We’re taking a fresh look at the Ten Commandments. And we’re in commandment number five and I’ve entitled this A Word to Families in an Age of Chaos.
And I’ll never forget the first time I did all the research on this and I taught it in a non-Biblically oriented community and I began talking to them around staff and people. What do you think it means to honor your mom and dad?
So I thought, before I teach this, I want to find out, kind of, what people were thinking. And it was amazing where they said, I have no idea. I don’t even know what it means to honor someone.
Well, what’s it mean, do you think, for small kids? Or what do you think it means when you’re an adult? And what’s it look like when you’re thirty years old or forty years old or forty-five years old, what’s it look like to honor your mom or your dad?
Or what’s it look like when you have kids that are five, or six, or seven, and they’re real small and you’re the parent and you have this command. They’re supposed to honor you. What’s your role as a parent?
And then what do you do when you’re ten, twelve, fourteen, fifteen and you’re very coherent and you understand how life works. And you realize, this command was given to all of God’s people.
This command was not given to a Sunday school class. This wasn’t given to some little group of small children. Now, this is what you need to know. This was given at Mount Sinai from God out of this complete pagan background and the children were there, the adults were there, they heard God’s voice.
And so the application is for children, for teens, for adults, and even older adults about what it means to honor your mother and your father.
And so I want to dig in and as I do, I want to give just a quick little disclaimer. In our day there are so many painful dysfunctional families. What I’ve watched when I’ve taught this before is when you talk about honoring your father and mother and people have come from very painful, dysfunctional, drug, alcohol, or sexually abusive or physically abusive backgrounds, you can almost watch people withdraw and say wait a second, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I can’t honor my mom. You don’t know what she didn’t do and she knew what was going on. I can’t honor my dad. I remember when he beat me up.
And so here’s what I want you to do, is lean back a little bit, I’m going to address at the very end of this message how you honor a mother or a father when in your heart of hearts you believe there’s no way I can honor them. But what you need to do is hear what God has to say about the content of honoring parents because you need to break the cycle. You need to be a different kind of parent. Or you need to be the kind of person that teaches your kids a different way.
So let’s look at the text together. It’s really pretty straightforward. The command is, Exodus [20:12], “Honor your father and mother.” The promise is, “So that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
So, it’s, I mean, this is not like difficult to…
“Honor your father and your mother.” So honor your parents. What does it mean, then, to honor your parents? Let me give you a definition of the word “honor” here. This word, literally, in Hebrew, means “to be heavy.” It means “to glorify.” It means “to ascribe value and worth to” your parents.
It means “to respect them” or “to hold them in high regard.” And the word usage in the exact same form of this Hebrew word, to give you a little color, a little background on how this word is used elsewhere, in Leviticus 19:3, the word is used for the honor or the awe and fear and respect that’s to be given God.
In Deuteronomy 26:19, this exact same word, in this exact same form, is used for fame or praise or speaking well of. It’s the enhancing the reputation of another.
And then finally, this exact same word in 1 Samuel 2:29 and 30. It has the idea of wanting to please, wanting to obey someone in a relationship.
Now, the question then is, well why did God give this command? I’m going to give you three reasons why I think God gave this command.
And have you noticed that this command is very different? We’ve had four commands and where’s been the focus of all the first four commands?
Vertical. No Gods but the true God. No worship but authentic worship. Don’t abuse My name. The Sabbath day, it’s My day. Keep it holy.
And now, what He’s doing, this is the transitional command. This command goes from how we are to relate to God in our own personal life. This is the very first command that deals with human relationships with one another.
And so, the very first reason He gives this command is that the family is the foundation for human relationships.
If it doesn’t work at home, God’s core, God’s desire, God’s divine design or intent, the family unit. And God is not grey or blurry about what the family unit is. The family unit is not a group of people who decide to learn and want to live together.
The family unit is not people who can adopt a baby even though they’re both of the same sex. The family unit, in Scripture, is very clear: A mother, a father, and children. A man and a woman, monogamous relationship, committed in covenant before God, together. And offspring called children. That is the family. That is the divine design.
Now, are there times where a mate dies? Yes. Are there times where you find yourself a single parent for reasons that you don’t have control of and will God give grace? Absolutely.
But what He wants us to understand is that the foundation for human relationships, designed by God, is the family. And it’s the first priority of all human relationships. It is the core, it is the nucleus, it’s the glue of humanity. There is a reason why this is the fifth command.
The second reason is it’s the foundation for respect of authority. This idea of honoring has to do with respect or obedience to authority. It will be impossible for small little boys and small little girls, if they don’t learn to respect and obey a parent that they can see, they will never respect or obey other human authority.
And there is a line of hierarchy in God’s design. There are people that are the boss in the family. There are people that are morally responsible that they make the rules. That they’re in charge. That they are culpable. And they’re responsible.
And there’s other people in the family that are to submit to those rules. And there is a stewardship of parents. We’ll learn a little bit later of not exasperating our children. Of not using rules as a club. Of doing in context of love.
But you know what? As someone else has said, parenting is not for cowards. It takes courage. We have fallen into the day where every parent in our culture is, the goal is to be your kid’s buddy, to be their best friend.
I got news for you. There’s plenty of good buddies and plenty of good friends. And there’s a time where that will evolve but your kids need to understand, you’re a parent.
The Latin word for “parent” is an interesting little phrase. “In loco Dei.” In the place of God. That’s what the Latin derivative of the word “parent” means. Is that God has placed a parent in the home in place of God so that a small child would understand the holiness, the love, the compassion, and the authority of God in human flesh for a period of time.
So, the foundation for family relationships. Second, the foundation for the respect of authority. And third, the foundation of human development. The foundation of human development.
Both undergraduate and graduate work, I changed my majors a lot but I ended up with some education degrees and a psych degree in undergraduate and graduate work.
And here’s what I’ll tell you. Whether you Adlerian, Erikson, Skinnerian, Jung. It doesn’t matter your background. Every psychological study in the world will tell you: the most powerful socializing agent in the entire world is the human family.
There are peers, there’s experience years, there’s traumatic things that happen but when you want to find out what most impacts a person’s view of themselves, view of life, sense of being loved, self-esteem, sexual identity, and moral values the socialization process, by in large, the most powerful one in the world is called the family.
And that’s why it’s so important that we do life God’s way. That’s why it’s so important that your kids get an amazing balance of firm boundaries that create security and where they get overdoses of affirmation and love and encouragement that produces significance.
Every kid is always asking two questions: Can I have my own way? And do you love me? And the answer to, “Can I have my own way?” And I mean my selfish own way for me. The answer’s always no.
And the answer to, “Do you love me?” The answer is always, yes. Regardless of what they’ve done, where they’ve been, what they go through. And when you keep those two things in balance, you’ll produce kids that are very secure, have a healthy sense of significance, and know what it means to submit to authority.
So let’s get down to the real practical. What does it look like to honor our parents?
I want to talk about what it looks like to honor your parents when you’re a child. A smaller child up through the preteens in the home.
Then I want to move on because as you study, you know, I’ve looked up every verse in all the Bible, Old and New Testament, about family and obeying and honoring and wherever it pops up.
And then what you find is that when kids get to be in those later teen to early adult years but still living in the home, it looks different to honor your parents.
And then what you’re going to find is that when you are a middle-aged parent and your parents are aging, you’re still to honor your parents. But what the Scripture says what that looks like is completely different.
So let’s look at them one at a time. What’s it look like to honor our parents as a child? I honor my parents by, write the word in, obeying them. When there’s a small child, whether they’re three, five, seven, nine, eleven. I mean on up through the teens. A child honors their parents, first and foremost, by obeying them.
Ephesians 6:1 to 4 says, “Children.” It’s a command. “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Now, did you notice what he’s quoting here? Honor your father and mother. The Apsotle Paul, inspired by the Spirit, is reaching back to the fifth command. “Which is the first commandment with a promise.” Why? “That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
So, children, here’s your responsibility. Obedience. And then notice the next line. And notice who’s morally responsible in the home. Does the next line say, “parents”? Does the next line say “mothers”? What’s it say?
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up,” it’s an interesting word in the Greek that has, for the full development of the child, “…bring them up…” or nurture them spiritually, emotionally, physically. Create an environment. How? “…in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
And so, when a small child up through those teenage years, they honor parents by obeying. And if you will, with that pen that you brought, circle the word “obey.” It’s a compound word and it’s kind of interesting so it’s worth kicking around. The word “obey” here is “hupo” – to be under. “Akouo”
And I use that because there’s a sound. How many people play guitar in here? How many people when I say, this room has good acoustics, you know what I’m saying?
An acoustic guitar is a kind of guitar. That’s where we get our word “acoustic” or “hearing.” “Hupo” means “to be under.”
And so, there’s a picture here where obedience is, your little children, especially, need to be under the hearing of your word. That means they obey you when you speak. Children obey your parents. That means, do what they say.
And I’m going to suggest that obedience has three characteristics. One, it’s immediate. Two, it’s complete not partial. In other words, when you say to your kids, “Clean up your room,” sixty-seven percent of a clean room is not obedience. A hundred percent of a clean room is obedience.
It’s immediate, it’s complete, and it’s with a good attitude. The number one thing you need, as parents, to teach your kids early on and by the way, when you start real early, the better it is for them and the better it is for you.
Teach them to obey.
And we got a generation of people that this is how it goes. Have you ever been to a grocery store and there’s about a two or three or maybe four year old and they’re in the car, right?
And the lady or the guy is going like this and the kid’s leaning over, reaching over everything, and the parent, “No, no, no.” “Can I? Can I have?” “No, no, no, you can’t have that.” “Can I?”
And, you know, you watch this battle. In fact, sometimes, when Theresa and I walk around if I catch this, I just can’t, I could get about fifty feet and I just watch. I just want to see how much of this is going to go on.
And you know who almost always wins those battles? It’s not the parent.
And we have a generation of people that kids have learned to teach their parents rightly how to obey them. And so we’ve got five and eight and nine year olds directing the world.
How many times have you been over to some friend’s house, when your kids were small, or maybe now and they’re back, either playing in the back bedroom or they’re playing with some toys over here.
Or, I remember one time, they were playing in a sandbox. And this is so classic. And so you all go over there and, let’s not make it you, let’s make it some very insensitive, probably, parent that’s not anything like you but this could happen somewhere, someday.
And so, they say, you know, you guys have had coffee and dinner and you’re ready to go and you do what parents do. “Honey, I’ll go tell the kids it’s time to go.”
And so, there’s two kids playing out in the sandbox and you say, “Johnny! Okay. It’s time to go, right now, let’s go.” And then, like parents, you get out from the table so you come to one of those doors. Not the front door but one of the doors and you start talking.
And when you look, neither kid has moved. They studied you for years. I mean, they didn’t even flinch. A toy didn’t even come out of the sand. And then you talk for five or six more minutes because you’ve been trained by your child and then you go back and say, “Johnny! Right now! Put those toys away and let’s go.”
And then you move from that doorway to right near the door where you’re actually going to leave and you start talking again. The one kid looks at the other and goes, shrugs his shoulders, keeps playing.
And then, pretty soon, you realize it’s been about fifteen minutes. And then, because you’re a highly trained adult, “Johnny! Right now! Get out here. And the kid casually looks at his friend and goes, “It’s about time to go. I’ll see ya.”
And you know what? It’s kinda funny when you tell it like that. But you know what that kid is learning? That kid has learned and has been taught that when your veins pop out and when your voice is high and when you’re screaming like someone’s ready to die, it’s only then that you’re going to act and only then that they need to obey. When it’s three and five and six, we can laugh in a room like this. When they’re sixteen, it’s not very funny.
I learned this almost the hard way. There was a hedge that was about as high as these chairs and Theresa and I were taking a walk and I was learning how to be a parent and still learning but back then I’d had a lot, lot more to learn.
And our boys were running out ahead of us. They were about four and half at the time. And we were holding hands, taking a little walk and there was a hedge like this and then right up about here, there was a driveway. And then people coming off this road and then another hedge in a driveway.
To make a very long story short, my one little son was, he would run up ahead and I’d say, “Eric! Eric! Slow down. Stay close to us.” And he would wait and run and… And I would say, my hearing of my word, and he wouldn’t obey, and he wouldn’t obey, and it was kind of cute.
And then in my peripheral vision I saw a car coming out and he couldn’t, there’s no way he could see my little boy. And it was like a nightmare. I could see my little boy going, and here’s the opening, and here’s the car I can see.
And I screamed, “Eric! Stop!” And he laughed and ran and I mean, it was like, tchoo, tchoo. And one of those times that I think, you know, maybe in my mind’s eye, overly dramatic, but I just, everything flashed in front of me.
I thought, I just lost my boy. And you know what, it wasn’t his fault. It was my fault. I had taught him that when I speak, you don’t have to obey. I had not taught him that when I calmly say, “Eric, stop.” Those words have content and they have meaning.
And I committed myself, from that point on, with all my kids, that when I say it calmly, when I say it one time. And, you know, I’m not harsh. But when I say it calmly and one time, I expect you to immediately obey, completely obey, and with a good attitude obey.
And if you don’t, you will get to experience the consequences of your behavior. And when you do, you will get to experience the good consequences of your behavior.
And you know something? When they learn that at four, five, seven, eight, nine, ten? Children, number one responsibility, the only command I can find in Scripture for a child, is obedience. And parents, your number one responsibility is not their self-image. Your number one responsibility is not to make them a great volleyball player, basketball player, ballerina, or musician.
Your number one responsibility is to make sure that your kids know how to obey you, who they can see, so they can learn to obey a God who they can’t see.
And that’s what it means to honor your parents.
Juvenile delinquency was a non-issue in the Old Testament community. Because you know what the price tag or the penalty was for cursing your mother or your father? I mean, just talking back in a cursing tone and showing disrespect for your mother or father? They stoned them.
Now, I don’t have any place in the Old Testament where they actually that I hear of had to inflict that. But just it being on the books, if I was a young kid, I would say, “Ooh, I think I’m going to obey mom and dad.”
There is a healthy fear that is positive. And I think it’s important for us to have that delicate balance and, yes, I think there was a generation where parents were harsh. I think there was a generation where kids were to be seen and not heard.
And I think that pendulum has swung so far that we have not taught our kids to obey us and we do not take it seriously. And we do great harm. What does it look like to honor your parents, as a child? Very simply put, you obey them.