Pastor David B. Curtis


Honor Your Mother...

Exodus 20:12 & Ephesians 6:2

Delivered 05/09/1999

I've noticed that sometimes children enjoy looking at photo albums. All of our girls, for some reason, really enjoyed getting out all the family photo albums and looking through them. There's a story about a little boy who was doing just that early one evening. His father was home from work and was sitting in his recliner reading the newspaper while his mother was in the kitchen busy preparing the evening meal.

The little boy came across a picture of his mother and father's wedding ceremony in the photo album. He said, "Daddy, what's this picture of you and Mommy here for? Why is she in a white dress and you in a black suit?" His father said, "Well, son, that's a picture taken on the day your mom and I got married." The little boy thought for a while, and then asked his father, "Is that when you got Mom to come and work for us?"

Today is Mother's Day, and if you've forgotten that until right now, then it's probably too late to redeem yourself. You might as well expect to be in the dog house for a few days.

On May 8, 1914, President Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day "for displaying the American flag and for the public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of the country."

On Mother's Day, families pay special tribute to their moms in various ways--cards, flowers, breakfast in bed or at McDonald's, lunch at a fine restaurant, long distance calls, and special gifts. These are just some of the ways families will say thanks to mom, and that is as it should be. But, too often Mother's Day is simply a time when families attempt to atone for an entire year of neglect, indifference, misuse, disrespect, and a lack of thoughtfulness and genuine appreciation. How typical of people--especially Americans. And how hypocritical!

Most present day philosophers, both Christian and non-Christian, would tend to agree on one point: that Western man is now living in a post-Christian era. In other words, this is no longer a truly Christian nation due to the choices we have made as a nation in the last thirty years. Our coins still say, "in God we trust," but certainly, by the choices we have made, especially since the '60s, we are not trusting in God as a nation. We have a form of godliness, but we deny the power and reality of God by our true beliefs and actions.

What is meant by the statement, "we are in a post-Christian era"? Does it mean Christianity is dead? Of course it doesn't, for that can never be. Christ's Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. "Post-Christian" means that the influence the Bible once had on our nation's social and moral behavior has diminished to a level hardly recognizable today. This applies not only to morality, but to all areas of life. Education, sexuality, political theory, law, justice, the family, and most importantly, parenting, are now under the failing influence of man-centered opinions.

Our subject this morning is "the family", and particularly, "motherhood." What, therefore, are the effects of this post-Christian era on the family? It is simply this--human reason or secular humanism thinks it is free to set the parameters for the family, for the home, for marriage, and for child development. This opens the door for man's speculations about man and who he is, about what marriage is and should be, and about what is right for the home-for moms, dads and children.

By contrast, a Christian is one who ought to see the home, marriage, and parental responsibilities as framed within the parameters of God's infallible and authoritative Word to man-the Bible. These truths from God's Word should not only shape our beliefs and practices in all areas of life (including the home, where life makes up its mind), but they also make them legitimate, indeed, absolutes to guide us in our trek through life. Our opinions and beliefs are legitimately Christian only to the degree that they are truly founded on the Bible as the Word of God.

We face the deception and threat of shifting values and attitudes that are destroying the family-especially motherhood. Perhaps nothing expresses what is happening in our society better than the old Virginia Slims slogan, "You've come a long way baby!"

In discussing the enticement the world is having on our society through what is called fulfilling employment, Rita Carver writes, "In today's world one wonders if mother is not headed for extinction. . . . Some of our feminist sisters have declared that as non-working mothers, we are only maids doing the job any eight-year-old could accomplish" (quoted from Civilization in Crisis, Richard A. Fowler and H. Wayne House, Baker Book House, p. 6).

Motherhood is almost looked down on in our society today. But it is highly esteemed in the Bible. To set aside only one day a year to honor mothers, is hypocritical. Mothers are to be honored, not one day a year, but every day. The subject of honoring our Mothers is one of great importance. Both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures command us to honor our parents.

Exodus 20:12 (NKJV) "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
Ephesians 6:1-3 (NKJV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

The Scriptures are clear, we are to "honor" our mothers. But what exactly does that mean? As a noun, "honor" approximates our ideas of esteem, respect, (high) regard, or (good) reputation. To honor is to recognize the value of someone, or thing, and to act accordingly. The term "honor" is one that is seldom used in everyday speech. It is, therefore, necessary for us to look at what is meant by "honor" as it is used in the Bible.

1. Giving honor is preferential.

When we honor someone, we distinguish them above someone else. Honoring someone sets them above others:

Romans 12:10 (NKJV) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Honoring parents means to think highly of them, in contrast to esteeming them lightly:

1 Samuel 2:30 (NKJV) "Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.' But now the LORD says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

2. Honor is positional.

When people are honored in the Bible, they are honored largely because of the position they hold. Those whom we are commanded to honor in the Bible, are most often those who hold a certain position of distinction. God is honored because He is the Sovereign God of the Universe. Kings, rulers, elders, and masters are all to be given honor. Parents, too, are to be honored for their position in the family. Thus, honor has to do with the position, power, and dignity that a person has above and beyond others.

3. Giving honor is practical.

Honoring another requires more than mere lip service:

Isaiah 29:13 (NKJV) Therefore the LORD said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,

That honor which God requires of man is an honor which translates into very practical terms, whether it be directed Godward or manward.

4. Honor is public.

The act of honoring mothers begins with an attitude of respect for them.

Leviticus 19:3 (NKJV) 'Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

The outflow of the attitude of reverence is the action of honoring and action, which is generally public. Thus, both husband and children are exhorted to give the godly woman praise in a public place:

Proverbs 31:28-31 (NKJV) Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all." 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.

The evidences of a "dishonorable" child were public, and thus the persistently and willfully rebellious child was to be disciplined (executed) in a public ceremony:

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NKJV) "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, 19 "then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. 20 "And they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' 21 "Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.

That should show us how strongly God views children honoring their parents.

The central passage on honoring parents in the Old Testament is that found in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:12 (NKJV) "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

Paul repeats this command in the New Testament in:

Ephesians 6:1-3 (NKJV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

Let's make some observations about these commands to honor our mother and father.

1. The commands are given to children, specifying their obligation toward their parents.

The terms "father" and "mother" are synonymous with "parents," thus we have spelled out here the obligation of children to honor their parents, Mother and Father.

2. There are no indications here as to the age of the children who are to honor their parents.

We would tend to think that this commandment is given to young children regarding their obligation to their parents, but this is not so. The Greek word used for "children" in Ephesians 6:1 is teknon, which means: "offspring." I am the teknon of my mother, even though I am 45 year old. Other passages will apply this general command to specific age groups, but this command is deliberately broad in scope.

I think that a person comes out from under the command to obey their parents when they go out and establish their own home. But the command to honor is never abrogated.

3. There is no particular action required here.

Children are not told here to do anything in particular to honor their parents. We should assume, and rightly so, that different actions will be required at different times, of different people. We must, therefore, look elsewhere in Scripture to determine how we are to honor our parents at any given point in time.

The Old Testament Scriptures fill in many of the details as to what constitutes honor and dishonor, with respect to parents. When parents are cursed, they are dishonored (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9).

Proverbs 20:20 (NKJV) Whoever curses his father or his mother, His lamp will be put out in deep darkness.

The Hebrew word for "curse" is qalal. It means: " to be (caus. make) light." The Greek word that Jesus uses in the New Testament is kakologeo, which means: "to revile:--curse, speak evil of." This Greek word is only used four times in the New Testament. It is translated "curse" twice and "speak evil" twice.

Mark 9:39 (NKJV) But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.

In the Old Testament, a person who cursed his parents, spoke evil of them, committed a capital offense. To have one's lamp snuffed out was a picturesque way of referring to death. Teens, meditate on that one awhile!

The child can also dishonor his parents by living a lifestyle which is contradictory to that of his parents and of society, including disobedience, stubbornness, rebelliousness, drunkenness, and gluttony (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

4. These commands are accompanied with a promise.

God is very serious about children obeying and honoring their parents; so serious that he gave this vital command in the Old Testament with a special promise. In the context of the Old Testament, in which this promise was given, the promise was first of all national and applied to God's blessing on the nation so they could remain in the land under the care of God. It illustrates the fact that when there is breakdown in the home, there is also breakdown in the society as a whole.

The promise for those who obey their parents is that they enjoy a prosperous and long life on the earth. This states a general principle that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one's life. An Israelite who persistently disobeyed his parents was not privileged to enjoy a long, stable life in the land of Israel. Though that promise was given to Israel in the Old Testament, the principle still holds true today.

Our Lord's teaching on the honoring of parents is fairly extensive. A passage that provides us with great insight into the command as God intended it, and as the scribes and Pharisees sought to circumvent it is:

Matthew 15:1-9 (NKJV) Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." 3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 5 "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"; 6 'then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

There are several important features of this text which we must observe and appreciate before we are able to see its contribution to the subject of honoring parents:

Here we see that the Fifth Commandment is applied by our Lord to adult children, regarding their responsibilities to financially care for their elderly parents. The principle characters in this incident are the scribes and Pharisees. These are not young men, as a rule, but the elders of Jerusalem. Jesus applied the Fifth Commandment to these older men, and condemned them for interfering with those who would care for their aging parents.

The tradition of pronouncing someone's goods to be "dedicated to God" is one that was taught by the scribes and Pharisees, one that was imposed on the people, thus prohibiting the people from doing what they apparently wanted to do. It tied up their funds, making them inaccessible for acts of charity at home. And who, do you suppose, had control of this money? The text does not say, but my guess is that it was the Pharisees. The point seems to be that the Pharisees, once again, took advantage of the needy, the weak, and the helpless, by keeping children from having control over funds which would help their parents.

In this incident, our Lord taught that men dare not attempt to use "honoring God" (Corban) as an excuse for not honoring their parents. It all sounded so pious, so religious. The money, which should have been available to help parents, was "devoted to God" with the spoken formula "Corban." How could anyone fault a child for placing God above parents?

This was a sham, a facade, as Jesus pointed out. This "tradition" of pronouncing something to be "devoted to God" was merely a means of setting aside the Fifth Commandment with pious appearances. True religion does not hurt the helpless, it helps them (cf. James 1:27).

Paul also applies the principle of honoring parents to adult believers, who are to assume responsibility for caring for their needy family, including (in the context) parents:

1 Timothy 5:3 (NKJV) Honor widows who are really widows.
1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Here, as in the Old Testament and in the teaching of our Lord, failure to honor parents by caring for their needs is spoken of as a most serious offense. In the Old Testament, it was a capital offense. In the New, it is a denial of the faith, making one worse than an unbeliever. Thus, Christianity does not abolish Old Testament obligations to honor parents, it ratifies and further clarifies them.

In John's gospel, we find that one of the last acts of our Lord upon the cross was done in fulfillment of our Lord's obligation to honor his mother.

John 19:26-28 (NKJV) When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"

Because Joseph had apparently died and Jesus was the oldest son, a greater obligation for the care of His mother would fall on Him. Thus, in one of His last earthly acts, Jesus appointed John to carry out His earthly obligations. In this final act, Jesus honored His mother.

As we conclude, let me suggest several governing principles which I believe are biblical and relevant to the honoring of parents. These principles will give guidance regarding the form which our honor of parents is to take.

1. If children must give honor to their Mothers, then mothering must be an honorable occupation.

One should hardly have to make such a statement, but in today's world it is necessary to do so. The fact that women line up at abortion clinics around the country and in various parts of the world, suggests that bearing and raising children is viewed as something far less than a blessing. This rejects the clear teaching of the Bible, such as is found in Psalm 127. Those who would leave the home and seek fulfillment in the working world in order to gain dignity and respect, have also turned from the truth of God's Word. Let those who would seek to avoid parenting, be reminded that in God's Word, being a mother is a most honorable occupation.

2. Honoring parents takes different forms for different people, and in different circumstances.

The Old and New Testaments provide us with many positive and negative applications of the command to honor our parents. The young child will honor his parents as he obeys them (e.g. Proverbs, Ephesians 6:1. The older child will honor his parents as he (or she) is obedient to God. The child whose parents are dependent upon him will honor his parents by providing for them (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:3, 8).

It is very important to realize that honoring parents takes many different forms at different times. This means that one cannot honor parents by some kind of "token act." It means that the way one person honor his parents may differ from the way another person does. It should caution us about those who have a very simplistic formula for honoring our parents. It means that we must carefully and prayerfully come to our own convictions and conclusions as to our personal responsibilities to our parents, based upon the principles of God's word.

3. We honor God when we honor our parents.

Not only do we honor our parents when we honor God, but we also honor God when we truly honor our parents. There are two primary reasons why this is true: First, we honor God because we are obeying His command to honor our parents. Honoring our parents, when it is act of obedience to God's Word, is to honor God. Thus, we see that the norm is that honoring parents accomplishes two things at the same time: honoring our parents and honoring God.

But what if a person has parents who are hardly worthy of honor? We know of many children whose parents seem to have done their best to ruin their lives. Children who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused will have to deal with the effects of this for their entire life. How can such children honor their parents?

The answer to this question is found in the second way in which honoring parents honors God. When we honor our parents, we acknowledge that they have been ordained of God to be our parents and to receive our honor. Honoring parents who are not worthy of honor can only be done as one recognizes that God has appointed them to be parents, and thus they are honored for their God-given position of parent, not for their performance as a parent.

When a child honors an unworthy, unkind, parent and does so because he or she recognizes that God has appointed them to hold this position of authority and honor, they are submitting themselves to the sovereign hand of God. And because they know that God causes all things, ultimately, to work for good in the believer's life, they realize that while the parent may do something for an evil purpose, God has allowed it to happen for a good purpose (cf. Genesis 50:20). Honoring an unworthy parent thus opens the door for one to see the good hand of God in giving a poor parent. It is often the weaknesses of the parent, in such a case, that brings about corresponding strengths in the child.

Because of the rapid increase of divorce, children are often called upon to honor one parent and to despise the other. Neither parent can seem to tolerate the thought of the former mate having the respect of their child.

4. Honoring parents is so important, and potentially so costly, it is something which we must plan to do in advance.

Honoring parents will require much more than an occasional Hallmark card. If honoring parents involves caring for them in their old age, this is a costly matter, and one for which we must prepare ourselves in advance.

Honoring our mothers is not something to be done one day a year, but everyday throughout our lives. Ask yourself this morning, "Are you fulfilling the command of God to honor you mother?" Keeping in mind the words of Jesus:

John 14:15 (NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments.

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