************ Sermon on Exodus 20:12 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 19, 2000

Ephesians 6:1-4
Exodus 20:12
"Honor Your Father and Mother"

I The Basis
A Any observer of American culture can tell you that great changes take place in the relationship between parents and children as the child grows up. Little children are totally dependent upon their parents for almost everything and are fully under their authority and control. Then, as they grow and become a teenager, they become more independent; they depend on parents for food and clothing and shelter, but become a lot less dependent on them for the way they think. A four-year old tends to think Mom and Dad are always right, but most kids who are 14-years-old would never think that. Generally, the older a child becomes the more they rebel against parental authority and control so that a little child may step on your toes but an older child steps on your heart.

The teen years can be a tough time for kids to relate to their parents. But, and most kids don't think of it this way, it can also be a tough time for parents to relate to their kids. Do you know the advice Mark Twain once gave to parents?
Topic: Parental Duties
Index: 1629-1631
Date: 11/2000.101
Title: Mark Twain on teenagers

When a child turns 13, put him in a barrel, nail down the lid, and feed him through a knothole. When he turns 16, plug the knothole.
Mark Twain must have had an ugly relationship with his parents and again with his children. We know that the relationship between teens and parents is not quite as bad as he makes it out to be but sometimes in some homes it is close.

B The relationship between children and parents has never been problem-free, but our society makes it worse because of its emphasis on individual rights and freedom at the expense of family bonds. In a survey, people in different countries were asked to complete the following sentence: "I love my mother but ..."

Teenagers, boys and girls, how would you finish that sentence? "I love my mother but ..."

In Western countries, most children took this as a hint to criticize their mother. "I love my mother but ...
-she is always nagging me
-she worries too much
-she is always yelling at me
-she is so impatient
-she places too much emphasis on my appearance
-she makes me work too much
and so on ...
In Burma, most people filled in the blank very differently. They said things like, "I love my mother but ...
-I can never thank her enough
-I can never repay her for all that she has done for me
-I can never love her enough
-I can never give her enough honor
and so on ...

When I was a teenager we heard sermons about the "generation gap." Usually the blame was placed on the young people because of long hair, drugs, rock music, and protests against Viet Nam. But when I look at our culture I see more than a "generation gap." I see problems all across the spectrum, between every age group. For instance, many teenagers feel more drawn to the garbage on TV than to their parents' ideas. Many senior citizens in good health would rather live near a golf course in the Sun Belt than be near their children and grandchildren. Many grown-ups don't want their senior parents around, especially if they are in failing health; so more and more of these parents are carted off to a nursing home where they are out of sight, out of mind, and rarely visited.

I want us to think about this multi-generation gap and what it takes to bridge it.

C Before we go any further, we need to remind ourselves that the command to honor our parents is the fifth commandment, not the first. The first four commandments deal with how we ought to honor God. God comes first. In other words, children of all ages can truly honor their parents only when the whole family seeks to honor God together.

Family experts today like to talk about quality time. Well, there is no better "quality time" than when a family prays and worships and reads the Bible together. That is quality time!

D We know from the Bible that God places great importance on children honoring their parents.

First of all, God promises that if children honor their parents, and if parents act in a way that deserves such honor, the future is bright. On the other hand, if children dishonor their parents, if they disrespect and insult them, the future is bleak. God says,
(Ex 20:12) "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

Second, did you know that God commanded the death penalty for rebellious children (Deut 21:18-21)? Dishonor of the parents was seen as a cancer that had to be cut away.

Now this didn't mean that a five-year-old could be killed the moment he did something his parents told him not to do. The law applied to a defiant teenager or adult single, a habitual drunkard or troublemaker, who despised his parents and refused all their advice and warnings. And even in a situation like that the parents had no authority to kill their own child as was the case in many other cultures of that time. Rather, the death penalty could only be imposed after a hearing by the governing authorities. Still, it was a hard law for a hard situation. Its harshness shows us just how serious it is to despise and dishonor our parents.

II The Meaning
A Now, let's consider what the command to honor our parents means for us today.

First of all, this command affirms the authority of parents. The command is to honor. Honor is not a sentimental word, a feeling. Honor is a word that has to do with recognizing and obeying authority. Love and affection are important in the home, of course, and parents and children should always be able to kiss and hug each other, but that is not what the fifth commandment is talking about. Rather, the fifth commandment tells us there is to be a definite structure of authority and obedience in the home.

Authority and obedience are not very popular concepts today. Our culture views it almost as a moral obligation to question and disobey authority. Whether it is government, police, teacher, pastor, church, or parents, people today tend to resent authority. People today tend to think that the only opinion that really matters is their own. In some other times and cultures, people were too quick to knuckle under to authority, even when authority was dreadfully wrong, but that is hardly our problem today. Today, the situation is like this quote I found:
Topic: Teaching
Index: 1778-1782
Date: 11/2000.101
Title: Attitudes in Education Today

In our public school system the teachers are afraid of the principal, the principal is afraid of the school board, the school board is afraid of the parents, the parents are afraid of the kids, and the kids aren't afraid of anybody.
This is an exaggeration, but our regard for authority is at an all-time low.

B It is alarming that regard for authority is at an all-time low. But even more alarming is that many people think that's the way it should be. Many parents and teachers today refuse to exercise authority over children. These parents say their job is to be as permissive and affirming as possible and not to impose anything on their children. Likewise, school teachers say their job is to enhance the child's self-esteem and to assist children in clarifying their values without imposing anything on them.

Do you know what these parents and teachers are doing? They are abandoning their rightful authority. They ought to be giving authoritative moral guidance to children. Kids need to know that their instincts are not always good, that many of their desires are destructive, and that many of their values are selfish and immoral.

The fifth commandment expects parents to exercise their authority in order to shape lives, mold minds, and fashion hearts. God would not command children to honor their parents if He had not given parents authority in the first place.
Topic: Home
Subtopic: Devout Fathers
Index: 1669
Date: 5/1988.11

I love the story Gordon MacDonald tells.
Among the legends is the tale of a medieval sidewalk superintendent who asked three stone masons on a construction project what they were doing. The first replied that he was laying bricks. The second described his work as that of building a wall. But it was the third laborer who demonstrated genuine esteem for his work when he said, "I am raising a great cathedral."
Pose that same question to any two fathers concerning their role in the family, and you are liable to get the same kind of contrast. The first may say, "I am supporting a family." But the second may see things differently and say, "I am raising children." The former looks at his job as putting bread on the table. But the latter sees things in God's perspective: he is shaping hearts and lives.

C What happens when parents lose sight of this duty and abandon their authority? What happens when kids reject the authority of good parents? Are the children then free from all authority? We know better than that! All that happens is that kids then come under the authority of something or someone else.

If you are a teenager, and you stop listening to your parents, does that mean you are now strong and independent and making your own choices? No. Often it just means that you are more eager to please your friends than your parents.

Sometimes this is fairly harmless. Usually not too much damage is done when your friends urge you, against your mother's advice, to buy certain kinds of shoes, to wear certain kinds of clothes, to have a certain kind of hairstyle, or to pierce your ears. But at other times not listening to your parents can lead to serious damage. When somebody offers you a cigarette, or a can of beer, or a joint of marijuana, or a snort of cocaine, or a hit of crack, do you really think they want what is best for you? If the kids at school poke fun of you for being a virgin, of if your date is putting pressure on you to go all the way, is it because they are concerned about your future happiness? In times like these it is very difficult to resist if you don't have parents who taught you to know better.

Children and youth are never free from authority. The real question is, "Whose authority are they under?" If parents don't exercise authority, then there is a whole secular world out there of drug dealers, pornographers, record companies, tobacco sellers, breweries, movie producers, and advertisers that is more than eager to step into the gap and do what parents should be doing. If parents don't exercise authority, then there are all sorts of sects and cults out there willing to step in and control the minds of the kids.

D I have a word for parents and for children.

Parents, don't run from your calling to exercise authority. Don't be afraid to impose your convictions on your children. Don't be afraid to tell your children what to believe and how to behave and why.

And children, don't rebel against parental authority. Honor your parents. Obey them. Realize that your parents know more about right living than you do. So they are going to teach you and you are expected to listen.

This fifth commandment also says something about growing older and old age. Our culture glorifies youth and despises old age. One result of this is that countless people never quite grow up. They get stuck in a kind of perpetual adolescence. They are middle-aged and still don't accept responsibility. They still prefer sexual variety rather than lifelong commitment. They spend a ridiculous amount of money and time and effort trying not to look their age.

In contrast, Proverbs 16:31 says, "Gray hair is a crown of splendor." There is something splendid about old age. Being young has its advantages, but so does being old. In God's design there is something special about each phase of life. Kids have enormous energy and enthusiasm, while older people have great experience and wisdom. Says Proverbs, "The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old" (Prov 20:29).

Part of honoring our parents is to recognize that wisdom comes with age. I love what Mark Twain used to say:
Topic: Parental Weaknesses
Index: 1634-1636

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Teenagers, you may think your parents are out of it, that they are dumb. But let me tell you, there will come a day when you will discover that you are totally wrong about your parents. There will come a day when you will discover that you were out of it, that you were the dumb one.

I am not saying that all parents are perfect or that getting older automatically makes you wiser. There are abusive and incompetent parents. There are parents who, instead of getting older and wiser, just get older.

We need to follow God's will for the home. God's will is that parents give direction to their children. God's will is that children obey that direction.

Too often, though, we put our own desires first. So there are parents who can't be bothered with training their children. There are children who don't think twice about disobeying their parents. Though there is nothing wrong with going to a warmer climate for the Winter, there are grandparents who prefer a golf course in the sun to the company of their children and grandchildren. Though it is not evil for an elderly person in need of special care to be in a nursing home, there are grown up children who prefer to keep grandma and grandpa in such a facility.

Too often, I'm afraid, family ties are viewed more as a burden than as a blessing. What we need to do is put relationships before personal pleasure and convenience. What we need to do is to have a relationship based on a common faith in Jesus Christ. Where that exists, family members can support each other, love each other, honor each other, and be proud of each other.

Let's pray that God will bless all our homes with this kind of relationship.
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