Pay Your Parents
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 15:3-6 (Holman) He answered them, “And why do you break God’s commandment because of your tradition? For God said: Honor your father and your mother; and the one who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But you say, ‘Whoever tells his father or mother, “Whatever benefit you might have received from me is a gift (committed to the temple)” – he does not have to honor his father.’ In this way, you have revoked God’s word because of your tradition.”
The Pharisees said the Twelve broke tradition. Jesus accused the Pharisees of using tradition to break one of the ten commandments. One of their traditions was nullifying the very law they had claimed their traditions were given to protect.
Don’t make the mistake of the Pharisees. Remember, whatever people say, however authoritative it sounds, it must be weighed in light of what God says in His written Word.
Otherwise, manmade rules can become dogma (“am god” spelled backward). None of us is God. Only His written word, the Bible, is authoritative.
The Pharisees found a religious way to break God’s law. To accommodate one of their manmade rules, they sanctioned breaking one of God’s most important laws, one of the ten commandments no less. Commandment five requires us to honor our parents. The Pharisees created a way whereby a person could claim to be honoring their parents while circumventing any financial obligation to them.
If a person did not want to share their wealth with a parent, they could dedicate all their money to the Lord, claiming it as a special gift to God. This sounds pious, but the individual could vow for the money to be given at death.
Saying they wanted to leave God as much money as possible when they died, they could specify that only they themselves would use the money. Claiming they did not want to reduce God’s portion by giving money away, they could shirk their duty to parents without giving one dime to the Lord while alive. Their manmade rule created a way to be totally selfish, yet still be thought religious.
This passage teaches us three vital truths. Lesson one, manmade rules can be dangerous. Rules are okay if kept in their proper place. Jesus did not condemn outward regulations. He Himself gave us many to live by. He merely wanted the rules not to be more important in our thinking than inward spiritual disciplines.
Rules are not as vital as inwardly having a heart for the Ruler. The Pharisees’ endless manmade rules and regulations were no help to true holiness.
We grievously err if we think adopting and embracing certain good-behavior-rules can make people good. The Pharisees are a classic example of this.
The Pharisees were meticulous in outward religious behavior, but inwardly they were self-righteous hypocrites who conspired to assassinate God’s Son.
Hitler’s henchmen are another illustration of this. They killed six million Jews, but psychological tests and other evidence presented at the Nuremberg trials showed they were in many ways “normal” men. In everyday life, they looked like regular guys, kind to neighbors, good husbands, loving fathers, faithful employees.
Living by certain socially acceptable, politically correct rules, they polished their daily exterior actions and patterns. But their real, dastardly problem couldn’t be fixed by outward behavior modification. Badness was rooted deep inside them.
The gaping chasm between good and evil cannot be bridged or glossed over by adopting a few habits or rituals. Our human dilemma is seated far down in us.
External life cannot buy us eternal life. We have eternal life only if we have internal life with Jesus. From His being our internal fountain, external life flows.
Lesson two, rules can make religion appear deceptively easy. Some people prefer a religion done for them. For the sum total of their Christian life, they want pre-packaged, simple rules, suggested modifications for a few select behaviors.
Legalists simplify life by choosing a few pet rules to abide by. It is tempting to let this attitude dominate our service to God. For instance, it is easy to fall into a repetitive life routine, with certain select behaviors under control, and then not have to worry about spending half an hour every day in private devotions.
Beware compartmentalizing life. We tend to decide for ourselves what are big rules and little rules. Often becoming our own lawyer, jury, judge, and god, we self-determine what we should obey and what we need not worry about.
For instance, some would never cheat on a test, but cheat on taxes. Some would never keep a fifty dollar bill found on the floor, but they keep God’s tithe.
Some meticulously keep their own pet rules, but since missions, ministry, and evangelism are not on their predetermined self-prescribed list, they don’t feel compelled to be involved in them. They feel they don’t have to be pestered by such superfluous expectations because they are not on their approved list.
To live totally by our own rules pushes God out of His rightful role. He wants to personally lead and guide our outward behavior from His inward throne.
Lesson three, pay your parents. If our parents come to the point of needing financial help, we their children are to provide for them.
The parent/child relationship can go through at least three distinct stages. Initially, parents provide for children. In our childhood days, parents ideally represent God to us. They are the first people to whom we have a God-given responsibility. In early days, our duty, our commanded response, is obedience.
As long as we are young, living in our parents’ house, we are to obey them. They provide and guide. We submit. Whoever pays for the roof rules the roost.
A second and very desirable stage in the parent/child relationship is friendship. The first goal of parenting is to raise our children for the Lord. The second goal is to woo our children into being our friends, our peers. Ruth and I now enjoy this aspect of parenting. It’s good to have children who are our friends.
Lincoln enjoyed a close friendship with his stepmother. When President-elect, he snuck away from Springfield, and hopped a train to take her a gift and to visit with her. It was a very dangerous trip to try, but he felt compelled to do it.
In the childhood stage, children honor parents by obeying them. In the friendship stage, children honor parents by highly regarding them, by listening to their counsel, even though the children are now on their own, and free to make their own final decisions.
Washington, old enough to make his own decisions about life, chose to go to sea as a midshipman. His trunk was on the ship, but seeing his mom distressed at his leaving, he retrieved his trunk, and stayed home. His mother said, “George, God has promised to bless the children that honor their parents; and I believe He will bless you.” She was certainly right in this prediction. God did bless him.
A third possible stage in the parent/child relationship is when a parent needs to receive help from the children. Christians deem this duty an honor and a virtue. Jesus on the cross is our example. He made sure His mother was provided for.
Parents care for us children in our early life. But then, if the table is reversed in late life, and they need us to, we have to provide for them.
It is wrong to not help parents financially. When I was a young preacher, I had a wealthy church member whose elderly mother lived in only one room of her house because she couldn’t afford to pay the utility bill to heat her whole house.
I wonder how often Jesus saw a rich Pharisee accompanied by poor parents. Pharisees said it was right, but it was wrong, and Jesus denounced it as pathetic. Be wise; being where our words contradict God’s words is not a good place to be.
Notice again the parent/child progression. Children receive care from parents, and obey. Children befriend parents. Children give care to parents. We children are to honor our parents with our obedience, friendship, and provision.