Robert Jeffress - Honor Your Parents
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". The family unit is the solid foundation upon which a healthy nation is established. When our families suffer, our community suffers. When families thrive, the entire country wins. Today we're going to look at the fifth commandment, which describes the most basic requirement for a God-honoring family. My message is titled, "Honor Your Parents" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
You're probably familiar with fairytales like "Cinderella," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Snow White". But I imagine there is one old German fairytale you've never heard before. It's a real one. It's called the "Old Grandfather's Corner". It's a story about an old man who is living with his son and daughter-in-law and their children. He's getting more and more feeble, his hands shake badly. In fact, they shake so much that when he eats soup, he gets more soup on himself and on the tablecloth than in his mouth. And so the daughter-in-law is disgusted and she said, "You're not gonna be able to eat with us any longer, instead, we're gonna put you in a corner over there and you have to eat in the corner behind the screen so we don't get sick looking at you eat".
And so he's over there in the corner eating his soup one day when his feeble hands drop the bowl and the clay bowl shatters into a thousand pieces. And now the daughter-in-law really had it and she said, "We'll build you a wooden bowl and you'll have to eat your soup out of the wooden bowl". One day the father in the family saw his young son playing with two pieces of wood. He said, "Son, what are you doing"? He said, "I'm building a bowl for you and Mama to eat your soup out of when I grow old".
One thing I've learned as a father and grandfather is that our children and grandchildren are watching us very closely. And if we want our children to honor us in our old age, they better see us honoring our parents in their old age. And that is the focus of the fifth commandment. If you have your Bibles turn to Exodus chapter 20, beginning with verse 12, as we discover why we should honor our parents. As a pastor for more than 40 years, I've discovered time and time again, our attitude toward our parents shapes every other relationship we have in life.
And I believe that's why it's no accident that God begins with that parent-child relationship. Now today in the few minutes we have, we're going to answer four crucial questions about this commandment, because as we'll see in a moment, this is the first commandment that has a specific promise linked to those who obey it. First of all, what's so important about families? Why would God start talking about the family relationship? Why is that so important? Why is the family so crucial?
In the little book, "Laws That Liberate," the writer gives five reasons the family is important. I want to expand on those for just a moment. First of all, the family is the basic building block of society. The family is the basic building block of society. That was true in the days of Israel, it's true today as well. Secondly, the parent-child relationship is our only lifelong relationship. Think about that. I had to think about it a little bit this week. The only lifelong relationship we ever have is with our parents.
Thirdly, the parent-child relationship, cultures or shapes a child's self-image. The parent-child relationship shapes a child's self-image. How we think of ourself is largely influenced by how our parents think about us. A fourth one, the family is the incubator for shaping a child's attitude toward authority. One crucial reason the family is important is, it shapes a child's attitude toward authority. Listen, children who learn early on that there are boundaries in their behavior within the home don't have as much trouble accepting that there are boundaries outside the home. And finally, the family establishes a child's values.
But that leads to a second question. What does it mean to honor your parents? To honor your father and mother? That word honor is the Hebrew word "kabad". It literally means weighty, substantive. It's the same word we get glory from. When we say that our duty is to glorify God, literally it means to make God heavy, weighty, substantive. You say, well, how can we make God heavy? He already is heavy, he's substantive, but most people don't know that. And so we ascribe heaviness, substantive to him, substance to him by how we treat him in the eyes of other people. Is he first in our life? Do we speak of him with reverence? It's the same thing. To honor our parents means to ascribe worth to them, substance to them. Leviticus chapter 19:3 says, "Every one of you shall reverence his father and his mother".
Why should we honor our father and mother? That's the third question. Now, the easy answer would be because God says so. But that answer probably goes over about as well with you as it does with your children. When they say, "Why should I do this"? "Well, because I said so". Fortunately, God gives us some reasons that we ought to honor our father and mother. First of all, there's a theological answer to that question, and that is our attitude toward our parents both reflects and shapes our attitude toward God. That's the theological reason we're to obey our parents. But there's a sociological reason as well. Anarchy in the home leads to anarchy in the nation. I mean, that's just the fact.
You see that in the heart of this commandment. Let's look for a moment. First of all, at the promise of the commandment Exodus 20:12 says, "Honor your father and mother that your days may be prolonged in the land, which the Lord your God gives you". But there is a principle behind this fifth commandment that I want you to see, and that is simply this. God honors a society that honors the family. You know, it's no coincidence that these totalitarian nations that seek control of the world, one of their strategies is to separate children from their parents. When they invade a country, they want to separate parents from their children.
The Bible says there is an anthropological answer to why we should obey our parents as well. And that is appreciation; appreciating our elders maintains their dignity in an undignified world. You know this idea of obeying your elders applies to children and parents, but the Bible extrapolates that idea to say that we ought to have respect for elders in our society.
1 Timothy 5:1 to 2, we don't have time to look at it. 1 Peter 5, verse 5 says that we are to honor elders and how we treat our elders is a reflection of how we treat God. You say, "Where do you get that in the Bible"? Well, Leviticus 19, verse 32, "You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God. I am the Lord". Do you see the connection? Revering the gray headed. Those with gray hair, those with no hair, regardless, we are to revere them. Do I hear an amen on that? Because how we treat them is a reflection of how we're gonna treat God.
And that leads to the final question. How do we honor our parents? What are some practical ways we can honor our parents? This command is obeyed in different ways at different stages in our life. First of all, there's an application for children. For children to honor their parent means for them to obey their parents. Colossians 3:20, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord". Ephesians 6:1, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right".
Now, notice the boundary. Were to obey them in the Lord. In the Lord. What if a child is asked to do something that is illegal or immoral? No. In that case, Acts 5:29 applies. We ought to obey God rather than man. No, we obey them when they ask us to do things which are in accordance with God's will. There's a way to apply this, honor your father and mother to young adults, and that is through our respect for them. In Proverbs 6, verses 20 to 23, Solomon said, "My son, obey your father's commands and don't neglect your mother's instruction. Keep their words always in your heart, tie them around your neck. When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp, and their instruction are light, and their corrective discipline is the way to life".
If you're a young adult and making a key decision, maybe about a marriage partner, about a career, about a financial decision, you ought to seek the advice of your parents. You're not under their command any longer, but remember, they know you better probably than anybody in the world. They love you. They want the best for you, and you ought to at least seek their advice. But there may be sometimes you have to say no to their advice because of God's leading in your own life. You all have heard me tell the story about my mom who grew up in another denomination. She never became a Christian, saved at a Billy Graham crusade and she ended up joining our church on the day Billy Graham joined our church in 1953. She said, "If it was good enough for Billy Graham, it's good enough for me".
That was her comment. But to be a natural member here, she needed to be scripturally baptized. And Dr. Chriswell explained to her why that was, and she did her own study of the Bible and came to that conclusion. Well, her parents didn't understand. They were very upset, thought she was forsaking her heritage by being baptized in a Baptist church. But she went ahead and got baptized. Her parents refused to attend the baptismal ceremony because they thought it was such an affront. But through the years, they had a change of heart.
After my mom died, my grandfather was still alive and one day he said to me, he said, "You know, Robert, the best decision your mom ever made was to join that First Baptist church in Dallas. And if I were physically able, I'd walk down the aisle of that church and get baptized myself". Eventually, they came around and they understood. What I'm saying to you is, if you're a young adult, treat your parents with respect, seek their advice, but ultimately you have to obey what God is leading you to do.
And that leads to a third way we honor our parents in middle age, and that is through our support of our parents. Sometimes that support is financial support. Again, you know, I'm doing everything I can. Amy and I are doing everything we can not to be a financial burden to our children, but sometimes that's beyond the parent's control. And if your parent has a need, you're the first one to meet that need. You know, 1 Timothy 5 talks about widows in the church and talks about widows who have financial need, and it says, "If a widow has a family that can provide for her, let the family provide for that widow and let not the church be burdened". That was Paul's words. He said it's the family's responsibility. And then he says in verse 8 of 1 Timothy 5, "For if anybody does not provide for his own household, his own family, especially those of his own household, he is worse than an unbeliever and has denied the faith".
In Mark 7, Jesus chastised the Pharisees because they found a loophole. They thought not to care for their parents, and we don't have time to look at it, but Jesus condemned them for that. By the way, supporting your parents doesn't always mean financially supporting them. We need to be an emotional support to them, call them, check up on them, invite them to family events. They need to know that they're still an important part of our lives. And finally, we honor our parents through our reverence. Specifically how we speak about them and how we remember them. Did you know it's possible? It's not only possible, it's critical that we honor our parents even after our parents have died.
I remember when my father died, both my parents, as you know, died when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, and there was something about my dad dying. He was the second one to die that hit me especially hard. Those of you who have lost parents know that when that second parent dies, it's really many times a traumatic event. And the week after he died, I was under pressure to get a book manuscript done my second book, and I was reading over it and I came to a paragraph I had written about my father. It wasn't anything bad, but as I read that, I thought, "You know, some people could get the wrong idea about my father, and I don't want anybody to have the wrong idea about my dad".
So I deleted that, a paragraph. We need to be careful about how we speak about our parents. We need to speak about them with reverence to our own children, our grandchildren, and other people as well. It's one way we reverence our parents. You know, I bet every one of us could dredge up some awful memory of our father or mother, something they did wrong, just as our children can about us as well. But hopefully, there's some good things, some positive things you can remember about your parents, and thank God for as well. We don't get to choose what happens to us, but we choose what we dwell on, what we think about.
Philippians 4:8 says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things". Dwell on these things. Some of you're saying, "Robert, you don't understand. You don't understand the abuse, the heartache I've suffered because of my mother or my father". You're right. I don't understand, but God understands, and I would say to you as gently and as compassionately as I can, the only way you're gonna be free and experience the relief you want is by forgiving your parents of those wrong things that they did.
Forgiveness isn't about denying you've been wronged. It's not about rationalizing what happened to you. Remember, it's impossible to forgive people you first don't blame. You have to blame somebody before you can forgive them. Acknowledge your pain to God, but then choose to let go of that hurt you've experienced. Give up your right to get even. Leave it up to God to settle the score. Say to your heavenly Father:
Lord, you know how much this parent has hurt me, how much it's affected me, but today I'm choosing to forgive, to let go, not because our parent ever asked me to forgive them, not because they deserve to be forgiving. I'm forgiving because you have forgiven me.
Isn't that what the scripture says? "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you". Now, again, I say this compassionately, but Jesus was pretty clear about this in Matthew 6. He said if we forgive others, God will forgive us. If we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us.
As I look back with my parents, what I'm most grateful for is when both of them died, there was no unfinished business between us. We said everything that needed to be said. They knew I loved them. I knew they loved me. I hope the same is true for you. When you get that final phone call telling you that your second parent has gone home to be with the Lord, I pray there's no unfinished business between you and your parents that will impact the rest of your life. The best way to make sure there is no unfinished business is to honor your parents in your attitude toward them, in your words toward them, in your memories of them.