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Parents Exemplifying Honorable Lives

Exodus 20:12
Ephesians 6:1-4

Jim Davis

A wealthy widower deeded all his property to his only son and daughter-in-law on the condition that he would be allowed to live in the country with them for the rest of his life. After a few years, when the inheritance had been spent, the daughter- in-law got tired of having the elderly gentleman around and told her husband he would have to leave. The son agreed and broke the news to his father. A short time later he and the feeble old man walked down the dusty road to a state- supported home for senior citizens. Being very unsteady on his feet, the father finally asked if he could rest for a few moments on a sawed-off stump to regain his strength for the last mile of the journey. As he sat there, he suddenly put his head in his hands and began to sob. The son, pricked in his conscience, tried to make excuses. Finally, the father controlled himself enough to say, "I'm not crying so much because I'm going to this lonely home for the poor and unfortunate. I'm weeping because of my own sins. Forty years ago I walked down this road with my father and brought him to the very same place. I am now seeing the results of the evil deeds I have sown!"

Exodus 20:12
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (NIV)

Paul gives a little more insight to this commandment. Paul writes, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’-- which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV) We must remember that our personal welfare is at stake in honoring parents. If we fail to adhere to this command we will rear children who dishonor us.

There are two elements to the fifth commandment. The first element is the call to honor parents. The second element is that God is calling parents to be honorable. Parents must first obey the principles taught to children. The children must see those principles as the very fabric that holds the family together.

Deuteronomy 11:19-21
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (NIV)

A soul rises or falls on how the first commandment is kept. A society rises or falls on what we do with the fifth commandment, for the basic unit of society is the family. If the family falls apart, society will fall apart.

Our materialistic age should impress parents with the need to provide for our children's spiritual growth. In a cemetery in England stands a grave marker with this inscription: SHE DIED FOR WANT OF THINGS. Alongside that stone is another, which reads: HE DIED TRYING TO GIVE THEM TO HER. In a laughable and yet tragic manner these epitaphs suggest the folly of living and working only for this world's goods. However, I am afraid that these epitaphs describe the downfall of our society. And our children are paying the price for it as mom and dad sacrifice their spiritual training to provide the latest fads on the market.

The Importance of Honorable Parents

As Paul quotes the fifth commandment in Ephesians and Colossians, he doesn't hesitate to attach the significance of honorable parents to it. Paul writes, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Parents must exemplify whatever it is they want their children to be. We need to remember that our children didn't evolve from monkeys, but monkeys and children have a common trait; monkey see, monkey do. Our children's behavior is caught rather than taught. If we aren't an example of good values, our children will most likely not have good values no matter how much we teach otherwise.

God chose Abraham because he knew that Abraham would exemplify how his children should live. Abraham rearing his children to follow God was crucial to God’s plan to save the world.

Genesis 18:16-19
When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." (NIV)

The future of the world hinged upon Abraham rearing his children to honor God. The future of our world hinges upon how we rear our children. We mentor children; that is we teach them how to think and behave by exemplifying desired behavior. The following verses teach us that the child's curiosity for learning is aroused by what the parents do.

Exodus 12:24-27
"Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'" Then the people bowed down and worshiped. (NIV)

Deuteronomy 4:9-10
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." (NIV)

If parents want children to have a healthy respect for authority, they must exemplify a healthy respect for authority themselves. We show our children how to respect authority by demonstrating our respect for God's authority. If you expect your children to have a healthy respect for authority, you must demonstrate it. The children will follow us down the road we are going.

How to Be Honorable Parents

To be worthy of honor we must live consistent lives ourselves. Consistence reveals our character more than anything. Consistence reveals how honest we are. Honesty is something all of us must work on and practice.

Paul writes, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." (Colossians 3:20-21 NIV) The surest way to embitter your children is to say one thing and do another. By always blaming and never praising. By being inconsistent and unfair in discipline, and by showing favoritism. By making promises and never keeping them.

When the 10-year-olds in Mrs. Imogene Frost's class at the Brookside, N.J. Community Sunday School expressed their views of "What's wrong with grownups?", they came up with these complaints:

  • Grownups make promises, then they forget all about them, or else they say it wasn't really a promise, just a maybe.
  • Grownups don't do the things they're always telling the children to do--like pick up their things, or be neat, or always tell the truth.
  • Grownups never really listen to what children have to say. They always decide ahead of time what they're going to answer.
  • Grownups make mistakes, but they won't admit them. They always pretend that they weren't mistakes at all--or that somebody else made them.
  • Grownups interrupt children all the time and think nothing of it. If a child interrupts a grownup, he gets a scolding or something worse.
  • Grownups never understand how much children want a certain thing--a certain color or shape or size. If it's something they don't admire--even if the children have spent their own money for it--they always say, "I can't imagine what you want with that old thing!"
  • Sometimes grownups punish children unfairly. It isn't right if you've done just some little thing wrong and grownups take away something that means an awful lot to you. Other times you can do something really bad and they say they're going to punish you, but they don't. You never know, and you ought to know.
  • Grownups are always talking about what they did and what they knew when they were 10 years old--but they never try to think what it's like to be 10 years old right now. (For Families Only, J.A. Petersen, ed., Tyndale, 1977, p. 253)
  • To be honorable doesn't mean that we, or our children will be perfect. Honor has to do with how we deal with the imperfections in others and ourselves. Honor allows us and others to learn from mistakes. A man related a story about his life when he was a young infantry officer related the following story.

    In one of my assignments as a young infantry officer, I was sent to the 48th Infantry near Frankfurt, Germany. In those days our prize weapon was a huge 280-mm atomic cannon. Guarded by infantry platoons, these guns were hauled around the forests on trucks to keep the Soviets from guessing their location. One day Captain Tom Miller assigned my platoon to guard a 280. I alerted my men, loaded my .45 caliber pistol and jumped into my jeep. I had not gone far when I realized that my .45 was gone. I was petrified. In the army, losing a weapon is serious business. I had no choice but to radio Captain Miller and tell him. "You what?" he said in disbelief. He paused a few seconds, then added, "All right, continue the mission."

    When I returned, uneasily contemplating my fate, Miller called me over. "I've got something for you," he said, handing me the pistol. "Some kids in the village found it where it fell out of your holster." "Kids found it?" I felt a cold chill. "Yeah," he said. "Luckily they only got off one round before we heard the shot and took the gun away." The disastrous possibilities left me limp. "For God's sake, son, don't let that happen again." He drove off. I checked the magazine and found it was full. The gun had not been fired.

    Later I learned that I had dropped it in my tent before I ever got started. Miller had fabricated the scene about the kids to give me a good scare. Today the army might hold an investigation, call in lawyers and likely enter a bad mark on my record. Miller gave me the chance to learn from my mistake. His example of intelligent leadership was not lost on me. Nobody ever got to the top without slipping up. When someone stumbles, I don't believe in stomping on him. My philosophy is "Pick 'em up, dust 'em off and get 'em moving again." (By Colin Powell from A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Barry Spilchuk.)

    Honor Must Be Earned

    A position of authority does not insure that those who occupy the position are honorable. Too often, a position of authority is confused with honor. We may think that a position of authority demands respect for the one in authority. One may respect the position of authority, but have no reason to respect those in authority. We all have had bosses we obeyed out of respect for their authority, but we didn't necessarily honor them.

    Honor is not something we demand; it is earned. Parents may be able to demand obedience, but you cannot demand that someone honor you. Children may honor a parent’s position of authority, but have no reason to honor the parent. We need to be the kind of parents who encourage obedience through being honorable. It is difficult to call upon our children to honor us when we are not honorable.

    The problems we are facing in our society today are the result of a decline of moral decency. This decline began in the home. If parents expect children to have high moral values, they must have high moral values.

    Honor is earned as parents show concern when their children have problems. Honor is earned when we deal with our children’s problems honorably. Dealing with our children’s problems without embittering them toward us, or the church makes us honorable.

    Honored is earned as those in authority accept responsibility for those they have authority over. The only way true spiritual leaders can accept responsibility for those they lead is by submitting themselves to the needs of those in submission to them.

    The biggest problem with authority in the church and in the home is that those in authority do not hold themselves responsible to those they have authority over. You give certain people a little authority and they become gods and popes. They start making their own rules as they disregard the laws of God. They somehow think of themselves as infallible.

    Qualifying for spiritual leadership in the church begins in the home.

    1 Timothy 3:1-7
    Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. (NIV)

    I have seen homes and so many churches stifled simply because of a perverted sense of authority. When we make decisions without including those affected by the decisions we stifle the growth of those individuals. People become responsible when they are involved in making decisions that involve them. That is the only way you can instill a sense of responsibility honorably.

    If you see yourself as an authority figure, you must have a deep abiding respect for the authority entrusted to you.

    1 Peter 5:1-4
    To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (NIV)

    Is it any wonder that those who lead God’s people must first be capable of leading their own family? Paul writes, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’-- which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV)


    We need to remember the authority of a Christian in a home or a church is demonstrated by ones ability to lead by example. Our willingness to lead by example creates a desire for others to follow.

    I want to preach a couple of more lessons about honoring parents before we leave this fifth commandment. We are having Lads to Leaders Workshop the last weekend of this month and I want us to think about what we need to do to make leaders out of the young people. To do this we will have to seek to understand the responsibility of the home and the church as it relates to the fifth commandment.


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