What does God mean when He tells us to honor our fathers and mothers? Is this just a rule for kids or is it for adults as well? In this message Stephen explains the 5th commandment and shows us how to obey it practically.
“ A PARENT’S BILL OF RIGHTS”
I hope you have your study notes available, we’re going to study a lot of scripture. I think they’ll be very helpful to you. We’re going to talk about a very difficult subject. In fact, all those children living at home want to exit probably right now as we get to that fifth commandment that deals with honoring and obeying your parents. We’re going to turn the tables a little bit. We hear a lot today about the rights of the child, Equal Rights Amendment for the child, the year of the child, don’t infringe on their particular bents and all of that. And yet, we’re going to go to the scripture and discover, I believe, what is a balance and that is, the Parent’s Bill of Rights. There is balance in that, don’t misunderstand. In fact, I read this past week of a little boy who had been severely disciplined by his mother and father. And when they all went to bed, he slipped out of his bed and he snuck back to his parents room and attached to the door a note that said, “Dear Parents, Be nice to your children and they might be nice to you. Love, God”
As parents it is difficult finding the balance and I think that the gospels give us some clues as to the deep-seated needs of a child. And I want to begin with the child before I get to the parents. And, in fact, if you have your Bibles, turn to Luke, chapter 2, as we find implicit teaching, four needs that all children have. The first is found in chapter 2, all four, in fact, in verse 52. But let’s start with verse 51, a familiar story where Jesus, of course, doesn’t follow his parents back. He’s in the temple debating with all of the scribes and the Pharisees and astounding them with His knowledge. And He finally is accosted by his parents, as they find Him there, and He follows them back home. And it says in verse 52, “And Jesus” - the boy, perhaps eleven or twelve years of age - “kept increasing” - in four ways - “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God” - and in favor with - “men.” That gives us the implication that children have four deep needs that are the parents responsibility to nurture and develop as they are being reared in the home.
The first is, a child lacks wisdom. And, even as we observe the humanity of Jesus Christ, He lacked wisdom. And wisdom, of course, is that discerning ability to discern between that which is right and wrong, between that which is safe and dangerous, between that which is immoral and pure. So a child, being reared in your home, will discover, by instruction and teaching, what is wise, what is the difference between right and wrong, safe and dangerous. My twin sons, three-and-a-half years old, four, in fact, this month, think that it would be perfectly okay for them to drive home from church, they can’t understand why they can’t steer. Well, I know why they can’t steer, I want to get home! But they don’t understand what’s safe and what’s dangerous. Your child, even though he may, or she may, be thirteen or fourteen or seventeen still may not have been able to distinguish between those friends that are healthy and those friendships that are destructive. And we give them that kind of instruction so that they learn wisdom.
There’s a second need and that is, stature. You could write into the margin of your Bible, maturity. That isn’t just talking about how tall they get, that is a relation to how mature they are. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “My goodness, children grow up so fast now days.” Of course you have, anybody over twenty says that. Well, believe it or not, it’s true. They are actually growing up faster today than ever before. I read some fascinating statistics. In the 1600’s, puberty occurred between the ages of eighteen and twenty. In fact, the Bach Boys Choir, they sang until they were eighteen and then their voices started cracking. Imagine that. Now, they are saying, because of the overexposure to sex, immorality, the level of puberty in children is decreasing four months every decade. They’re saying, now puberty occurs at eleven. Wait twenty years and it will be ten and a half and so on and so forth. A home is a place where a child can be a child. Where we turn off all of the influences that push them to grow up, that push them into a sin-sick mold where they think they’ve got to be adults at thirteen or fifteen or sixteen, letting them take their time maturing. There is a deep need for, what I believe is, a slow maturation in your children. That’s not the place to tease them, if they don’t grow up fast enough or as fast as you think they should, if they are short or tall. It is the haven. In fact, I think we have taken out of our society and our homes that ingredient that protects children, and it is this, naivete. Children are no longer naive. I can remember in fifth grade, I mean if I held a girls hand, I’d get cooties. Do you remember hearing about cooties? Some girl rubs my shoulder and, “Oh, I need a cootie shot.” You tell a fifth grader that now and they’ll look at you like you’re from another planet or something. Cooties! Now I know how wise my parents were. There was some naivete there that is no longer there that desperately needs to be there. You teach your children that Santa Claus exists, I’ll stay off your back. I’m teaching my children cooties exist, so don’t bother me! It is a place where children mature. And, I think, if we have Godly homes, our children may mature slower. But that isn’t a sign to be up in arms, that’s a protection. Naivete, engender it.
There’s a third, and that is, favor with God. In other words, a child doesn’t automatically know how to relate to God. One of the first questions will be, you know, “Who is He? How big is He? Where does He live? How do I pray? How do I talk to Him? Does He see me?” And all of those questions relate to favor with God. And the home is the place is where we instruct them in how to relate to God. They may never adopt that. Our prayer is that they will. But we teach them, the relationship with God is primary.
And then of course, fourthly is, favor with men. Children are primarily selfish. Children are born for the “me” and the “mine.” And they will never learn to relate to people until that is instructed out of them or they learn to control that. So here we find that children have a lack of favor with men and what we do is, we teach them how to respond to men, unselfishly, in a giving way, with responsibility. I remember breaking a window when I was a little kid. It was a beautiful hit. Man, one of the best. Right on the meat of the bat and that thing went sailing. Two yards over, it crashed through a ladies window. And you know what I did? Well, you know what I did, you’d do the same thing, I high-tailed it out of there. I finally got caught. And, of course, my parents took me by the hand and led me back over there to apologize and to pay. What were they teaching me? They were teaching me how to have favor with men. Because, left to myself, I would do anything that I wanted to do and try to get away with it. And yet, the home is the place where we’re instructed how to relate to people.
Those are four important needs that children have. And, if you’ve ever wondered why the Godly home is under attack, that’s exactly why. Because that is the place where children are learning those kinds of things. Turn to Ephesians, chapter 6, and let me give you two more reasons why a Godly home will be under attack. The four reasons I’ve just given you, because the child learns wisdom, how to relate to God, how to relate to men, how to mature. But also, Paul give us some insight. Here is the command expanded, if you would, in Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 1. And, by the way, young people, this is the only command in scripture specifically given to a child or to you. Now, the word “children,” is “teknon,” which could be translated “anyone under the authority of Mom and Dad.” So, in other words, as long as I am under their authority, as long as I am in the home, whether it is eighteen or nineteen or whatever that may be, that is when this command applies to me. That’s why I believe it is a temporary expansion or an addition. The one we’re going to look at, in a moment in Exodus, is a permanent attitude but this is temporary. It says this, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord”. The word “obey,” is “hupakouo,” which means “to hear” and “to be under.” It’s a compound word. You put that together and make English sense out of it and, what he is saying is, he wants the children to get under the authority of Mom and Dad and to listen, to hear under. Now, he’s probably expecting a debate and so, he adds the next few words, “for this is right.” Where’s the psychological analysis? Where are the reports on that one? Where are the statistics? It doesn’t matter. All he is saying is, “Children, obey the authority of your parents because this is right.” And you know how irritating it is for Mom and Dad to tell you to do something and you say, “Why?” And they say, “Because I said so.” Paul sounds just like a dad here. “Children, obey your parents” - why? Because it - “is right.” And, I think, here’s the principle, in a home a child learns to respect authority. Not only the above four reasons, if you are following in your notes but, secondly, because it’s the home where a child learns to respect authority. And this, of course, is so important because this provides the foundation for a child knowing how to respond to the authority of God. You allow your child to disobey you, you are destroying the potential for them to have a healthy understanding of what it means to respond to the authority of God. So we begin there and they learn to respect and to respond.
I wanted to read to you some statistics, that I got, that show you what our society is doing, in terms of this one popular speaker that travels around, has written several best selling books. He said he looks for a day when there will be no schools, no families, no parent-child relationships. He says, “We must settle for nothing less than the total elimination of the family.” He has a very big problem with authority. You know, if you go over to Romans, chapter 1, in fact go over there. Romans, chapter 1, back up. I want you to see something. I’m not saying that disobedience to parents is something new. It isn’t. In fact, G. Campbell Morgan, a great expositor, said, “Never in any day has there been such a blight of children disobeying parents than today. It’s a sign of Christ’s soon return.” And he wrote that in 1901. This isn’t new, this is going all the way back to Cain and Abel. But there is something that, I believe, is alarmingly new and it’s found in Romans, chapter 1. Look at the list of sins that he says will indicate the degradation of a society when God, in effect, gives up. Verse 30, there will be, “slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents”. Now that’s not new but what I find alarming is the last verse. Look, “and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same,” - note this - “but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” So what’s happening in our society today? Disobedience is finding hearty approval. Let me read this to you, officials are recommending, “that laws dealing with the rights of parents be re-examined when they infringe on the rights of children.” There is hearty approval for children being disobedient. Hold on to your hat. Let me read this to you. The bad thing about this is, this is twelve years old. A senator writes his constituents, “Dear Friends, Do you believe that children should have the right to sue their parents for being forced to attend church? Should children be eligible for minimum wage if they’re asked to do household chores? Do you believe that children should have the right to choose their own family? As incredible as this sounds, these are a few of the new children’s rights laws that are becoming a reality under a United Nations program and should be fully implemented by the year 2000. If radical anti-family forces have their way, this U. N. sponsored program will become an all-out assault on our traditional family structure.” And what’s at the very bottom of it? It is the degradation of a society that, not only allows children to disobey but, it approves. No longer are you under the authority of Mom and Dad. So, what do we say to that? How can we combat that? Let me tell you, we can’t. We will, in our own lives however, take at face value what Paul says in Ephesians, chapter 6. “Children obey” - get under the authority and listen to - “your parents” - because it’s - “right.” The home produces respect for authority.
Let me give you another one, the home recognizes or provides a recognition of values, godly values. And the first value or absolute is, obedience. I know you’re probably as moved as I am when you hear statistics. And, I believe, that our homes are, to a very large degree, failing in providing values and absolutes. But I also believe that families are having to battle a great deal of influences to keep their children protected and pure. We’re living in a day where children are bombarded with information. They are exposed to things that we would NEVER speak about. I read a statistic that said that eighty-eight percent, nearly ninety percent, of all sexual situations depicted on T. V. are outside of marriage. Ninety percent. Is it any wonder, this statistic is, that one million girls, between the ages of twelve and seventeen, get pregnant every year. And over half, by the way, will abort that child. And I’m going to talk a lot about that next Sunday. Ten million teenagers have venereal disease. And every day, five thousand teenagers are infected. One child in five uses drugs twice a week and it could go on and on and on and on and on. I have heard parents say, “Oh, I don’t want to pressure my children into adopting my set of values.” I want you to wake up. You know why? Because your child is being pressured to adopt a set of values already. There are three forces, their peers, they will choose, their ungodly society, and yours. The question is, who has the upper hand? Who has the most impact? God has designed it to be Mom and Dad.
Now, you’ll notice, Paul gives us a balance here in case us Dad’s really become overbearing. Verse 4, “fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So balance this with a loving instruction. Nurturing, that’s a beautiful word. It’s not, “bang, bang, bang,” it is, “let me show you how and what and why.” The question that this text raises to me, and especially in this society, is this, where are the dads? You know, he didn’t say mothers instruct your children. He is taking the ball and laying it in the lap of the father in that home. And there may be single moms here who are facing the incredible difficulty of raising that child and I believe God’s grace will be evident to you as you follow Him. But, if there is a mom and a dad at home, it isn’t the mom who gets the dad out of the sack on Sunday morning, it isn’t the mom who makes sure the kids are in Sunday school, it is the DAD. In fact, it’s interesting, you remember when that group of people brought their children to Jesus, for Jesus to touch them, for Jesus to hold them on His lap? Do you remember that story? And the disciples rebuked them for bringing their children. In the original, that is a masculine pronoun, “He rebuked them,” - men. You know who were bringing their children to see Jesus Christ? It was the fathers. Not only evaluate your own home but just think of what’s happening today, the dad’s are gone, they’re absent, they’re pre-occupied. The father has become the simple provider that makes sure the kids have clothes on their back and food on the table and a roof over our heads and, “I’ve done my job.” And God says, “You haven’t even begun. You are the spiritual nurturer.”
And you thought I was going to talk to children today. Turn to Exodus now and let’s take a look and let’s talk to children. Exodus, chapter 20. Let’s see the command itself. Paul amplified and built upon that basic principle and gave it a temporary addition, “while you are under their authority, you obey them because it’s right.” But now, if you’ll turn to Exodus, chapter 20, verse 12, you’ll notice that something is missing and this hit me like a ton of bricks this past week. I have always read this and thought that there was something in here that I just assumed was there but, if you look at that command, you’ll notice, somebody is missing. Who’s missing? The children. You notice what He simply says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged”. He isn’t talking about little children. In fact, this is a general principle. Are you the son or daughter of someone? Well, of course you are. Then YOU, not the “teknon,” not the little child or the teenager that’s under the authority, it’s you and you and you and me. We all permanently honor our mothers and our fathers. He writes, verse 12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
Let me give you two thoughts under honoring. The word “kabed,” in Hebrew, has two implications. The first is, responsibility. Responsibility. Turn to Mark, if you would please. Matthew, Mark, the second gospel of the New Testament. And I want to show you how this is illustrated by Jesus Himself. Mark, chapter 7. He is condemning the Pharisees and the religious crowd, the traditionalists. He says, verse 9 of Mark, chapter 7, “You nicely” - or “you neatly” - “set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your traditions. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God)’”. Now let’s back up for just a second and take note of what’s happening. These people were greedy. These religionists knew that Moses had said, “Honor your father and your mother”, and they immediately assumed that was financial help, once they could not care for themselves. So what they had to do, in order to continue their own materialistic pursuits, they had to find a way around this rule, this law, this commandment. And so they came up with a brilliant idea. They said, “What we’ll do is, take our money that’s left over and we’ll give it a pronouncement, a dedication to God. We’ll call it Corban.” So, “Mom and Dad, you wouldn’t want this money, we’ve dedicated this to God.” And, as a result, according to this text, the parents were being neglected who needed financial help. I’ve talked to a number of you, I have talked with my wife about this situation in regards to her own mother. And I realize that some of you right now are in the middle of caring for a mother and a father who can’t take care of themselves. Some of you are facing the prospects, maybe very soon, of taking care of a mother or a father. As difficult as it may be for you or for your particular situation, in some it may be wonderful, it may be a tremendous experience, others it may be very difficult but, in all of these different experiences, we don’t evaluate how we treat Mom and Dad on the basis of how we feel, we treat them on the basis of what God says and implied in this command is a responsibility financially. I’m not going to tell you how. That’s something that you must decide before the Lord. The question is, are we taking care of them when they can no longer take care of themselves? Responsibility.
There’s a second. Before I give you the second, I’ve got to give you this. I saw a bumper sticker, it looked like a middle-aged couple, and the bumper sticker said, “I hope I live long enough to make my kids regret it.” Boy, that’s the attitude, you know, today. And yet, there shouldn’t be regret. It should be an open house and an open arm and a privilege and responsibility of giving our children this cycle of unending, unselfish love. Where our parents raised us, they get to the point where we, in a sense, take care of them. And our children observe that and they do the same to us. This is the cycle that God has designed. I’ve read, just this past week, that today, if you have a child, one, two, three years of age, you will spend, raising them, putting them through college, at least $350,000 per child. You’re thinking, “Where am I going to get THAT money from?” Put them to work, right? No. I’ll tell you what, $350,000, what a financial responsibility that is. And what we do then is, we turn right back around and we invest it back in them. We take care of them when they can no longer take care of themselves, just as they did for us. Somebody said, “If you want to be wealthy, never have children.” There are a few fortunate people who have money left over and have children but, for most of us, it is having children and that is the financial commitment of our life. And for us, our parents had that same commitment and we turn it back and we give it right back to them as a way of honoring Mother and Father.
Now, there’s a second and that’s reverence. Responsibility and reverence. The word “honor,” literally means “weighty.” That’s it’s first usage. And it came down to develop a word that meant “important.” That is, you hold a person important if you honor them. You consider their advice weighty. That is, you never get to the point, if your parents are alive, that you slough off their opinions. We still, in a sense, respect what Mom and Dad have to say. We are no longer under that temporary addition to obey what Mom and Dad say but you’d be an unwise person to take their advise, having observed them go down the path of life, and turn right back around and say, “Well, I don’t care what you say, I’m not listening.” I consider myself young but, compared to some of my peers, I would be too old to do what I do and that is, talk and receive counsel from my parents. Some of you have godly moms and dads. Some of you may not have parents who love the Lord but yet, you reverence them, that is, you hold them as weighty, you respect the gray hair, you respect the age. They’ve been down the path and God says, “Never check them off.” Always have an open ear for what they have to say. I wrote down a couple of ways of honoring parents. One is, listen. Two, show appreciation. You could develop this list yourself. Respect their opinion. Express your love.
I was a freshman in college and received note, my older brother and I were attending the same university and received a note, that my mother had contracted some disease that they hadn’t been able to pinpoint it and, in fact, had told my father she would die and to prepare for that. Now, you’d have to know my parents to know how in the world they ever got to that point without ever letting us know. They didn’t want to disturb our studies. But we finally got the note and my brother, we had enough money for him to fly, so he flew. He was going to meet and be there with my father. And I would be left at college and just have to wait and see what in the world would happen. And there, as an eighteen year old, for the first time, it hit me as I thought that I could possibly lose my mother, that I couldn’t remember the last time that I told her I loved her. And so I did something that made me feel really, really awkward but I sat down at a table, as my brother was packing his bags, and I wrote what you could call a love letter to my mother. And I expressed to her my feelings. My brother took the note and put it in his bag, went to the hospital and there was my father sitting beside her. And he gave my dad the note, among other things. She was in a coma and it was read to her while she was in a coma. We haven’t talked a lot about that note but that day changed me because now, I never talk to her on the phone, I never see her without saying, “Mom, I love you.” In fact, my father, bless his heart, all three of his boys, we have adopted the same policy, we come home and we, thirty, thirty-five years of age, big old husky four boys, put our arms around our dad and give him a kiss on the cheek. You should see us at the airport, people think we’re from another planet too! We do the same thing to Mom. Now it took that, and I’m one of the fortunate people that had an opportunity to see her again and to tell her face to face.
Leo Boscogelia(?), a very popular professor at UCLA, very traditional, perhaps even a Christian, has a class where he teaches values and his classes are packed out every semester. And he begins, every semester, by asking his students to go back to their dorm and to write a paper. And their paper is to be on the subject, what they would do if they had five days to live. They write the paper and they come back. A couple of days later, the paper is returned without a grade. But written across the top, in bold letters, are the words, “What are you waiting for? Do it now.”
Do you honor your parents? Do you reverence your parents? Do you nurture your children? Do you teach them those things that would prepare them for life? THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the fifth commandment. And even though it’s 4,000 years old, it still works and it’s still right. Let’s pray.