************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 39 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 22, 2018
"The Fifth Commandment"
The elderly have little to offer society. The elderly have little to offer society. That is the view of our culture. That even is the view of the churches who think their job is to minister to the elderly instead of letting the elderly minister to them. In our self-centered, individualistic, immediate-gratification culture, we leave our debts from the past in the nursing home. A recent poll suggests that barely half of the American public believe it is the children's responsibility to look after elderly parents.
Reports have been growing concerning the abuse of the elderly in our society by con artists, inefficient government bureaucracies, pharmaceutical companies, and the children themselves. A leading magazine reported a disturbing trend of turning hospitals into "a dumping ground for Granny"; the average hospital reports that as many as eight elderly patients are dumped/abandoned at its emergency rooms every week.
Sound doctrine is our theme as we look at the Catechism this time. Sound doctrine is reliable doctrine, trustworthy doctrine, believable doctrine. Sound doctrine is doctrine that is based upon the Bible and not upon what man's itching ears wants to hear.
Sound doctrine tells us Christians do good works. Not only do Christians do good works, but it is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not to produce good works of gratitude.
The sound doctrine of the Catechism teaches that good works includes three things. First, good works includes repentance -- that is, a daily turning from sin to God. Second, good works includes obedience -- that is, a daily effort to obey God's Law. Third, good works includes conversation with God -- that is, the daily offering of prayer.
Today, we look at the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." Sound doctrine tells us that our response to our parents, our response to the elderly, is part of the good work we do as Christians because we have been saved by Jesus.
I What Does God Require?
A The first four commandments concern our relationship to God. Beginning with the fifth commandment, the Ten Commandments turn to our neighbor, who is created in God's image. And who is our neighbor? First in priority are the members of our own family. The family forms the foundation of all human relationships. That is why the second table of the law, concerning human relationships, begins with the command to "honor your father and your mother." Out of respect for the dignity and worth of our Father in heaven and in view of the honor due His name, we are to honor our parents.
In his commentary on the fifth commandment, Paul instructs children to "obey" their parents. Of course, as children grow and mature, obedience turns into honor and respect. This means -- unlike half of our population -- we love granny, we look after her, we don't just dump her in a nursing home or hospital emergency room. This also means we never talk bad about our parents in public; we don't run them down in front of other people; we are to "be patient with their failings."
I want you to consider the example of the Lord Jesus. Luke 2 contains a verse which tells us the Lord's obedience to the fifth commandment:
(Lk 2:51) Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.Jesus was obedient to Joseph and Mary though He was Lord and King of the universe. He was obedient to Joseph and Mary though He knew more than they did. He was obedient to Joseph and Mary though He was wiser than they were. Jesus consciously, deliberately, willingly, and continually put Himself under Joseph and Mary as the authority figures in the home. If you were a visitor to the home of Joseph and Mary, you would never have heard Jesus talking back to His parents. Jesus also submitted to the teachers in the synagogue and to the rabbis in the Temple.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that the fifth commandment includes two parts: a command and a promise. It is the first commandment with a promise: "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth" (Eph 6:3). Blessed is the home and blessed is the land in which parents and the elderly are treated with respect and love. Because neither the home nor society in general can function without order.
But parents are also responsible to their children. Paul says parents must not "exasperate" their children. I have noticed different things throughout the years. Some parents expect too much of their children -- they forget their children are children and expect them to act like adults. Some parents surround their children with too many rules -- and give them no freedom as they grow and mature. Some moms are helicopter moms -- swooping in and out and never giving their children any space to learn and develop and make mistakes. Some parents interfere in the lives and marriages of their grownup children. Parents, do not exasperate your children.
Some parents are guilty of abusing their children or neglecting their children. And, some children are guilty of abusing or neglecting their parents. One of the saddest commentaries on our society is that we have CPS and APS: that is, Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services.
Parents, do not exasperate your children; "instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). Parents, read the Bible to your children. Pray with them. Sing Bible songs with them. Teach them the Catechism. Send them to Sunday School. Give them Christian schooling. Why? So they come to know and love Jesus.
B Did you notice that the sound doctrine of the Catechism extends the fifth commandment to "all those in authority over me." The principal author of the Catechism writes this in his commentary on the fifth commandment:
The design or end of this commandment is the preservation of civil order, which God has appointed in the mutual duties between inferiors and their superiors.Don't let the words "superior" and "inferior" throw you off. It is simply an old-fashioned way of speaking of those in charge and those who are under them. Thus, a "superior" includes parents, guardians, teachers, ministers, elders, government officials, police officers, employers, and the elderly.
The purpose of the fifth commandment is to preserve civil order. This means we are to see civil society as a family. The church is also to be seen as a family -- the family of God. And, in a family there must be order -- whether in the home or in the church or in society as a whole. So, we are called to "honor, love, and be loyal to ... father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper ... that I be patient with their failings -- for through them God chooses to rule us."
This is consistent with what Paul writes in verses 5-9. Paul's talk about slaves and masters continues his commentary on the fifth commandment. Now, we tend to think of slavery in terms of what happened in our country until the civil war. Do not think, even for a moment, that Paul condoned this. What Paul has in mind has more to do with employees and employers than with racial injustice.
Employees are to obey their employers "with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as [they] would obey Christ" (Eph 6:5). In other words, talk nice about your supervisor. Talk respectfully to your boss. And, Paul commands,
(Eph 6:6-8) Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. (7) Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, (8) because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.To serve our earthly superiors is to serve our heavenly Superior; realize that God our heavenly Father is pleased when we do our work to the best of our ability.
But employers also have duties just like parents have duties.
(Eph 6:9) And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.As employees are to show respect to their employers out of reverence for God, so employers are to show respect for their employees. Every parent, guardian, teacher, minister, elder, government official, and employer has a higher authority over them. Never does the buck stop with a human being; every human authority comes under God's authority.
C When it comes to authority, there are two extremes we need to avoid. The first is egalitarianism in which there are no superiors and inferiors. This spirit or attitude was best expressed by the French revolution. In egalitarianism, everyone is equal and every decision must be made by the people. Under this view, parents view themselves as the friends of their children. Under this view, no one has the right to rule over me.
On the other end is hierarchy. People get tired of waiting for something to happen and want a strong-willed, aggressive leader to take charge.
In the church we see both tendencies. In some churches, every decision is made by the congregation and not by a consistory. In those churches, the pastor's job security depends on how well he tickles his congregation's ears. If he exercises church discipline on a popular member, the backlash can be enormous. Calvin faced this problem in Geneva. When Calvin refused to serve Communion to popular and wealthy citizens, he was exiled.
But we have authoritarianism, too. Some pastors and bishops and consistories "lord" it over their congregation. That is why our Church Order expressly forbids this behavior:
No church shall in any way lord it over other churches, and no office-bearers shall lord it over other office-bearers.Denominations and federations have learned over the years to place checks and balances on the power of leaders.
II Problems in our Culture
A "Honor your father and your mother." Travel to Asia or Africa and you will find something that is sadly missing in our society: namely, respect for the elderly. We can pinpoint a number of reasons for this.
One reason for this sad state of our affairs is that our mobility, technology, entertainment, advertisements, and media have created a culture of youth. Our society places a premium on youth. Our culture does not value the skill and wisdom that comes with age.
It must be said that in many cases our elderly are too willing to go along with this. So we see older women who dress like their daughters or grand-daughters. We see facelifts and tummy tucks to give a more youthful appearance. We see people taking retirement in their early fifties and then spending all their time and energies on holidays and entertainment. There are those who decline to get involved as Sunday School teachers or Cadet Counselors or office-bearers because they think they are too old.
There is reason for hope, though. I see more and more pastors in our churches laboring well past the age of 65. The professors of our seminaries generally work until 70 or longer. And, many places have strict laws against age discrimination so companies can't force mandatory retirement at the age of 65.
B "Honor your father and your mother." Another reason for our attitude towards the elderly is our emphasis on the here and now. Many people think we need to forget the past. Our culture has a disdain for history. When people are asked their least favorite subject at school, many say it is history. But it has been said -- correctly -- that those who don't learn history, repeat history's mistakes. This attitude is found in churches that despise the historic Creeds & Confessions as though they have nothing to teach us; they chart their own course and interpret the Bible from scratch. As a culture, we like to question established norms, customs, and ideas. We reject anything old and established simply because it is old and established. The result is the attitude that the elderly have nothing to teach us and there is nothing we can learn from them.
C "Honor your father and your mother." Another problem is that today is all about me. And, forget about anyone else. When people focus on themselves, the elderly are thrown to the wayside. Paul warned Timothy -- and the church -- about this:
(2 Tim 3:1-5) But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. (2) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents [Did you hear that? Disobedient to their parents ...], ungrateful, unholy, (3) without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, (4) treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power.Paul is saying there is a connection between "disobedience to parents" and narcissism, arrogance, individualism, materialism, and hedonism.
Remember, this is sound doctrine we are hearing. So, in the family, in the church, in society do you honor your father and your mother? Do you honor the elderly? Do you honor those God has placed over you?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page