Exemplifying Honorable Lives
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!"
"Honor your father and your
mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving
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
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.
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.
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."
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
"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)
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."
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
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
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
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
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.