The command to honor one’s father and mother serves as a foundation for biblical interpersonal ethics and for a God-honoring culture.
Thanks, Mike, for leading us in prayer.
Thank you all for joining us online today. Or, if you’re watching sometime after April 26, 2020, welcome.
It seems that the stay-at-home order has been extended at least through May 8, with different stages for opening up the economy and society after that. The elders trying to keep up with the current social trajectory so that we’ll be ready to open the church building back up as it is appropriate and safe. It appears that it could be June before we can meet together in the building.
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That was a lot of announcements for not really having any announcements. Let’s pray again before we jump into the sermon for this morning.
We are continuing our study today through the book of Deuteronomy. Specifically, right now, we are in the middle of a study on the Ten Commandments. Once we make our way through all ten, we will be picking up the pace a bit, and plan on finishing the book around the end of August.
Because it is particularly relevant for our study this morning, I wanted to remind us of the historical context of where we are. It’s been around 40 years since God delivered the Israelite nation by the hand of Moses from slavery in Egypt. We are around 38 years from when God delivered the Law, including the Ten Words (commandments) at Sinai (Mount Horeb). Soon after that, because the people were afraid and faithless when it was time for them to enter and take Canaan, the land promised to their father, Abraham, God sent the whole nation of Israel into the wilderness for 40 years. The book of Deuteronomy takes place at the end of this 40 year journey. As striking as it sounds, one of the purposes of the 40 year journey in the wilderness was for the entire adult generation that refused to go into Canaan by faith to die off. They have been wandering for 40 years waiting for and watching their parents die—all those who were old enough to go to war 40 years ago.
So, now we find Moses giving the Law back to Israel before they go in to take the land promised to them. Generally, this means we have Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, plus all those who were children at the time of the first giving of the law, plus those who had been born over the last 40 years.
We have already looked at the first four commandments. Can you name them? You might want to pause the video and review them, or come back to this question later.
Don’t forget the exhortation in 5:1
Deuteronomy 5:1 (ESV) — “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.
Today, we are going to study the 5th Commandment. I’ve entitled the message for today:
Our three points today are three aspects of this command.
Deuteronomy 5:16 (ESV) — “ ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
The first thing that I think we should notice about the 5th Commandment is that it is in the Ten Commandments.
Is it surprising to you that honoring parents made it into the TEN commandments? If you were asked to name ten rules that would guide a culture to righteousness and flourishing, where would you begin?
Perhaps you would put something in that’s more specific about worship. Or you might pick something a bit more universal about how we treat others.
Here is one from Jordan Peterson
One secular, modern rewrite of the 5th commandment goes this way:
What are the chances that a rule about honoring parents or others in authority would make it into a modern set of ethics? You are much more likely to find a rule about not imposing your beliefs or views on another.
But, in God’s wisdom and Providence, he elevated a command about honoring your mother and father to one of the highest places in the whole inspired Bible.
Let’s look at a few more ways that this command has such prominence.
The command to honor father and mother is the first command in the 2nd Table of the Law. The first four commands are about our relationship to God. The last 6 commandments are about our relationship to others.
Remember that the order of the commands has significance as well. The first commandment, “Have no other Gods before me” is foundational for our relationship to God. The 5th Command, “Honor your father and your mother,” is foundational to the functioning of relationships and society. It comes ahead of “you shall not murder” and “you shall not commit adultery.”
Learning how to relate to others, including those in authority, begins at home in the family.
Perhaps, because of the Ten Commandments, Christians have a strong view of the role of the family as fundamental to society. We now live in a day when this fundamental, God-given relationship is under attack.
Just this week, I came across an upcoming event at Harvard Law School, scheduled for June 18-19 at. The event is titled, “Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform.” I’m not focused on the homeschooling aspect of this event, but I am interested in the worldview of some of the speakers.
One of the summit organizers is James Dwyer, a law professor at the College of William and Mary. Here is a quote from him about parent-child relationships.
The reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood on people through its paternity and maternity laws.
…the claim that parents should have child-rearing rights—rather than simply being permitted to perform parental duties and to make certain decisions on a child’s behalf in accordance with the child’s rights—is inconsistent with principles deeply embedded in our law and morality.
- “Harvard Summit to Discuss Regulating Homeschool” at hslda.org
The other event organizer, Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, recently wrote in the Arizona Law Review that she “recommends a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool.”
Again, I’m not interested in a homeschool debate. However, the issue at stake in these arguments is actually one of the role of parent-child relationships. Whereas the Bible magnifies the importance of children honoring and learning from their parents, our modern culture/government often feels the urge to usurp that God-given responsibility.
I should add that there is a place for governmental authorities to intervene in genuine child abuse situations. However, that is not the point of these professors.
The prominence of the 5th Commandment is also shown by the fact that disobedience to it could be considered a capital crime. Israel was to take this commandment so seriously that public, open disobedience was to bring the death penalty.
We should take time to look at this directly.
We can find a simple statement in Exodus 21:17
Exodus 21:17 (ESV) — “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.
And there is a more detailed explanation in Deuteronomy 21
Deuteronomy 21:18–21 (ESV)
- 18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them,
- 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives,
- 20 and they shall say to 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.’
- 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
And then there is the more poetic version of this in Proverbs 30.
Proverbs 30:17 (ESV) — The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.
It is certainly worth noting that we do not live in a theocracy like Israel, and the laws of our land only include the death penalty for a few of the Ten Commandments. In Israel, disobedience to at least 8 of the commands could be considered capital crimes. We should notice that capital punishment in Deuteronomy 21 was judged by the elders (judges) of the city, and the punishment was carried out by men of the city.
Within the context of the new covenant, we don’t find capital punishment in situations like these, though we might find Church Discipline and excommunication.
For our purposes, we need to take an honest look at how seriously God considers disobedience to this command.
There is one strange comfort in the 5th Commandment making it into the top ten.
Most parents (if not all), at some point in their parenting, feel like there is some kind of cosmic battle going on between them and their child. It is helpful to remember that parenting has been difficult since our first parents. The command to honor father and mother brings light to a universal flaw in fallen humanity. Ever since sin came into the world, there has been conflict between parent and child.
There is nothing new under the sun. Parenting has been difficult from the beginning of time, and will continue to be difficult till the end.
2 Timothy 3:1–5 (ESV) — But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
So, we have seen the prominence that God gives to this command. Before we go on to how we should put this command into practice, it would be good for you (especially you children and teens) to consider how important God considers it for you to honor your parents.
It’s not a trivial matter. It involves life and death. And, honoring them goes so much farther than just doing your chores or cleaning your room.
Let’s go on to see how we should be practicing obedience to this command.
Deuteronomy 5:16 (ESV) — Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
It’s helpful to pay attention to the actual words of the command.
There are three things we need to notice directly. First, it is not specifically directed at children. This may be a radical thought for us, but we should consider that this command is not limited in scope to children. It certainly includes children, but the command goes beyond them.
Second, the command is to “honor,” not “obey.” We could argue that “honor” includes “obey,” but we should not limit it to only mean “obey.”
Third, we are commanded to honor our fathers as well as our mothers. It isn’t as simple as just saying that this was a patriarchal society and that honor for men is expected. No, the command includes honoring father AND mother.
“Give weight to”
We also see warnings against the opposite of honoring parents.
Kids, I want to speak directly to you for a few minutes. First, I want to thank you for watching this sermon. It’s really great that you are worshiping God and learning from the Bible even when we can’t be at the church building together.
Second, I want you to realize that God cares about you deeply. And, God gave you his words for your good. God is not only speaking to your parents or grandparents in the Ten Commandments—he is speaking to you. God wants you to learn them and be careful to do them. He tells us that in Deuteronomy 5:1.
Just between me and you, I actually know that it’s not always easy to obey your parents. Sometimes, they don’t listen to you well. Other times, they misunderstand. Sometimes—and I know this from personal experience—parents tell their children to do something out of their own selfishness or laziness. In other words, your parents are not perfect.
But, God’s command to us doesn’t say, “Honor your Father and your mother…if they deserve it, or if you think they’re right.”
We must learn to obey God’s commands even when it’s hard. Thankfully, God also has lots to say to parents about how to be good parents, but that’s a different sermon.
If it’s helpful to you, I’d remind you that even Jesus had to obey his earthly parents. When he was a boy, there were times his parents had different ideas than him about what he should be doing. And, he submitted to them and obeyed them.
The Apostle Paul writes about this commandment to honor our fathers and mothers in his Letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.
Ephesians 6:1 (ESV) — Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Colossians 3:20 (ESV) — Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
I want you to realize that honoring and obeying your parents shows more about what you believe about God than about what you believe about your parents. We are to obey our parents “in the Lord.” And our obedience to them “pleases the Lord.”
It’s helpful to me—maybe it would be to you—to remember that God sees, God cares, and God rewards us for our faith and obedience.
God also knows that we often fail at obeying his commands perfectly. That’s actually why Jesus came. He came to live the perfect, obedient, God-honoring life that we fail to live. This was to be an example for us to follow, but also, and more importantly, it was so that we might receive the benefits of his obedience. He lived a sinless life, yet he was punished and killed on the cross for sins he didn’t commit—for sins we committed. Jesus did this so that we could be forgiven for our sins and failures, and so that we could have eternal life with him.
Kids, before I start talking with your parents again, I thought I’d try to be practical for a few minutes.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid (it seems like a long time ago now) I would try to figure out ways to “sort-of-obey” my parents. If they told me to clean my room, I might throw everything in the closet. If my dad told me to mow the yard, I might only mow the front yard, but not the back. If Mom told me to clean the kitchen, I might put the dishes in the dishwasher, but not wash the pots and pans. In other words, my obedience was often partial or incomplete.
At other times, I might intend on obeying, but wait to the absolute last minute before I started to do what I was told. I feel like I’m obeying because I intend to obey in the future. But, have I actually obeyed yet? No. Just because I feel like I’m obeying doesn’t mean I actually am. Try to see this from your parents point of view.
And then, there’s my favorite — doing what I was told, but with a terrible attitude. I’m sure none of you do this. But, there were / are times when I do what I’m supposed to do, but I’m mad or grumpy. And, then I do the job trying to make everyone else as miserable as I am.
All this is to say that God actually cares how we honor our parents. Honoring them includes obedience, but also our attitude toward them or about them.
Colossians 3:23 (ESV) — Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Remember that obeying the 5th Commandment is a way to please God.
You might want to ask your parents for ways that they see you could grow in obedience.
Here are a few reminders I would share.
Obedience means acting Right Away, All the Way, In a Cheerful Way
I do want to say one last thing. What should you do if you think your parents are asking you to do something wrong or unreasonable? Most of the parents I know respond well to respectful questions or reasoning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer alternatives if you do it respectfully and with a good attitude.
Oh, and don’t forget that honoring your parents also means you should NOT complain about them to your friends.
Now, I’m going to talk with your parents or older brothers and sisters for a moment.
A straightforward reading of the texts regarding honoring your father and mother don’t give you a pass just because you graduate high school, or college, or because you get married or turn 21. The biblical commands and biblical example show that we should honor our parents into old age.
Granted, our relationship to them and their direct authority over areas of our lives change as we become adults or leave our father and mother and cleave to our spouse in marriage.
But, we still do have a biblical obligation to honor them.
We see this in one instance as Jesus confronted the Pharisees. As a group, they were so obsessed about keeping the law (at one level). Yet, they often missed the main point.
Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees how they were disobeying the 5th Commandment, while at the same time they were saying they were honoring God.
Matthew 15:4–6 (ESV) — For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.
It has always been difficult to make the transition from childhood to adulthood while continuing to honor your parents. For the Christian, this can even be manifested by spiritual pride at that moment when you as a young person feel that you take your relationship with God more seriously than your parents do. Beware! Your parents still have much for you to learn.
There is a warning here to be careful of your attitude toward you parents, as well as the way you talk to them and about them to others.
And don’t miss the exhortation by Jesus to remember that honoring your parents has some relationship to your responsibility to care for them in their old age.
Remember who is hearing this message from Moses? It is the generation of Israelites whose parents were disobedient and faithless in the wilderness. This younger generation has been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years directly because their parents blew it. And yet, God says through Moses to them to Honor their father and mother.
So it is with us. There are many ways we could find fault with our parents, and all the more so as we become adults. And, yet we are commanded to honor them.
Two catechisms that I read dealt with this issue as well. Interestingly, the Westminster Larger Catechism extrapolates the 5th Commandment to include our response to all those in authority over us. Though there is some application there, I’d be uncomfortable trying to make the 5th Commandment carry all of that weight. But I did find this statement very helpful in Question #127.
The honour which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behaviour; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections;
fidelity to, defence, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honour to them and to their government.
- Westminster Larger Catechism, Q 127
There is some good stuff in there, but I call your attention to “bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love.
Here is another from the Heidelberg Catechism.
Heidelberg Catechism - Question 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?
Answer: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline; and also that I be patient with their failings for through them God chooses to rule us.
We’ve looked at the Prominence of the 5th Commandment, and at some different aspects of our Practice of it.
Now let’s turn to the Promise associated with it.
Let’s look at the text again:
Deuteronomy 5:16 (ESV) — “ ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
“As the LORD your God commanded you…” simply reminds us that this command was given 40 years before at Horeb.
It’s also interesting that the promise is somewhat expanded here from the Commandment in Exodus 20.
Here, Moses adds, “That it may go well with you in the land.”
It feels a little strange knowing how to apply this promise to the Christian. But, Paul himself references the promise in Ephesians 6.
Perhaps a quick look at Deuteronomy 4:40 will help us.
Deuteronomy 4:40 (ESV) — Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
It becomes clearer that the promise is about the people of God being blessed in the Promised Land. And there are even hints of the duration of God’s blessing, “…for all time.”
So, for Israel, God was reminding them that obedience to this command would lead to prosperity and longevity in the Land which God was giving them (which is a wonderful picture of God’s Grace).
For the Christian, it’s helpful to apply this in two ways. First, there is blessing for the people of God to live according to God’s commandments which leads to human flourishing.
Second, there is a deeper promise hinted at here of eternal blessing from our Good Father in heaven.
This is a promise to the people who puts these commands into practice. Like the Proverbs, it shouldn’t be construed as a one-to-one promise of old age for an individual.
And the fulfillment of the Promise cannot ultimately reside in the Promised Land of Canaan.
The attachment of the promise to the command isn itself is a blessing. But, it also raises a problem for us.
None of us actually obeys this command perfectly.
How can we know that we can experience God’s blessing?
I’ll give you two reasons.
First, remember the Prodigal Son. He squandered what was given to him, rebelling against his father’s wishes, dishonoring him in every conceivable way. And, yet the Father was eagerly waiting for him to repent and return.
In many ways this is a picture of how we can dishonor our parents and ultimately God. One blog article puts it this way:
Are we not all like the prodigal son in various ways? We take our parents for granted, demanding that they take care of us, give us money, and then leave us alone so we can do what we want with it. We turn around and abandon the very arms that worked for and cared for us.
Ultimately, this is a reflection of humanity’s rebellion against God, our heavenly Father. In Adam, we all ran away from his loving care and provision and struck out on our own. We squandered our wealth on sin and are now left with nothing.
- “6 Things to Know about the Fifth Commandment” at corechristianity.com
My second exhortation would be to remember what Jesus accomplished for us.
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, including obedience to this command to honor our father and mother.
Not only did Jesus fulfill it, but he invites us to address God as our Father.
He taught us to pray, “Our Father…”
We all must trust in the finished work of Christ, the perfect Son, in order to truly experience the perfect relationship with our heavenly Father.
Will, you can bring up the worship team.
As we conclude, we should all consider how we need to respond to this command.
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