We live in world today of extremes. Often people seem to be very for or very against something. Life is not usually balanced. This seems to happen in all areas. Whether it be education, child training, health care, or the Christian life.
Lately I have seen a very unbalanced approach to the Christian life. We tend to take one principle, one idea and run with it, without consulting the rest of Scripture. Never taking time to see what God’s Word, as a collective whole has to say on the issue. This posses to be very dangerous and often leads to a miss interpretation and application of God’s Word. The end result is legalism.
One area where I have especially seen this is in the principle of honoring parents.
Scripture states clearly that we are to obey and honor our parents. As children living under the authority of our parents we must obey the instructions they give us. Ephesians 6:1 leaves no room for creative obedience (something I remind my children of daily). We are to do what our parents tell us.
As we grow into adulthood our parents are no longer our authority in the same way. The goal of parenting is stated in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” As young moms we pour our lives out for our children so one day they will be able to walk a Godly life on their own.
Our goal is to raise children who are able to discern God’s Word for themself and rightly apply it to life. We are not to be telling our children what to do every step of the way all through adulthood. It is sad how many parents not only do this, but want to do it.
While adult children are not to necessarily obey their parents any more, they are commanded in Scripture to honor them.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Here we have reached a difficult place because Scripture does not state exactly what it looks like to honor your parents (do this/don’t do that).
We read in the book of Judges about Samson who was a very wild out of control man. One can assume that he did not honor his parents in the way he rebelled against God’s commands. His actions broke their hearts on a number of occasions.
In Judges 6:25-32 we learn of Gideon who was tore down his father’s idol, Baal. It does not seem that going in the night and tearing down his father’s idol and building an altar to God would be the “honoring” thing to do. But God had commanded Gideon to tear down the idol. Gideon did not bash his father, he was not rude, but he also would not bow down and serve his father’s idol. God’s glory – obeying God was the most important thing!
In Luke 2:41-52, we have the account of Jesus as a young boy visiting the temple with his parents. We read how Jesus did not go with His parents when He left, but stayed in the temple talking with the men.
“And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.”
Jesus was not seeking to be rebellious agains His parents. In fact, He was doing EXACTLY what His Heavenly Father had planned for Him. In honoring His Heavenly Father, He was honoring His earthly parents, even though it may have looked like He was not.
In Number 9 we have the account of the men who were unclean and unable to participate in the Passover. Now, we have a problem. On one hand these men are to take the Passover, but they are unclean. The question becomes, which law of God do they break? Do they skip the Passover because they are unclean? Or do they participate in the Passover being unclean?
“Thus the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall observe it at its appointed time; you shall observe it according to all its statutes and according to all its ordinances.” So Moses told the sons of Israel to observe the Passover. They observed the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the sons of Israel did. But there were some men who were unclean because of the dead person, so that they could not observe Passover on that day; so they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. Those men said to him, “Though we are unclean because of the dead person, why are we restrained from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the sons of Israel?” Moses therefore said to them, “Wait, and I will listen to what the Lord will command concerning you.”
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a dead person, or is on a distant journey, he may, however, observe the Passover to the Lord. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it. But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall then be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the Lord at its appointed time. That man will bear his sin. If an alien sojourns among you and observes the Passover to the Lord, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its ordinance, so he shall do; you shall have one statute, both for the alien and for the native of the land.’
We learn that God is a God of order and that He desires His laws to be followed properly. We also learn in this passage that there are various levels to God’s laws. Purity and holiness being at the top. God made away for both laws to be followed, even though those looking on may have said these men were breaking the law (today we would call these people Pharisees).
When it comes to honoring our parents we must look at the cost of honoring them. In honoring our parents are we honoring God? What they desire us to do, is that pleasing to God? Or are they asking us to make a decision that goes against the Word of God?
Matthew 8:21-22 Jesus lays before us the cost of following Him, “Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
In Acts 5:29 it says, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Obeying God, seeking purity and holiness in our lives will ALWAYS trump honoring our parents (if there is a choice that must be made). It is sad that today so many adult children are having to make this choice between God and their so called “Christian parents/grandparents.” The same decision should both honor God and our parents but there are many times today when it does not.
This places many adult children in a difficult place. The hearts of these adult children desperately want to honor their parents, but a choice must be made and God must be that choice.
In Matthew 10:34-39 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of m e, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Four times in Scripture (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7, and Ephesians 5:31) God says that a man is to leave his father and mother and become one with his wife. At this point parents no longer have control over their children.
As parents we must realize (and desire) for our adult married children to be seeking the Lord and pleasing Him with their spouse. This is why we must work so hard now, while they are young, to instill in them the principles of God’s Word, so when they are old they will not depart from what we have taught them. We must also be in constant prayer for our children as they face life, on their own.
As I take time to think about my own children and how I want them to live when they are grown, yes, I want them to show honor to me. But even more than honoring me, I want them to honor God. I desire for my children to know God’s Word so well that they are able to read it, and rightly discern what God is leading them to do. I don’t want them making decisions for their life based upon what I as their mother want for them. If what I desire happens (and I pray it does) to match up with God’s Word – praise The Lord.
Our children are not always going to make the same choice we would have made. But – if we have done our part as parents, Lord willing, they will make the choice that pleases the Lord.
I do not claim to have complete understanding in this area and I have not totally fleshed out this subject. But this is my understanding as of today.
May God bless us with the strength we need today as young moms to train our children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, so when they are old, they will not depart from the teaching they received as children.