Exhortation to the Families

Dear readers,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It brings me great delight to be able to write to you all, in the hope that you may be encouraged to carry on waging this spiritual battle we have been called to.

In searching for an appropriate topic, I heard a sermon on a topic that I found to be highly relevant to both old and young. Specifically to the children, what issue could be more pertinent to us than the fifth commandment (Ex 20:12)? How important is this command that we, as God’s people, so often treat flippantly? How does it affect parents?

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12

To begin, the word ‘honour’ is used here to mean an attribution of high esteem. We must first acknowledge that our parents’ authority is God-given, and submit to it, and in doing so, honour God. The Word of God tells us that obedience to our parents is ‘right’ (Eph 6:1) and ‘well-pleasing unto the Lord’ (Col 3:20). We find great and humbling examples of biblical honouring of parents in King Solomon, who arose and bowed himself to his mother (1 King 2:19) and also in our Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made provision for His mother while on the cross (John 19:25-27).

The Bible warns us against dishonouring our parents. So serious is this sin, that it lists some examples such as smiting, cursing and mocking (Exodus 21:15,17, Deut 21:18-21, Proverbs 30:17, Matthew 15:4) as being punishable by death. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I need not spell everything out. We know we sin when we argue with or disobey our parents etc. Even for grown up children who have themselves become parents, do you find yourself squabbling with the in-laws? Do you care for your elderly parent(s) who raised you from birth, or do you leave them to others to care for in an aged care facility? Scripture also warns us against deceitfulness in interpreting scripture according to culture. Some have said that because of a tradition (Mark 7:9-13), they need not care for their parents anymore. They put tradition above God’s Word, thinking that the former effectively nullifies the latter. Woe betide those who do not heed God’s warnings, for their ‘lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness’ (Proverbs 20:20).

Having identified our responsibilities as children, let us now look at the responsibilities of the parents. Eph 6:1-4 reiterates the fifth commandment, but with an additional clause, denoted by the use of the conjunction ‘and’ in the beginning of verse 4. Vitally, honouring of parents is linked with fathers not provoking their children to wrath but bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph 6:1-4 thus instructs the nuclear family.

To understand the importance of this truth, we must look at the account in Deut 6. Verse 2 points to the fifth commandment, and also tells us that the commandments were to be passed on to their son and their son’s son. In other words, there is to be a generational transfer of information. What is this information? Parents are to ‘teach [the children] diligently’ about the law in every facet of life (Deut 6:6-9) and explain to them the reason for keeping the commandments (verses 20-25) when they question its meaning.

The implications then for parents are serious. Fathers, YOU are responsible for raising your children in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord’ (Eph 6:4)! Not the world’s education system, not a child-carer, neither the Sunday school teachers nor youth workers. Reading from Ps 78:5-8, we see that the law was given to the fathers to be passed on to further generations, that they (future generations) might set their hope in God and keep His commandments. To allow ungodly, worldly influences to shape their child’s heart is tantamount to treason against God!

Furthermore, parents cannot teach God’s Law if they themselves have not built up God’s truth in their lives (Deut 6:5-6). Parents are the stewards put in place by God to pass on godly characters. Having laid out the examples, we now see that the honouring of parents is a vehicle that God has put in place for the generational transfer of God-fearing and God-honouring character. Just as one generation learnt from their parents’ holiness, righteousness and a fear of God, they would similarly order their lives to be emulated by their children.

Last but not least, with the warnings of Scripture come the blessings too. When we honour our parents, it will be well with us (Eph 6:3) and we are rewarded with as long a life on this earth as God sees good for us (Ex 20:12, Eph 6:3). It will be ‘an ornament of grace unto [our] head’ (Proverbs 1:8-9), a sight of great price to God. Notice also in Proverbs 1:8, that the blessing presupposes the godly character of the parents, in that the child is to ‘hear the instruction of [the] father, and forsake not the law of [the] mother’.

Can we see that God’s commands are not meant to constrict us, but rather are for our own good? In His infinite wisdom, God has put in place commands to be the framework for our lives. History has proven that deviation from this leads only to enslavement to the devil – a downward spiral that will lead to hell apart from God’s mercy and grace. Let us honour God in honouring our parents. Even after their death, perhaps the best way to honour them is not to just adorn their graves with flowers, but to continue following their godly example, that God may be well pleased. Parents, look to God for strength to be godly role models. Ultimately, children will follow what their parents do and not merely what they say. Be wary lest in your sham faith, you propagate a stubborn and rebellious generation (Ps 78:8).

Children, if you have failed in your duties to honour your parents, seek their forgiveness and God’s, and start anew. Likewise parents, if you have fallen short of your God- given duties, seek your children’s and God’s forgiveness, and start afresh. Repent, seek restitution, and go to God for help. It is only in God’s strength that we can honour Him in worship and in the keeping of His commandments.

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” -Ps 119:34-35

May God grant us an understanding of His glorious Word that we may keep it with joy and so treasure it all the days of our lives.

Love In Christ, Matthias Poi

Written by: Matthias Poi | Issue 10