Mom and Dad
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

From the Bible: Deut. 5:16, I Timothy 5:8, Proverbs 23:24, Matthew 6:14

Deut. 5:16a (Holman) Honor your father and your mother.

Honoring parents is so important that God commanded it with His own voice at Sinai, and wrote it with His finger on tablets of stone. Honor is an inward disposition producing outward acts. Both are needed. Don’t be like the boy described by Kent Hughes. Made to sit in the corner by his school teacher, he said, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”

To honor our parents means to think of them, and to treat them, as dear, of great value. Honor includes obedience, but also entails more. Our obedience to parents must flow from a heart filled with love, gratitude, and respect.

The fifth commandment was given to adults as well as to children. We grow too old to obey parents, but never too old to honor them. Every person, child or adult, can honor their parents by giving them at least four things.

One, honor your father and your mother by giving them provision. Christians are under the mandate of Scripture to care for their parents as long as they live. In the context of caring for widows, the Bible says, “If anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8).

Our obligation is to care for our birth-parents and parents-in-law until they die. Be good to them. Never leave them needy or lonely. Provide for them when they can no longer care for themselves.

We dishonor our parents if we neglect them. They care for us at the beginning of our lives. We must return the favor, if needed, at the end of theirs.

Two, honor your father and your mother by giving them pride. Most parents deem their children the pride of their life. Successful children make proud parents. We owe our parents the best we have to give. I appreciate the attitude Epaminondas the Theban showed. After winning a battle, he said, “My chief pleasure is that my parents will hear of my victory.” Make your parents proud.

Don’t embarrass your parents. Years ago I watched a couple take their son to juvenile court. The three went in together, only the parents returned. The youth was taken into custody. The parents left arm in arm, literally propping each other up. As they walked directly by me, what was that look on their face? Pain, shock, courage, ultimate tragedy? I couldn’t describe it, but I knew it wasn’t pride.

Make your parents proud by living for God. “The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly, and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him. Let your father and mother have joy, and let her who gave birth to you rejoice” (Proverbs 23:24-25). I grieve over youth and adults who, void of compassion, choose a life of sin, thereby breaking a Christian parent’s heart. Some here are at this moment dishonoring their parents. They weep for you, for your spirit, but you don’t care. I urge you, make your parents proud.

Three, honor your father and your mother by giving them praise. I more and more find myself preaching funerals for people who are near the ages of my mom and dad. Someday I will plan the funeral. While there’s yet time, we need to say, or at least write in a letter, many things to our parents. Flowers and tears never compensate for words left unsaid.

At age 28 I lost my first grandparent, Grandpa Marshall. My sense of loss was indescribable. Soon after he died I developed an insatiable desire to do genealogical work. For months Ruth and I spent my weekly day off at the St. Louis Library researching family history. In retrospect, I know what I was doing. I was seeking information I should have discussed with Grandpa. I was trying to make up for things left unsaid between us, for questions about him I never asked. I was saying too late, “Grandpa, you were extremely important to me.”

As part of praising our parents, find outward, tangible ways to show we appreciate them. Eneas is remembered for leaving all else behind to carry his aged father out of Troy when it was on fire. David Livingstone learned Gaelic to be able to read the Bible to his mother in the language she knew and loved best.

Joseph, hearing that his father was coming, humbly left his seat next to Pharaoh’s throne, made ready his chariot, and respectfully went to meet Jacob. The son fell on his father’s neck and wept a good while (GN 46:29). He was saying, “Dad, I love you. You matter to me. I appreciate you.”

Create ways to show how much we value our parents. Develop good confirmation skills ( hugs, cards, letters, phone calls, visits in each other’s homes.

To praise our parents, find ways to show gratitude. Most of us had parents who worked hard for us, tried to raise us right, fed and clothed us. Humans enter this world the most helpless of creatures. Unable to do anything for ourselves at birth, we owe our lives to parents. We should often tell them, “Thank you.”

Most people find it easy to praise their parents, but some find it extremely difficult to do. Many are hard pressed to find good things to praise about their parents. This brings us to the fourth gift we can give our parents.

Four, honor your father and your mother by giving them pardon. Forgive them. Some have extreme difficulty honoring their dad and mom because parents are not always honorable. Some were absent, others drank heavily, some abused the spouse or children verbally, physically, or sexually. For many, finding the honorable in their parents is a challenge.

Honoring parents can be hugely complicated. I have to admit, distance is often the best thing for a relationship between parents and adult children. But even in cases where personality conflicts preempt frequent, intimate contact, we must still find ways to express honor for our parents.

Even those who experienced, and still have to endure, the worst parents imaginable must honor them. We are not afforded the luxury of obeying God only when it’s easy to do so. Parents don’t have to be perfect to be honored.

David and Bathsheba’s terrible sin was a blight on the family. Solomon honored his parents anyway. One day, when on his throne, his mother Bathsheba entered the room. The King “stood up to greet her, and bowed to her” (I Kings 2:19), thereby showing honor to her in the sight of others. He did not hold the past against her.

Let me give loving, pastoral counsel to those who have trouble honoring parents. Forgive your parents’ sins and mistakes. Our Master said, “If you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” (Matthew 6:14-15). God forgives us as we forgive others, including our parents.

You with non-Christian parents especially need to forgive. Lost parents have trouble understanding what has happened to you. If unbelieving parents lash out at your Christian beliefs or actions, respond with love. Forgive them, overlook all you can. This may be your only way to win them to Christ. Never argue, yell, or retaliate. Contention only makes the relationship more tense.

Prove to them your life is really changed. Christian teens, do better in school, volunteer more at home, be extra kind to dad, mom, and siblings. Adults, live a circumspect life, in every situation show Christian dignity and grace. Let your lost parents see the difference Jesus makes.

Christian parents also make mistakes. Children too often expect their Christian parents to be flawless. Anything less than perfection on the part of parents is considered a hideous, grievous sin. Teenagers often rebel against parents, calling them hypocrites. Grown adults can nurse an old grudge over past incidents. Are our parents the only people in our lives not entitled to make mistakes?

If an abusive father, previously unknown to us, walked this aisle, asking God and us to forgive him, we would do it in an instant, but some of us have never forgiven our abusive parent. You say, “Preacher, my dad beat Mom and us kids, and spent our food money on alcohol.” So did this one who walked the aisle.

Are you worth more than his children? Was your dad hitting you a worse crime than this man’s hitting his children? We would forgive the faults of this total stranger. Our parents deserve at least the same treatment. We need to forgive the beatings, slappings, cursings, abuses, etc.

Honor makes our attitude toward parents beautiful through and through. God grant us grace to give our parents provision, pride, praise, and pardon.