Exodus 20 v 12. Honour your father and your mother.
What about children? What are their responsibilities to their parents? This blog will also be a little longer than usual.
In Leviticus 19:3 we read that we are to respect our mother and our father. In Exodus 20 father is put first and mother second but in Leviticus 19 mother is put first and father is put second, which indicates that both of them should be equally respected and equally honoured.
In Exodus 21:15 we read that anyone who physically attacks his father or his mother must be put to death. That’s how seriously God viewed the violence of any child against his parents. No child in ancient Israel was permitted to either attack or curse his father or mother and if he did, he was taken out of the camp by the elders of the Israelite community and stoned to death. No delinquency was allowed in ancient Israel. This is further illustrated in Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
‘If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard”. Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil person from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.’
Although there may have been occasional rebellion of sons against fathers – as in the life of Eli, Samuel or King David – generally speaking the problem of delinquency as we experience it today was unknown in ancient Israel because the whole community took a stand against a wayward son or daughter.
The weight of public opinion has moved away from the concept of personal responsibility and has placed responsibility for the misdemeanours of the guilty on society in general. This applies particularly to juvenile misdemeanour. The consequence is the long journey of social worker, psychologist and family interrogation when a young person does wrong. It is sad to note that home circumstances and parental irresponsibility are indeed often the cause for juvenile delinquency, but it is not always so, and we are all ultimately personally responsible for our personal actions. In the Bible we are taught that God in no way excuses the guilty. In Leviticus 20:9 we read, ‘For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death’. In Proverbs 20:20 we read these words, ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness’. What does the Bible mean when it talks about a lamp? It means your life style, your hopes, your aspirations, the great ideals that you had for yourself, the fortunes that come upon you in life and the providences which surround you and, finally, your actual physical life – all of these things are included in the term ‘your lamp’.
In Proverbs 30:17 we read. ‘The eye that mocks his father and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it’. This refers to the worst form of shame and disaster that can befall a human being.
Do you have an aging parent somewhere who has been treated in a way that is dishonouring to them? Maybe it is time to make restitution.
These Bible references show us that the honour and respect of parents is crucial to the idea of order in society. If our homes are not in order – if there is a lack of respect – if there is no authority exercised in our homes, where on earth are our children going to learn order and respect? Parents have to exercise their parental authority, and not give in to the philosophies of our present age. On the other hand, we know that you can have all the authority in the world conferred upon you, but if your child grows up and perversely refuses to submit to that authority, nothing will happen. Thus children, particularly in adolescent and teenage years, have to agree to submit to the authority of their parents and parents must exercise their parental authority discretely under God. The same applies, for instance, in a church or even in the state. There is an element of voluntariness, just as there is in the matter of church membership. We are members of the church and thereby agree to submit to the spiritual authority of the pastor or the minister of that church.
In the same way this ‘agreement’ should exist in our families. This mentality is bred into our children by wise, kind firm handling in their infant and sibling years.
Do not let the sun go down today until you have put things right with your parents, as far as it is possible to do so. Talk to God about it.