[PC-USA] 2004-08-13 - The Fifth Commandment

The Ten Commandments, Part 5

Exodus 20:12 (NASB) Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

How many times have we heard this passage, and how many sermons have we sat through about this topic? First, I'm going to take a little different spin on this. I want us to think about what the commandment does not mean, for there are a lot of misunderstandings about this commandment.

Honoring one's parents does not mean that adults must do what their parents want. That doesn't even make sense, when you think about it. At what age would that end? God expects us to make our own decisions, and we are not to live our lives to please our parents. In fact, while Christ did tell us to honor our parents, He put it in perspective. He warned us that sometimes following Him will cause dissension between ourselves and our parents. He must always come first.

Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV) Said Jesus: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'"

It also does not mean that when we marry, we should put our parents first. Just the opposite, as we are told throughout the Bible.

Again turning to our Lord's own words:

Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV) Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female, 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Many marriage problems stem from a lack of "leaving and cleaving." Our first allegiance is to be to our spouse and children, and after that, our parents. When we marry, that new family takes precedence over the family we are born into.

Honoring parents also does not equate with living our lives for them. The only One we are to "live for" is God Himself. We are to follow God's leading in regard to our choice of career, spouse, lifestyle etc. Parents are human, and they make mistakes. God does not. Honoring parents may mean following in a parent's footsteps, but not necessarily. God gifts each of us individually, and He is to be our pilot, not even the most loving mother or dad.

So how do we honor our parents? As the Contemporary English Version accurately translates, to "honor" means "to respect." We are to treat our parents with respect - and flesh that out by helping them financially if need be.

But that does not mean neglecting our new family's needs or putting them second. It does mean doing what we are led to do. That is our responsibility. And it does not mean that we must take care of an ill parent 24/7, until we are burned out and have a nervous breakdown or neglect our new family. God gives us the blessings of nurses and other medical professionals, and if we have to get assistance, that does not make us a neglectful child, no matter hwat anyone says. That makes us human.And to not avail ourselves of this assistance can even be a form of false pride.

I have never faced this myself, but my friends have - and I have heard too many people try to lay guilt on an adult child who simply cannot care physically for a parent. That's not the decision of the parent himself, another family member, a neighbor, doctor, minister or busybody at church, who should tend to her or his own business (see passages on gossip). Rather, that is a matter between the child, his or her new family - and God.

We are to love our parents, and if we have differences (and we should have differences - God doesn't make carbon copies), let them know that respectfully. We are to be courteous, kind and gracious. That is truly honoring them.

Comments or Questions?

[email jan] cfdevcfpray@yahoo.com