"Honour thy father and thy mother…."
Exodus 20: 12
King James Version
"Compassion for our parents is the true sign of maturity."
Do the people in my family circle try to engender respect one for another?
"The debt of gratitude we owe our mother and father goes forward, not backward. What we owe our parents is the bill presented to us by our children."
"And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death….And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
Exodus 21: 15, 17
King James Version
Several years ago, someone I know well was lamenting the fact that her children treated her with such disrespect. While I felt sympathetic to the pain this individual was going through, I realized that as we say, "the chickens were coming home to roost." For years, she herself, had spoken in a most degrading way to her own parents, and her young children had grown up hearing the way she talked – the example she had given was one that ended up being passed down from generation to generation.
Our text for today's devotional takes direct aim at the complicated situations that develop in families. As we shall see, God has plenty to say about how we treat one another within the sacred family circle, especially our parents.
If we go back to Exodus Chapter 20, we find the first record of the Ten Commandments in written form. Some find these rules old-fashioned. Others say they only applied to the Jews. Yet others in our world just seem to ignore their existence.
I choose to look at these special words spoken by God from Sinai as the guard rails that protect me as I journey down the highway of life. The road from our house down to the valley below is curvy and can be very dangerous. Many a car or truck has skidded only to be stopped by the protective metal guard rails that keep vehicles from plunging over a steep cliff into a ravine.
This is exactly God's purpose in giving us the rules of His realm – those protective shields which keep us from plunging headlong over a precipice.
When studying the Ten Commandments, we find the first four deal with our relationship with God. This is extremely important, for once I begin to understand the greatness of my Father, the God who created me, I gain a clearer understanding of my own self-worth. When I begin to properly comprehend the value God places on me, the more I will treat others around me with dignity and respect. This is exactly how the Ten Commandments are laid out. First I honor my Creator and then I honor my parents, which is the fifth commandment. This particular commandment comes with a promise of blessing to those who follow the precept: "Honour thy father and mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" Exodus 20: 12, (K.J.V.).
In a day and age filled with family conflict and rampantly skyrocketing divorce rates, turmoil within homes has become commonplace. With television programs promoting disrespect of children for their parents and fathers and mothers showing little concern for the well-being of each other, it is no wonder many families become cesspools for bickering and back biting. Instead of feeling safe and secure in a family, all the members long to get out from under the oppression of a family at war.
As we can tell from Exodus 20 and 21, respect of parental authority is taken seriously by our Heavenly Father. Even to the point that God forbid physical or verbal brutality toward parents. I want to point out that this was not God giving parents permission to beat and abuse their children – absolutely not. But by the same token if children do not respect God and their parents, and are not respected by their parents, as well, it will be more difficult for them to grow up respecting themselves.
When children are taught by parents, through word or deed, to disrespect those in authority in their lives, they will only be hurting themselves. As the author Adelaide Bry wrote, "If you harbor ill-will toward your parents, I think you have disowned a part of yourself." And I believe this is why we see so many young people disrespecting and disliking themselves.
In the Hebrew, the word "honour" means to lift to a prominent level. In our thoughts and actions this is God's ideal plan for the way we should treat those who gave us life. Even if our parents did not fulfill their Godly duty in the way we were raised, as Richard Baxter so beautifully writes, we can honour them for their parental position and by honouring them, we honour ourselves: "Honor your parents both in your thoughts, and speech, and behavior. Think not dishonorably or contemptuously of them in your hearts. Speak not dishonorably, rudely, unreverently, or saucily, either to them or of them. Behave not yourselves rudely and unreventently before them. Yea, though your parents be never so poor in the world, or weak of understanding, yea, though they were ungodly, you must honor them notwithstanding all this: though you cannot honor them as rich, or wise, or godly, you must honor them as your parents."
"Nothing else will ever make you as happy or as sad, as proud or as tired, for nothing is quite as hard as helping a person develop his or her own individuality – especially while you struggle to keep your own."
Marguerite Kelly and
A Mother is a Person
"A mother is a person
who gives birth
cleans up messes
kisses dirty faces
makes thousands of peanut butter sandwiches
and says no more often than yes
A mother is a person
who acts as chauffeur
and general contractor
housebreaks and feeds the dog
hunts for numerous articles
and hurts when her child is hurt
A mother is a person
who needs to remember
she is a person"
Mary Eleanore Rice
When A Woman Meets Jesus