choose between honoring your parents vs. honoring God, obeying your parents vs. obeying God, you are called to honor and obey God first. But please know, if you tell your parents that you can’t take out the trash because God told you not to, you didn’t hear it from me.

Here’s another question, we’re moving up a generation now. How do we honor our parents when we become adults ourselves? When we move out of the house, go to college, get married, we intuitively and rightfully know that a shift has taken place in the parent-child relationship, and yet, what does that look like?

Well, I think writer Marshall Segal sums it up nicely when he says, “Parents are given a seasonal authority over children, but they are endowed with perpetual honor.” I think that’s right.

So notice, adult children, who maybe have their own children, we are still called to honor. After all, these commands were originally given and shared to both children and adults.

So consider the holidays for example. There can often be a bit of tension here. Your parents want to do things one way, you and your spouse want to do things another way. Honoring your parents does not mean doing or saying yes to exactly what they want. However, how you navigate those decisions, the tone and tenor of those conversations, my goodness, there are ways to honor or dishonor your parents left and right.

Now here’s another question, moving up another generation if you will. Is this commandment to honor your father and mother simply about honoring your biological parents or the parents who raised you, or does it extend beyond that to elders in general? Here I think the answer is yes. And I think that’s especially true as we consider intergenerational relationships within the church family. Notice the familial language that Paul uses in that third scripture reading in 1 Timothy:

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

It’s a reminder that here in this church you’ve got fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers that extend beyond your home.

I’ll admit, seeing the commandment in this way kind of wrecked me afresh this last week, as I reflected on a time when I failed to show honor to someone here in our church that is a generation or so above me. And so I reached out this person, we’re going to talk on Tuesday and the conversation will begin something like this, “I screwed up. I wasn’t showing honor. Will you forgive me?” And we’ll take it from there.

Alright one more practical question, I’ve got the oldest generation in mind here … I wonder if you might be wondering, alright, my kids are out of the house, heck my grandkids are out of my kids’ houses, my parents have passed away, is there anything for me to do or learn or remember, or I do I just get to wait for others to honor me?

Kind of a fun way to think about this commandment, isn’t it? Here’s what I came up with: There’s a favorite quote of mine that goes something like this. “When honor goes up, blessing comes down.” The idea here is a symbiotic relationship of sorts - as the younger generation honors the older, the older generation blesses the younger. I love that. And so, to those of you among the oldest generation, how might you bless the generations below in the days and weeks ahead? How might you share your time, talents, treasure, and hard earned wisdom and advice with us?

And finally, if you remember nothing else about this sermon. Keep it simple, go back to the kids message and the 5 words of honor. Do you remember what they are? It’s pop quiz time, one at a time, in any order, let’s hear them …

Here’s your homework assignment. Say one of those things to a mother or father or spiritual mother or father sometime this next week. Which of those 5 you choose of course is up to you, only you can know what will mean the most.

And for today, let’s finish with this …

As I was writing this message, I couldn’t help but notice that so many of the things that we’ve said about our fathers and mothers here are true about our God as well. And I suppose that should really come as no surprise, after all it is God who designed the family unit, who came up with the idea of us being raised by fathers and mothers. And in the end, the honor we show our fathers and mothers should point us towards a greater honor, and a greater Father, a heavenly Father.

After all, many of us can look at our parents and say, “I am who I am and I am where I am today because of their love and sacrifice.” And yet, who is this also true of, true of even more so? Jesus.

In our parents, we get a picture of our relationship with Christ. For just as it is with our parents, so it ought to be a million times so with our heavenly Father. For who tells you to listen and obey is the one who made you, loves you, knows you, knows more than you, wants what’s best for you … so trust him. More than any other parent ever, He is worthy of your honor.

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