Summary: To honor your parents means to obey them if you're a child living at home, to respect them if your an adult child, and to care for them if they are disabled.
A couple of months ago (March 16, 2017), a London newspaper, ran an article on Mother’s Day in Great Brittan titled “20 awful Mother's Day cards that you absolutely should not buy.” They included:
Mom, thanks for always checking up on me (with a picture of a cell phone with 24 unanswered calls from “Mom”).
Well I guess this Mother's Day card is late. Looks like someone wasn't raised properly.
I'm awesome. You're welcome. To the luckiest Mom ever.
Mom I love you loads. (A picture of a laundry basket overflowing with clothes.) Speaking of loads… can you do my laundry? (The Telegraph, "20 awful Mother's Day cards that you absolutely should not buy", 3-16-17; www.Preaching Today.com)
We laugh, because some of those hit too close to home. Sad to say, those cards reflect a growing lack of respect in our western society, which has become more coarse and in-your-face than ever.
Just after the turn of the century, Ronald Kernaghan 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 think about this last presidential race. People don’t seem to know how to have a respectful conversation anymore. Instead, they scream and yell at one another; or worse yet, they riot in the streets, destroying property and killing people.
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 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (ESV)
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, and they respect the laws of the land.
What then does it mean to honor your parents? Well, 1st of all, if you’re a child, it means simple obedience. If you’re still living at home with your parents, to honor them means…
Do what they say. 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” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
For children, honor means obedience. And 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.
Some time ago (2005), the New York Times reported on an Associate press-Ipsos poll, which found that 70 percent of Americans felt that “people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago.” Among the worst offenders: children, according to the 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.