Honor Thy Parents – A Christmas Story

How many of us here today have lost their temper with their parents? Or should the question rather be: “how many times have those of us here lost their temper with their parents?” How often do we do things that our parents have expressly forbidden, or even just asked us not to do? How often are we tempted do ignore our parents and do our own thing?

Besides, what exactly does “Honor” they parents mean?

Merrian-Webster defines it as follows.

Function: noun

  1. good name or public esteem : reputation
  2. a showing of usually merited respect : recognition <pay honor to our founder>
  3. privilege <had the honor of joining the captain for dinner>
  4. a person of superior standing – now used especially as a title for a holder of high office <if Your Honor please>
  5. one whose worth brings respect or fame : credit <an honor to the profession>
  6. the center point of the upper half of an armorial escutcheon
  7. an evidence or symbol of distinction: as
    1. an exalted title or rank
    2. badge, decoration
    3. a ceremonial rite or observance <buried with full military honors>
    4. an award in a contest or field of competition
    5. archaic : a gesture of deference : bow e plural
    6. an academic distinction conferred on a superior student
    7. a course of study for superior students supplementing or replacing a regular course
  8. chastity, purity <fought fiercely for her honor and her life – Barton Black>
  9. a keen sense of ethical conduct : integrity <wouldn’t do it as a matter of honor>
  10. one’s word given as a guarantee of performance <on my honor, I will be there>
  11. plural : social courtesies or civilities extended by a host <asked her to do the honors>

That is a lot of meanings, but I don’t think any of those things really covers what God is talking about when He tells us to Honor our father and mother. Please turn to Exodus 20:1-17.

And God spake all these words, saying,
I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

God thinks it is important enough that it is the first commandment He gives that does not pertain to Him specifically.

Well, we know where it is, but we still don’t really know what it means to “honor” our parents.

Read Exodus 21:15,17: “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Read Leviticus 20:9: “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Read Proverbs 20:20: “Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.”

So, God says that if you hit your parents ¨ or curse your parents, you are to be put to death. While Exodus and Leviticus are certainly speaking of the first death, Proverbs is a much scarier verse, in that it is certainly speaking about the second death. Christ uses the alliteration of darkness in His parables for those who are cast out of the kingdom of heaven. What do you think would happen to this nation if a law went into effect that upheld that scripture? How different would it be if children knew that they would be killed if they “disrespected” their parents by hitting them or cursing them?

I read something this morning about this ¨ the second part of the commandment says: “that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” I have always interpreted this as being an individual’s life ¨ but this think about this: how does NOT honoring your parents affect a nation? If the youth of a nation have no respect for their parents, as a whole, how is that going to change the strength, the cohesiveness of a nation? How is America doing in regards to the youth of this country “honoring” their parents?

So again, what does it mean to NOT honor your parents?

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

God says, if a child does not obey the voice of his mother or father ¨ if his parents correct him and he still does not listen, then take him to be judged. I doubt very seriously that our countries courts would even hear a case for a child who fails to “obey” their parents, they barely hear cases about a child beating their parents ¨ there are some countries however, that still punish children for disobedience. Again, this brings home the question: What happens to a nation when its youth begin to disobey and “dishonor” their parents? So I think we have a pretty good idea about what happens when we don’t honor our parents, and I think we are beginning to understand a little about what it means to honor them. Let’s delve into that a little more: Turn to Ephesians 6:1-4.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

And read Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”

Paul is perfectly clear: obey your parents. But, he also gives a little nudge to the parents to help their children out – parents: don’t be a jerk, don’t push your children to anger just because you can, treat them with the love that God commands. (Please remember that Love, according to God, is not a feeling ¨ but how we treat one another. And there is no such thing as “Tough Love.”) We (parents,) if we expect to be honored by our children must raise them according to the instructions God gives us in scripture.

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Our children should be brought up quoting scripture every day, able to stand strong in their faith and knowing God’s word. If we do that, then honor will be easy for them.

So what does Jesus say about honoring our parents? He covers it directly and then He also covers it in a couple of parables.

But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Matthew 5:3-9

Jesus says that honoring your parents is not just obedience to them, but it is also supporting them and nurturing them in their old age.

One of the parables Jesus uses is about a father who sends his two sons to the fields to do work. Turn to Matthew 21:28-31.

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

Matthew 21:28-31

Honor thy father and thy mother. I think we have a pretty good idea about what God wants from us in this respect. Obedience, charity, support, respect – it’s almost difficult to define. Last thing: why do you think I called this sermon “A Christmas Story?”

We celebrated the birth of Christ a couple of days ago, and to us it is a great and joyous celebration. But imagine how Christ felt. Imagine this, it’s December 24th, Jesus and God and hanging out in heaven, the entirety of creation spread out before them and God says: “well son, it’s about time for you to go to earth, be stuck in a human body, grow up, get ridiculed, beaten, spit on, slapped and finally, You’re going to get nailed to a cross and die. Oh, and by the way, I have to leave You to Your fate, I can’t interfere.” And Jesus turns to His Father and says: “Ok Dad, whatever you say.”

Thank you Jesus for honoring your Father and teaching us the true meaning of the 5th commandment.