Summary: An application of the 5th commandment, describing what it means to honor one’s parents at different stages in one’s life, first learning to obey, then respect, then care for them, which results in a long-lasting society.
The Promise of Respect
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who died October 5, 2004, at age 82, made a living making fun of himself and the difficulty of getting what we all desire: a little respect, please. Some of his best lines were:
“I tell ya I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, ‘There goes the neighborhood!’”
“Last week I told my psychiatrist, ‘I keep thinking about suicide.’ He told me to pay in advance.”
“My uncle’s dying wish, he wanted me on his lap. He was in the electric chair.”
“I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”
“I remember I was so depressed I was going to jump out a window on the tenth floor, so they sent a priest to talk to me. He said, ‘On your mark. . .’”
“My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday.”
“I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War my great uncle fought for the West.” (He Had a Million of ’Em, www.ChicagoTribune.com, 10-6-04)
All kidding aside, it seems that nobody gets any respect anymore. Our society has lost much of its civility, and I’m afraid it’s going to destroy us unless we can turn it around.
Ronald Kernaghan recently observed: “At the beginning of the 21st century, reasoned discourse [is imperiled]. Reasoned discourse is increasingly giving way to in-your-face sound bites… Hardball is the dominant metaphor for American public life. Our interchanges are confrontational, divisive, and dismissive. Truth is not something we expect to emerge from a conversation. It is something we hope to impose. Balance and fairness are casualties on evening shows as two, three, and sometimes four voices contend simultaneously for dominance. Volume and intransigence are the new civic virtues. (Ronald J. Kernaghan, "Speaking the Truth In Love," Theology, News & Notes, Winter 2003)
He’s absolutely right. Just listen to all the political commentary in this election year. People are not calmly discussing the issues; they’re shouting at each other.
The question is: How can we restore respect to a society that seems to have lost it? How can we bring back a sense of civility before it destroys our way of life as we know it?
Well, the answer is quite simple: Respect begins in the home. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Exodus 20, Exodus 20, where we have God’s prescription for a long-lasting, healthy society. Exodus 20, and verse 12 (read)
This was written to a nation of people that had just come out of slavery. They were getting ready to enter into a new land where they were going to establish a new society under a different set of rules, rules which reflected their new-found freedom from tyranny and control.
And God tells them, “If you want your new society to be a long-lasting society in the land to which you are going, then be sure your children learn to honor their parents.”
That’s the basis for a strong nation. That’s the basis for a society which lasts. That’s the basis for a people that thrive even through times of adversity. For if children learn to honor their parents in the home, they become citizens that respect each other in the community. They don’t kill each other. They don’t steal from each other. & They respect the laws of the land.
What then does it mean to honor your parents? Well, 1st of all, for a child it means simple obedience. For somebody still living at home with their parents, to honor them means to OBEY THEM, TO DO WHAT THEY SAY, TO SUBMIT TO THEIR AUTHORITY, whether you agree with their decisions or not.
This is the specific application of the New Testament on this commandment. Ephesians 6:1-3 says, 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” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
For children, honor means obedience. & Parents, it’s the most important thing we can teach our children. We must teach children to obey, not because they HAVE to, but because they WANT to out of their love and respect for us.
In 2005, 70 percent of those living in America declared, “people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago.” Among the worst offenders: children, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
Why? Experts say it’s because of what parents expect from kids. “The pressure to do well is up. The demand to do good is down, way down…” (Judith Warner, "Kids Gone Wild," The New York Times, 11-27-05)
We certainly want our children to do well in life. But we should me more concerned that they do good. We must teach them to be good, to obey so that they do do well in life.