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Parents: Handle With Care

The Fifth Commandment

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          Exodus 20:12Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Ephesians 6:2-3 “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

          There is probably no time in history where the term relationship has been more used and less understood as our time. There is probably no time in history where the term communication is more used and been less successful than in our time. The motto of modern day relationships is ‘what’s in it for me.’ While this is true, there is a reason behind that. First, our ungodly atheistic anti-Christian media and public school system have been training our children for years to be selfish and self-serving and to take care of number one. And more to the point, when we make relationships to be our focus and our number one priority and our goal in life, when it consumes all of our focus, it is like building a building and starting with the second floor. Think of that image. Have you seen them building two story buildings? Many times you will see them close in with plywood or whatever they are using, the roof and second floor before the first floor, but they would never consider trying to fill in the second floor and furnish it with the first floor still open and unfinished.

          Trying to build from the second floor is building on very thin stuff and a puff of wind will blow it away. That is why in spite of all the talk shows about relationship and all the obsession about relationships and in spit of all the experts on relationships, until they come out of our ears, in spite of the fact that so many preachers have abandoned the preaching of the Word of God to preach pop psychology and human relationship. In spite of all of that, our relationships are getting shallower and shallower. That is why it is not by accident or happenstance that God’s commandments are in the order than are in. The order of the Ten Commandments is God’s way of saying to us, these ten are a multi story building, one floor is built upon another, but beneath all that is the fact that they are all built upon a strong and solid foundation. Without that strong and solid foundation the building cannot stand. If the foundation is not right, if it is not strong, if it is not steady, if it is not in the right place, then all of our efforts and energies of relationships will go into a building that we build in vain for it is doomed to fall and self-destruct.

          I don’t care how beautiful the second floor is, how beautiful the furniture on the second floor, how well designed the second floor, without the foundation it will collapse. That is why God began His multi story building by telling us to honor Him first and foremost before we can honor anybody else. That is why He told us to love Him first and foremost, because without that we are incapable of loving anybody else. That is why God tells us to begin by telling us to place Him at the very center of our lives because before we do this we are incapable of placing anybody else in our life properly as God intended. We cannot have a right relationship with man until we have a right relationship with God.

The fifth commandment would have been impossible to even contemplate without the first four. Honoring you father and mother would not make sense with first knowing and putting into your life (1) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (2) “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:” (3) “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;” and (4) “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Those are the four commandments having to do with our relationship with God, in order by proper importance as building a foundation. Then the next six commandments have to do with man’s relationship with other men and it begins with this command to “Honour thy father and thy mother:”

What does it mean to honor your parents? In the Hebrew text, the word honor is the Hebrew word for heavy. What does God mean by that? He is saying give weight to your relationship with your parents. He is saying heavily value your relationship with your parents. He is saying show deep respect for your parents and view your parents as a treasure and a gift from God. Of course this commandment changes as your age, therefore the application to young children and those who are dependant upon their parents is different in its application to those who are independent adults and those with parents that are dependent upon their children.

          For young children and even students that are dependant upon their parents financially and for their provision, even if they are in a college living away from hone, they are to obey their parents, period! There is no discussion. It is over. Both in Colossians and Ephesians the Apostle Paul says children are to obey their parents, period. It does not say to obey them when you think they are right or when you agree with them or when you like it or feel like it. No, you are to obey them whether or not you agree with them or whether or not you feel like it. The scripture says, obey your parents; period. The only time that a dependent child can scripturally not obey his or her parents is if they ask you to commit a sin against God, if they ask you to violate His Word, His Commandments. Otherwise you obey them all the time.

          Yet, when children get older, their relationships change. When they become independent the relationship changes from obedience to respect. It changes from obedience to esteem. It changes from obedience to respect and valuing of their judgment. It changes from obedience to making your own decisions and being responsible for your own actions before God. When you are under your parent’s roof and provision, they have a responsibility for you and authority and responsibility go together, never one without the other. You will never see that one has authority without responsibility or responsibility without authority in scripture.

          For children, I have seven tips. First: Don’t shy away from speaking your parent’s language. Try some strange sounding phrases like, let me help you with the dishes, or ‘let me help you with the yard work’ and ‘yes sir’ and ‘yes mam.’ Second: Try to understand your parent’s music. It may seem hard at time but try to play ‘when I survey the wondrous cross’ on your stereo until you get the sounds. Third: Be patience with your parents weaknesses. If you catch your mom or dad sneaking a candy bar don’t jump on him or her, but quietly set an example. Four: Encourage your parents to talk to you about their problems. Let them talk and get them to open up to you. Keep in mind that things like making a living and paying the bills are very important to them, even though they are not yet a priority or responsibility for you. Five: Be tolerant of your parent’s appearance. When you father gets that old style of man’s haircut, instead of a Mohawk, don’t hide him from your friends. He has to look like his peers. Six: If your parents do something that you think is wrong, tell them that you only dislike their behavior or actions and not them. Seven: Above all, pray for them. Pray for your parents. They may seem confident on the outside but they are weak on the inside and they need God to get them through these difficult years.

          Children who are trained at a very early age in the joy of obeying their parents, they will have no difficulty obeying the Lord or those in spiritual authority. Children who at a very early age learn to submit to their parents authority will have no difficulty submitting to God’s authority and the authority of God’s Word and that is why the Bible said to the father, “do not exasperate your son, but train them up” not only in words but by your example. When a child sees his or her parents walking in obedience to their heavenly father, then they will learn to obey their heavenly father too. But if one is a rebel against authority, then that rebellion will be picked up by the children. I have watched this happen in life around me just as the principle is taught in scripture. Usually, if parents are rebellious and reject God, so do their children, only the children do worse.

          There was this middle aged man who was watching his elderly father suffering in much pain and agony because of sickness. He turned to his daughter and said, “What would you do if I was suffering like my father.” She replied, “I don’t know dad, but I’m watching you to find out.” Children watch their parents for an example and they will imitate them, or one of them if they are not united in their spiritual stand and life. And the sins of the parents are visited to the children and they will do the same and worse. Most of those who smoked pot; first saw their parents smoking cigarettes. They saw and imitated and then when asked why they were doing it and told it was bad for them, they reply with something like, “well what’s the difference? You some cigarettes.”

          Children watch their parents and children who are trained to obey their parents and see their parents obeying God will normally grow up to obey God. Children who see their parents honoring God will grow up to honor God. Children who are trained to esteem and value their parents will grow up to value and esteem their heavenly father. That is why the fifth commandment is very clear. Children obey your parents so that you may live long in the land.

          Here living long doesn’t mean that you will necessarily live to a physical old age. There are many precious and obedient children who die young and some real rascals live to be very old as we all know by watching the news. So it doesn’t necessarily work to be that way in physical terms. To live long in this passage is an Hebraic phrase and it was understood by all the Hebrews at the time it was given to them. It was an expression that meant that they would experience the fullness of God’s blessing, that they would experience the abundant life and fulfillment in your life and joyful contentment in your life when you obey your parents. There is a big difference between quantity of life in years and quality of the life you live and it’s value to others and to God.

          Proverbs 3:1-2My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” The Hebrew word for peace is a much broader encompassing word and means prosperity, but not of money and physical things, but to overcome and to walk in victory. To be well, happy, of good welfare and prosperous as well as to have peace.

          Now I will consider adults and their relationship with their parents. I will speak about the one who might be having problems in their relationships with their own parents, and honoring them. Some were abused when they were children and so they have been angry with their parents their whole life. Some have experienced uninvolved parents and that was hurtful and created anger. Some experienced controlling parents who tried to control and dominate their life and was very frustrating. Others can’t forgive their parents for wrongs done to them when they were growing up.

If any of these things are true for you, then let me suggest this. Sit down and write down all the good things you can think about your parents. You might think or say, ‘well, I can’t think of one good thing about my parents.’ Well, did they throw you out on the street or give you up for adoption or abandon you? Yes, some know this also, but I am speaking of the majority here. And that is something. Anything you can think of that is good that your parents did and all the good memories you have of your life with them. You might say, “But you don’t understand my situation.” No, I don’t, I haven’t been in your situation, as you have not been in mine. But I want to say this. The whole subject of forgiveness is not a theory and something that I am preaching at anyone, but have had to face and deal with first hand and so if anything; I am preaching this with you and not at you.

          There are those who would say, “I really have tried to forgive my parents, but I just don’t feel that I have forgiven them.’ Let us stop here. Feelings are an emotion. Now emotions are 25% of our personality and an important part of who you are. I am emotional and there is nothing wrong with being emotional but there is something important that you need to know about emotions. Emotions will follow the decision of your will. Your emotions will follow the act of your will.

          With some people it may take longer than with others, but sooner or later, your emotions are going to follow the decision the act of your will. So don’t worry about your emotions, when you begin with the act of your will, you will discover that your emotions will eventually follow that which you have decided so don’t worry about it. You think, “I don’t feel like it.” Leave that alone. When you practice forgiveness, sooner or later your emotions will follow.

First, tell the Lord, though He already knows it, you need to go through the saying it to God and speaking the truth to Him and saying, “Lord, I am unable or unwilling” which ever it may be, but tell the truth because He knows it anyway and you can’t hide anything from Him. So don’t tell God you’re unable when the truth is that really you’re unwilling, open up and say, “Lord, I am unwilling. I can’t do it.” Tell Him honestly that you cannot forgive your enemy or the one that hurt you or your parent but you want too. I doesn’t even matter if that person is no longer around or even no longer alive. That doesn’t change the attitude of the heart and unforgiveness that is in a heart. Those who have it and don’t deal with it will carry it to their grave and face the punishment for that unforgiveness.

          Secondly, write down all the hurtful things you think your parents have done toward you. Then once you have finished that, right across the page, write Matthew 6:14-15.For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Then get another clean page and then start writing all your sins, secret and otherwise. Don’t leave anything out. Write them all down. Then hold the two in your hand and say, “do I want these barriers between me and my heavenly father?” Do I want my sins to stand between me and my heavenly father? Do I want my sins to hinder God’s hand of protection, providence and blessing upon me. Of course the answer is, No. Don’t misunderstand. Matthew 6:14-15 has nothing to do with the forgiveness of salvation. Here Jesus is talking about daily forgiveness that comes from daily confessing and daily repenting and daily cleansing that comes from God as a blessing to His children who walk in forgiveness. It is still true, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us or sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). However, if you refuse to practice forgiveness, then eventually you will find yourself unforgiven and without God and under the law and judgment for your unforgiven sin as the servant who would not forgive his fellow servant in Matthew 18:21-25. The story ends with these somber words; “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” The tormentors are demon powers, not heavenly angels.

          Remember this. Don’t forget this. Are you ready to remember? Satan loves to see you in a prison of unforgiveness. Satan loves to keep you a slave to the pain of unforgiveness. But the way to put your finger in Satan’s eye is by practicing forgiveness. Why? Forgiveness is a characteristic of God. Unforgiveness is a characteristic of Satan. Whom are you going to immolate? Whose example are you going to follow? Who is going to lead you?

          A story makes it really clear that I cannot understand forgiveness and reconciliation without understanding the incredible shedding of the blood of the Son of God on the cross for our sins, without understanding the fact that I am a sinner and I can only be saved by the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Otherwise these kinds of reconciliation and unforgiveness will be shallow and temporary.

The story was told by a Rabbi by the name of David Nelson. He told the story of two brothers that would not talk to each other for years. They had nothing to do with each other. They were at enmity with each other. Finally he brought them together and he got them to reconcile together and shake hands. Then as they were leaving his office, he said, “Why don’t each of you make a wish for the other in honor of the Jewish New Year. So the first brother looked at the second brother and said, “I wish for you what you wish for me.” The second brother threw his hands up in the air and said, ‘You see rabbi, he started it over again.”

          True forgiveness must be deeply rooted in the knowledge that you are a sinner. Once you start thinking I am okay, I am good, you will not be able to forgive. Forgiveness is deeply rooted in the knowledge that you are a sinner and a law breaker, you’re a rebellious person. But God forgave you. True forgiveness must be founded upon you, who was a sinner and rebellious person, that God loved you while you ignored Him, that God loved you while you did not love Him, God loved you while you were at enmity with Him. That is why all true forgiveness begins and ends with understanding of Jesus forgiveness of you. Without the foundation, the second floor is going nowhere other than down. Without deep understand of the unconditional love and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ, relationships will not hold and forgiveness cannot be practiced in its truest sense. But a relationship that is build upon the strong foundation of Jesus’ forgiveness of your sins, of redeeming you and giving you eternal life will bring true and lasting forgiveness. You cannot forgive and keep on forgiving without that understanding. Once you have that deeply rooted in your heart on a daily basis you will be able to keep on forgiving until Jesus comes. There is no other way and no other answer for our relationships. You must act upon this daily for the rest of your life and it will change your life and relationships in ways you cannot know until you do it and walk in it.

          As we said, when children become old enough to be financially independent of their parents and are adults, living on their own, the relationship with their parents changes, but not that they should be as many today where children have nothing to do with their parents or parents want nothing to do with their children, because both do happen in our society. Now, you are on your own and there are other commandments relating to your life.

          First, you are responsible before God for all your own actions. God said in Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Now in the Hebrew culture and in scripture a small child is not accountable for their actions, to know right and wrong before God. However the Bible speaks of an age of accountability and to the Hebrews that was and to still is 12 years old. At that time, the son is told he is now responsible for his own actions. In their society, until the child is 12, the parent is fully responsible for any act by that child, but after the child is 12, he is fully responsible for his own actions and not the parent. So it is before God.

          Second. We already stated that a child or young person under a parent’s roof and provision is still duty bound to obey their parents until they are on their own. Now, they have to make their own choices and live by them and suffer for their wrong choices and the parents are in no way responsible and likewise no longer in authority over those children. That is again show when young people get married.

          Genesis 2:24; “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Leaving father and mother speaks of independent separate lives, no longer with or under parents. The Hebrew word for leave is 'azab, aw-zab’ and it means to loosen, relinquish, forsake, leave. The meaning is obvious. Then instead, you are to cling to your spouse. The Hebrew word for cling, ‘dabaq, daw-bak’ means cling or adhere, abide fast, cleave fast together, follow close hard after, be joined together, stick. That is also obvious. So, you leave and cleave. That has been God’s principle for marriage relationships and those married long before the Ten Commandments were given. This is an early commandment of God given to Adam and Eve concerning their children before they had even sinned, which came later in chapter 3. So this command came to them when they were still sinless and pure and undefiled before God. It is a spiritual law. So, there are not to stay under their parents and be under their authority or responsibility but on their own.

          Now, the honoring you father and mother comes into play more as they grow old and unable to care for themselves and roles reverse. Now, when they have to come under your roof and care and that is God’s plan, not the retired folks homes we have today because children don’t want anything to do with them or to be bothered with them. Many times this is because the parents were too busy to be parents when the children were young, the baby sitter was some kid or the tv or nobody and they roamed the streets and so they didn’t really take care of and look after their children and later in life their children don’t want to take care of them because they have had no relationship from the beginning.

          To fulfill God’s intent here is not that when children take their parents into their home that once again they come under their parent’s authority and rule. No, the parent is now dependant upon the children and so have no right to authority over them. Authority and responsibility still go together. Who is living in whose house and who is looking after whom? Yet, there is a responsibility to older parents and to care for them and see their needs are met is the fulfillment of that responsibility to honor their parents in their old age. That is show and proven by Jesus. Mark 7:9-13And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered:

          What was Jesus saying? He was saying that they made a tradition that a person could say that their money was a gift consecrated to the temple and so be free from their responsibility to care for their aging parents who could no longer work and earn a living. If a son declared that the amount needed to support his parents was Corban, devoted to God or the temple, the scribes said that he was exempt from his duty to care for his parents as prescribed in the law. Evidently, too, he was not really obliged to devote that sum to the Temple.

          The New Testament teaching, backing the original commandment and meaning of Jesus’ words in Mark chapter 7 is also given in 1 Timothy 5:4-8; “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” If a widow has children, they are to care for her. If not, the church is to care for her. Plain and simple and if children will not care for their elderly parents, especially a widow, they are worse than an infidel.

          So we see there is a dual application of the commandment to honor our father and mother. First as children under their roof and provision, we are to obey them. Then when we are responsible adults and our parents are unable to provide for themselves, we are to then care for them as they once cared for us when we were young and dependant upon them. That is what it is to fully honor our father and mother. There are exceptions where this is not possible, as when older parents refuse to be with their children, as because the children are believers and the parents are not, or because the parents have the financial resources and don’t need the help of their children. For the adult children it is to assist financially and care for their parents who cannot care for themselves. If it is not needed, it is not required. That is also obvious from the scriptures we have covered. Yet, children should always show honor, as to respect and cherish and love their parents for bringing them into the world and raising them up. That doesn’t change because they don’t need financial help from their parents, but it gives them no right of demand or authority over their children who are adults themselves and probably have children of their own. So there is a two way relationship we have for awhile when we have living parents and children of our own and the relationship of parent and child goes in two directions over the generations.

          The family is the core of society. The strength of the society is dependant upon the strength of the family. The foundation of the family rides on this commandment to honor our parents.

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