HABIT #5: RESPECTING DAD & MOM
10 Healthy Habits for Building Strong Families ❧ Part 9
It is no secret the American family is in serious trouble. Half of all marriages end in divorce with the average marriage lasting about seven years. People are waiting longer to get married and many are opting out of marriage altogether. Fewer people are having children. Those that do say raising children is harder today than ever. America has the highest rate of children living in single parent homes. The biggest challenges facing parents today are technology, morality, and safety – in that order. Today, kids can divorce their parents. Being a parent is no easy task. Recently I read about a mother of three unruly preschoolers who was asked if she would have children if she could do it all over again. “Sure,” she responded, “just not the same three.”
This morning we’re going to look at the fifth commandment in God’s Ten Commandments.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you (Exodus 20:12). This is the only commandment with a promise. The promise is really a principle – if you build a society where children honor their parents, society will last. The flip side of this is true as well. Teach kids to dishonor their parents and society will soon fall apart. That’s what we’re seeing today.
This commandment says we’re to honor or respect our father and mother. God doesn’t specify if your mother or father are good or bad. There are no preconditions. Whether your mom and dad were good, somewhat good, bad, or really bad, God says honor your parents. How do you do that? It might help us understand the importance of this command if we hear what it is not saying. God is not saying you have to like your parents or have to have feelings of love for them, though you probably do. But that’s not what God is saying. What is He saying? Honoring our parents has to do with respecting authority. If you don’t learn to respect authority in the home, chances are you’re going go through the school of hard knocks.
This commandment then, is speaking primarily to sons and daughters. But this commandment is speaking to moms and dads as well. And that’s what I want to focus on this morning. We’re going to look at this commandment from two perspectives, first the parents, then the children. If we as parents want our children to honor us, then we must be honorable. How To Gain Your Children’s Honor
- Be loving. This may seem easy, even obvious. Most parents love their kids. But the kind of love
I’m talking about is one that intentionally prepares our children for success as adults. Most of us have heard Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Most understand this verse to say if you raise a child in a Christian home, point him or her to a genuine relationship with Christ, go to church; do all the right Christian things he or she may wander away in life, but they’ll eventually return to their roots. This verse is saying something deeper. Look at the words in the way he should go. The way he should go refers to understanding how God uniquely made your child; his or her unique characteristics or mannerisms. No two children are alike. Each one has a different personality, strengths, interests, abilities. The Hebrew word for way is derek (deh-rek). Proverbs 30 illustrates it well. There are three things which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the middle of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid (Proverbs 30:18-19). The way (derek) is used four times each one describing how something is unique. The flight of an eagle is extraordinary. Watching an eagle in flight is not the same as watching a chicken or a turkey. There is something regal about an eagle’s flight. It’s unique. The way of a serpent on a rock. This is only interesting to watch from a distance! But nothing moves like a slithering snake. The way of a large ship on the sea is majestic and mysterious. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Or, the way of romance between a man and woman who are in love with each other. All of these serve to remind us God has put our children together with unique characteristics and mannerism and our task as parents is to understand our children so that we can point them in the direction of their unique strengths, skills, abilities, and interests. In other words, become a student of your child. Understand how God has uniquely shaped them. Your task is to help them discover how God has uniquely put them together and help them grow into them.
It’s a known fact we’re going to be the most successful at the things we enjoy doing the most. Unfortunately, a lot of kids leave home today having know idea what they want to do or how God has uniquely wired them for life. The average college student changes their major four times and often ends up doing something completely different from their degree. Invest in knowing and preparing your children the way God has made them. The requires time and attention, becoming a student of your children. You may think you know your children because you’ve known them since they were born. They live in the same home you do. You share life together. But do you really know your child?
You want to gain your children’s honor? Then love them by understanding their God given mannerisms and characteristics. Find ways for them grow in the way God made them. They’ll thank you for it later on.
- Be affirming. Be an encourager. This builds on what it means to love them according to their
God-given abilities and strengths. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (Colossians 3:21). If your children only hear criticism coming from you their going to struggle with confidence – even with the things they are good at.
- Be affectionate. Don’t be afraid to show appropriate affection. I can tell you as a father with two
daughters your children need a father to model for them appropriate affection. It was easy to hug them and hold them when they were little. But when they started growing into young women, I realized they still need dad’s affection. The same is true for young boys; they need mom and dad’s affection. If they don’t learn healthy affection in the home, their going to seek unhealthy affection from the world.
Sometimes we wrongly think our children don’t need our affection – especially when they become adults. But that’s not true. Remember the story of the prodigal son? Broken, penniless and smelling like a pig-pen, literally, it says he decided to return home. So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him (Luke 15:21). His father wrapped his arms around his son pulling him in close and kissed him! That’s an affectionate father! Our kids never outgrow the need to for mom and dad’s affection.
- Be attentive. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19).
Take time to listen to your children. There’s an adage that says children are to be seen and not heard. I don’t know where that came from, but it is bad advice. Your kids need to be heard. They need you to listen to them. One of the best forms of communication is listening. As a father, my first response is to give advice, fix the problem. One of my daughter’s asked me once, “Dad, do you know what a wiseman once said?” “No, what’d he say?” I asked. “He said nothing.” Zing! I was had! In other words, “Just listen Dad. Don’t talk. Just listen.”
You need to be ready to listen. That may be when you feel spent and there’s little of you to give. But you need to listen. You may have to work at this. It may mean just going into their room setting with them without saying much. Just stepping into their life where they’re at and taking the time to be with them and listen. They need you to really hear them.
- Be clear. Be clear about your relationship with Christ. Don’t keep your faith to yourself. In
Deuteronomy 6 God gives us some very practical guidance. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7). This verse comes from a group of verses called the Shema – Hebrew imperative meaning to hear or listen with the intent to obey. God gives the practical application of teaching His Word in the home. Parents, fathers in particular, are to teach God’s Word diligently (shanan), to have a sharp readiness to teach God’s Word throughout the day from morning till evening; when they sit in the house, when they walk in the way, when they lie down, when they rise up. Have a plan to make God’s Word a part of your daily life, not just on Sundays. Give clear teaching to know and apply God’s Word. Psalm 78 spells this out even further, We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments (Psalm 78:4-7). Your children’s confidence in God comes from seeing and hearing it in the home. The greatest privilege and responsibility you have as a parent is to lead point your children to Christ (Matthew 19:13-14).
A typical day around our home started with devotions around a warm stove. My wife would read a portion of the Bible and then talk about it with our girls. By the time they were well into their teens, they’d read through the entire Bible a number of times and had a lot of discussions. I can’t tell you how many times we discussed significant issues relating to our faith in Christ while we were going about our day. God’s Word was central to our home.
Our children’s ministries and Awana were a significant part of their lives as well. I can’t say enough how dedicated children’s teachers poured their lives into teaching our girls God’s Word as well. (I want to have all of our Awana and Children’s Workers stand up. Let’s give them a hand of grateful appreciation. You are making an eternal difference in the lives of our children. Thank you!).
- Be prayerful. Coming to God behalf of our children is like breathing – it comes naturally.
We should pray for our children. But we should also pray with our children. One of the most powerful ways to demonstrate our faith is to take your son or daughter’s hand and pray with them. Whoever came up with the adage that says, Families the pray together stay together, spoke from experience. Prayer is inviting God into the very heart of your relationship with your child.
Prayer was part of the fabric of our daily lives while our daughters were growing up and still is. We prayed at meals. Often, I would ask one of our girls to pray. We prayed at night at the end of our day. When they were facing a challenge, we prayed. Often before setting out on a trip, we would pray. We prayed for others. Prayer was the air we breathed in our home.
There are a number of places where we see parents praying for their children in the Bible. One that stands out to me in particular is Hannah’s prayer that God would give her a son. O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11). God answered Hannah’s prayer giving her Samuel. Keeping with her vow, when Samuel was old enough, Hannah literally gave him to the Lord putting him into the hands of the high priest Eli to raise. I am sure she continued to pray for Samuel while he was growing up.
For years I prayed some very specific things for our girls. I prayed they would know Christ early in their lives (2 Tim. 3:15). That they would have a hatred for sin (Ps. 97:10). That they would be caught when they were guilty (P. 119:71). That they would be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives – spiritual, emotional, and physical (Jn. 17:15). That they would have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships (Dan. 6:3). That they would respect those in authority over them (Rom. 13:1). That they would desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends (Prov. 1:10-11). That they, as well as their mate, will be pure until marriage (1 Cor. 6:18-20). That they would be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one (2 Cor. 6:14-17). That they would learn to totally submit to God and actively resist the Satin in all circumstances (Js. 4:7). That they would be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). That they would be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or places, and that the wrong people cannot find their way to them (Hosea 2:6).
I let them know what I was praying for them along the way. Praying with and for your children strengthens their honor for you as mom and dad.
- Be consistent. Consistency, wrote one person, it’s the jewel worth wearing, it’s the anchor
worth weighing, it’s the thread worth weaving, it’s the battle worth winning. Consistency is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Being consistent in your words as well as your actions. Consistency serves as a guardrail for your children keeping them from going of the road. If we don’t give our children consistency, we’re setting them up for a world of regret.
This happened to King David’s fourth son, Adonijah. When David was old and about to die, Adonijah, who it says was very handsome, exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him (1 Kings 1:5). He knew his father had already chosen Solomon to be king, but he decided to take matters into his own hands. We don’t need to wonder what was happening in his heart because the very next verse gives us great insight. His father had never crossed (asad – displeased) him at any time by asking, “Why have you done so? (1 Kings 1:6). His father had never crossed him at any time. David had never done anything to displease his son. He never questioned his son causing him to think through the consequences of his actions. In other words, David failed to put guardrails in Adonijah’s life. The only thing David was consistent in his son’s life was that he was inconsistent. Be consistent.
In 1993 workers doing some moving and remodeling of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, discovered something they didn’t expect. While they were moving a display cabinet, they found an old photograph tucked behind the case. It was the photo of a stocky, friendly looking man in a baseball uniform with the words “Sinclair Oil” on the shirt. Stapled to the picture was a note in a man’s scrawl that said, “You were never too tired to play ball. On your days off, you helped build the Little League field. You always came to watch me play. You were a Hall of Fame Dad. I wish I could share this moment with you.”
No one knew how the picture got there or the identity of the dad in the photo. A national sports magazine picked up the touching story, and a man came forward to say that he’d tucked the picture and the note behind the display case during a visit to the Hall of Fame.
The ballplayer in the picture was the man’s father. And just like the note said, this man was proud of his dad and believed he deserved special recognition. So, he decided to honor his father by having his own little ceremony to induct his dad into the Hall of Fame.
All we know about this father was how his son honored him, nothing else. In truth – nothing else needs to be known. In this son’s life, his father had hit a home run as a parent.
Every believing parent wants their children to obey God’s command to honor their father and mother. We want our children’s honor to flow from hearts of joy and gratitude. Let’s be the kind of parents that make it our children’s joy to honor their parents.