Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT”

Exodus 20.12

When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, what is called their Exodus, He brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai where He made them into a nation. The core document that formed the basis for that new nation’s laws and ordinances was what we refer to as the Ten Commandments, ten commands written on two small tablets of stone. The first four commands, the command to have no other gods before Him, the command prohibiting the worship of God with any graven images, the command prohibiting taking the LORD’s name in vain, and the command to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, are four commands that deal with a person’s relationship with God. When God formed the nation of Israel from the children of Israel, He formed the nation as a theocracy, a nation ruled directly by God. God will once again rule by means of a theocratic kingdom, when King Jesus comes again to establish His millennial kingdom. However, until that time, we must make do with less beneficial forms of governance. The command that we consider this morning is the fifth command, found in Exodus 20.12. When you find that verse, please stand and we will read that portion of God’s Word together: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” It is thought by many that this command is the first of the commands to be written on the second of the stone tablets.[1] This is the first of the commands oriented toward a man’s relationships with other people, and shows what relationship is most important to the health and vitality of a nation and a society, the relationship of a child to his parents.

I think it is important to point out that this command does not establish that parents are to dote on their children. Neither does this command establish that parents are to prefer their children to their spouses. Rather, this command establishes that the most important type of behavior necessary for the establishing and maintaining of a healthy nation and culture, so far as people’s treatment of each other is concerned, is the proper treatment of parents by their children. Excuse me, but I think parents ought to treat their children properly. I think parents ought to love their children, ought to nurture their children, ought to teach and train their children. I think parents who do not love, cherish, nurture, teach and train their children are despicable. However, if the order and sequence in which these ten commands are laid out shows us anything, it shows us that how the children treat their parents is far more important than how the parents treat their children. I know some children will feel justified in treating their parents poorly when they reach adulthood, supposing their parents did not treat them properly as they grew up. However, that is faulty logic. Parents may be a bit gruff with their children, and the nation is not adversely affected. Parents may be too strict with their children, and the society is not adversely affected. Parents may even dote on their children and spoil them a bit without damaging the culture. However, if they raise children who do not honor them, the nation will not survive too many more generations. Some parents feel that their children should be waited upon like eastern potentates, with mommies acting like maids. Some parents feel their children should be catered to as though they are little lord Fauntleroys. Other parents feel that their children should be denied nothing, and should always get up when they want, eat what they want, eat when they want, go to bed when they want, wear what they want, and watch what they want. Little of this matters a great deal so long as they raise their children to honor them. If you raise your children to show respect toward you, to treat you with courtesy and kindness, to speak peaceably to you, and to obey your commands, then you have gone very far toward raising your children correctly, and you have started them down the path to honoring their fathers and their mothers.

How can it be proved that this command is truly important, and is the most important of the commands governing relations between individuals? It can be proven in two ways: First, it can be proven by the fact that this is the first of the commands given to regulate the way citizens in that new nation were to treat each other, and is the command upon which all interpersonal relationships are properly built. What a stupid spouse who thinks a marriage can thrive when the other spouse does not honor his or her own parents. Second, this is the first command with a promise given in support of it. The longevity of the people upon the land that God had given to them is directly related by this promise to the children of the nation honoring their fathers and their mothers. In the New Testament, Ephesians 6.3, the length of a person’s span of life is shown to be affected by his obedience to this command to honor his father and his mother. “How can that be, pastor?” says the infidel, says the person who does not believe the Bible. Would you deny the willingness and power of God to work behind the scenes to lengthen the life span of a man or woman who shows deference to Him by honoring father and mother? I am not terribly interested in trying to persuade an antisupernaturalist. However, I will explain what happens to children who just want to know. It is referred to as Providence, and it is the foreseeing care and guidance of God over His creatures.[2] I prefer to think of it as the unseen hand of God, moving in the lives of His creatures to order and direct the minutest details of our lives. Providence, then, sees to it that the life span of that child or adult who honors his parents is longer than it would otherwise be. How is this brought about? In any number of ways. Let me settle on only one of the numerous ways that is not obviously supernatural.

The one who honors father and mother is a child who will more easily bow to authority, more easily obey laws, more easily defer to superiors, than those who are stiff necked and rebellious, than those who do not honor their parents. Such a child is less inclined to have run-ins with law enforcement, is less inclined to have difficulty in school or on the job, and thus is more likely to live a peaceable and conflict free life than someone who is always bristling, always resisting, and always chafing. Who is more likely to end up in a gang, or working a low paying and menial job, or spending time in prison or with a stress related illness? Each of these categories shortens the span of a person’s life. Will it be that child who honored father and mother? Or will it be that know it all who dishonors father and mother by insisting on going his own way against his parent’s wishes, against his parent’s advice, and against his parents wisdom? Who is more likely to end up divorced? Who is more likely to end up raising delinquent children? Who is more likely to ignore helpful child rearing hints so the wheel can be reinvented as though no one has ever raised a child before? These things, too, are related to the length of a person’s life. There is an observable relationship between honoring your parents and how long you will end up living. Not that any one of us has ever perfectly honored our moms and dads, and not that present obedience will ever erase past failures to comply with God’s commands. However, as I get older I find that my own personal interest in honoring my father grows stronger.

I look out over our congregation and see a good number of you folks who have sought to honor your fathers and mothers. Archie honored his mother by looking after her until she passed, as did Shirley her mom. Ron sought to honor his father and his mother until they passed. Eva did the same. Lavona took care of her great grandmother while she was still alive, and took her turns with her grandmother. She is now doing her best to look after her father. I know that many others of you are preparing yourselves, for that time in your mom or dad’s life when you know it will be appropriate to step in and lend a helping hand. It begins when you are a child and your mom and dad train you to be respectful and to honor them. As an adult, you honor them by your attitude, affection, and deference toward them. When they are aged and infirm, you honor them by stepping in to help them in ways they did not need to be helped before. While the whole world seeks to off load their parents so that life can seemingly be freer and easier, God would have us to honor our fathers and mothers. I am convinced that a young man should honor his father and mother to establish to the woman he wants to marry that he can be counted on to honor her. As well, a daughter who honors her parents is more likely to be an honorable wife to her husband.

A friend in high school has two older brothers and a younger brother and sister. For some reason, this middle of five children had to buy his own clothes and make his own way in life from the time he was in junior high school, while his father freely spent money on his older brothers and younger sister and brother. He and I talked about it one day, and he told me that the problem started with his grandmother. His grandmother once remarked to his dad that my friend did not look like his siblings and did not look like his dad. My friend was a blue-eyed blond in a family of brown-eyed and brown-haired, except for his blond-haired and blue-eyed mother. However, grandmother thought there was funny business going on. Despite the fact that my friend had the same complexion as his mother, who I had always known to be an honorable and devoted wife, my friend’s dad began to treat him differently when he was in grade school. His dad bought clothes for every child in the family, except for my friend. His dad bought cars for every child in the family when they came to driving age, except for my friend. His dad paid for college for each of his children, except for one. Over the years, this difference in the way the kids were raised created some profound differences in the way each of their characters formed, but in ways that would surprise you. My friend worked hard from junior high school onward to earn money to buy his own clothes, to earn money to eventually purchase his own car, and to earn money to pay his own way through college. Still in college, he married the woman I introduced him to and started his family. He worked a job and in his spare time started a submarine sandwich shop near a college campus, just as sub sandwiches became immensely popular. A few years later, he sold the business for a huge profit. My friend has for years owned a home that is paid for. He does not live an extravagant life, but when he buys a new car writes out a check for it. His brothers and sister are a bit envious of him. He does better than they do. He is more careful with what he has. When his parents became old and feeble, guess who took care of them? Yes, the one who was treated differently, the one who ended up looking so astonishingly like his father, once both men’s hair turned white and their faces lined with age. You see, my friend always honored his father and his mother, despite how his dad treated him. His dad was wrong, dead wrong, but my friend honored his father all the more. He honored his father more than his dad’s favored children honored him. As a result, he has been happily married for decades and has grown children who honor him the way he honored his own father.

I am not advocating that you mistreat your children as a way of preparing them to take care of you in your old age. I am only relating to you the way things really happened in the life of a guy I know. It turned out that he was much better prepared to honor his parents in their old age than his brothers and sister were. How was he so well prepared? His parents helped his brothers and sister so much that they were ruined in a way he was not ruined. He actually grew up and stood on his own two feet, so that he was prepared to do what he decided to do, which was honor his parents. I advocate training children to honor their parents while they are growing up, stressing the importance of it and encouraging it in any way I can. In fact, it is a major feature of my ministry to young people. Honor thy father. Honor thy mother. No matter what your father or your mother is like, honor them. What are you doing with your kids? Are you helping them so much that you are effectively removing any necessity that they fully grow up, so much that you are removing their impetus to mature, blocking by your help opportunities that come their way to learn some hard lessons that they will never learn while you are playing patty cake with them and indulging them so much? As well, are you training your children to dishonor you by dishonoring their grandparents because they were not what you thought they should be? One of my goals as a pastor is to see to it that your children honor you. I think you know that. So, please make sure you do not raise children to be so soft that they are ill equipped to honor you by looking after you when you really need it. Do not retard their growth and development into mature and self-sufficient adults by being so weak and anemic of character yourself that you refuse to treat them like the adults they need to become. Moreover, do not think I am opposed to parents helping their kids get over humps in life. However, please step back and take a good look at which humps you should and which humps you should not help them to get over. If you are clueless as to when to help your kids and when not to, seek counsel. How should you help and how should you not help? Seek counsel. Should you help each child the same, or should you deal with them differently? Seek counsel. If you are of limited means, perhaps you can help one child, with the understanding that that child will in turn help a younger one at the appropriate time. My dad worked with a man who was one of eight or nine children who went to college. The parents put the oldest through college, who then put the next one through, who then put the next one through. When the last one graduated from college, he paid mom and dad back, to help them in their old age. What a great plan to execute when money is tight. As well, are you intentionally showing your children how to honor you by honoring your own parents in front of them? Certain things are more caught than taught, you know. I am convinced that children learn a great deal by observing the behavior of others. Therefore, what better way for you to train your children to honor you than by showing them how you honor your parents?

What is my ultimate interest in all this? I am a pastor. My compulsion is to see people come to Christ and to see them then grow in grace. Therefore, I want you folks to end up being the parents of children who will honor you in your old age, in the fashion God wants you to be honored. Again, our text reads, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Ephesians 6.2-3 reads, “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” This is not a terribly complex and strange obligation that God lays upon children. It seems like such a natural and reasonable statement of a child’s proper responsibility toward those who bring him into the world and raise him up. You would think that gratitude alone would be sufficient to encourage children to honor their fathers and mothers. Were it not for man’s sinful nature such would be the case. Let me state it clearly: it is one’s own wickedness and sinfulness that prevents him from honoring his father and mother, obeying them, submitting to them, pleasing them while he is young, and treating them with respect, courtesy, and looking after them when they are old. As easy as it is to honor your folks, there are so many whose wickedness is put on display by their unwillingness to honor their fathers and mothers, which unwillingness demonstrates a rebellious attitude toward God, Who gave them their father and mother.

I now want to survey several ways in which this fifth command is violated by children who do not honor their fathers and mothers, and who, therefore, face God’s judgment. If there is such a person in the auditorium this morning, I am speaking directly to you and others like you.

First, THERE ARE YOU SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO OPENLY REFUSE TO HONOR YOUR FATHERS AND MOTHERS

Such people can be spotted rather quickly. You are the sons and daughters who back talk your parents, who sit on your rear ends while your parents work, who make faces at your moms and dads when you disagree with them, and who are embarrassed by your parents because of the way they look, or the way they talk, or because they are people of modest means who do not look cool.

I remember an occasion when I observed a man on the roof of his house, repairing a leak in rainy weather, while his twenty-year old son sat in front of the boob tube inside the house watching TV. To this day, I regret not walking into that nice man’s house and so royally chewing out his son that he would not be able to sit down for a week. It saddens me that a lad could sit under my ministry for years and still end up being so dishonorable to his parents that he treats them like house servants.

It does not matter if your parents are not in all ways admirable. It does not matter that your dad has some serious hang-ups or that your mother is a profound disappointment to you. Since when are dads and moms required to live up to their kid’s expectations? God says to honor your father and to honor your mother, but there are many today who just say “No.” They will not do it.

I know that it is possible for a father to provoke his son to wrath. We see that warned against in Ephesians 6.4. However, having a father who provokes a son to wrath does not let the son off the hook to honor his father. It only means it will be more difficult to honor his father. He must honor him still.

Next, THERE ARE YOU SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO USE RELIGIOUS RATIONALES FOR NOT HONORING YOUR FATHERS AND MOTHERS

Please turn to Mark 7, where we see the Lord Jesus Christ addressing the issue of seemingly religious and pious people, who used religious rationales to avoid doing what God had clearly commanded them to do:

1      Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

2     And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

3     For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

4     And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.

5     Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

6     He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7     Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8     For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9     And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

How did those wicked men sin against God? By sinning against their parents, and devising a religious scheme to justify their refusal to honor their parents.

10    For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11    But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12    And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13    Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Those guys would take their property and declare it “sanctified” for religious use only. Of course, they could still use it, but they could not give it to their parents, and they could not sell it to help their parents out financially. That would violate the “sacredness” of their sanctified property. By doing that they deprived their parents of needed help in their old age.

Yes, honoring your father and mother does mean meeting their needs in their old age, whether their needs be financial needs, or their needs be housing needs, or their needs be tending to them physically. “Pastor, I would love to do that, but my career makes that impossible.” Change jobs. “Pastor, I would love to do that, but God has called me to thus and so a ministry.” Change ministries. My friends, no feeling or impulse to do something, no matter how real it may seem to you to be, should ever be allowed to outweigh in importance something that is written down in God’s Word in black and white. God has written, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

We have too many so-called Christians these days that use some variation of the Corban argument that the Pharisees used to escape responsibility for honoring their parents, and it just does not wash. God directs you to honor your parents, and that is the end of the discussion.

Finally, THERE ARE YOU SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO SIMPLY REFUSE TO MAKE NECESSARY PREPARATIONS TO HONOR YOUR FATHERS AND MOTHERS

I am speaking to those of you who are not now in a position to take your mother or father into your home and take care of them financially when they are too feeble to live on their own. You need to prepare for that day. Preparedness is the order of the day. Some people want to spend their youth surfing and getting a tan. Other people want to spend their youth partying and riding jet skis. Still others want to spend their youth working a job that they really like. May I tell you that what you need to do while you are young is get ready for when you are older?

You may like doing what you are doing. However, if doing what you are doing does not prepare you to take care of your father or your mother when they are unable to look after themselves, then you need to change what you are doing. First Timothy 5.8 is very clear in showing that any man who does not tend to the physical needs of his mother or his aunt is worse than an infidel is. Turn to that verse: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” This is pretty strong language. Denying the faith. Worse than an infidel. What about a young man or a young woman who refuses to prepare to discharge this duty? What can be said about someone who, when the time comes to tend to aged mother or father, says, “I can’t. I wasted my youth on frivolity. I was foolish in my youth. Therefore, I am not prepared”?

Some of you here this morning may very well be violating this command that God has issued by not preparing to honor your mom when she is old. Oh, you talk nice to her now. You are so sweet to her now, when she is relatively young and gives you money and buys clothes for your kids. However, what about the schooling and preparation necessary to position yourself to be of some use to her when she is old?

I think this business of honoring your father and honoring your mother is extremely serious. God treats it as a serious matter in His Word. Especially if you do not take care of your mother in her old age, you are worse than an infidel is and you have denied the Christian faith. What, then, is to be said about a person who not only is not able to take care of his father or his mother now, and he also has no inclination to take care of his father or mother when the need arises, and will not now prepare to take care of them when they are old by being converted, by getting a good education, by getting a good job, and by handling money wisely between now and then? What is to be said about that person? Not much that is good, I promise you. Honor your father and honor your mother. If you do not you are an antinomian, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.

Ever heard of the law of sowing and reaping? One version of it is found in Galatians 6.7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The law of sowing and reaping means that if you do not honor your mother and father you will not be honored as a mother or as a father, and the crop that is reaped is always much greater than what is sown. Thus, to what degree you dishonor your mother or father you will be far more dishonored by your children.

Does it not make perfect sense? After all, where will your own children learn to honor you, but from observing you honoring their grandparents? Failure to honor your parents is soul-damning sin, yet it is unlikely children will honor you unless and until you honor your own parents. If only you knew Christ as your savior. With your sins forgiven, your conscience cleared, a new heart replacing the old stony heart, and love for God and others welling up in your bosom from the indwelling Spirit of God, you would begin to honor your mom and dad.



[1]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2]Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1556.



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