The Ten Commandments Part 5
Honour Your Parents
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 30, 2005


Main Passage: Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)


[Top section used at the beginning of the service as a welcome/teaser]

Good morning. I want to let you know that I’m thrilled to have you here at Sunrise this morning. But maybe you’re not so sure about yourself. Some of you have been part of Sunrise for quite a while, some of you are fairly new. Maybe you’re still trying to figure out if Sunrise is for you. So I thought I’d help you out this morning by giving you the Top Ten Signs You’re in the Wrong Church…

Top Ten Signs You're In The Wrong Church:

10. The ushers are referred to as "Bouncers"
9. There’s a two drink minimum during communion
8. The Worship Leader is the artist formerly known as Prince
7. The church bus has a gun rack
6. There’s a keg at the potluck dinner
5. The pastor is armed
4. There’s a picture of Jerry Springer in the entryway
3. Church potlucks have a survival rate of only 50%
2. Membership and Amway are synonymous
1. Sharks in the baptistry

That’s my Top Ten list for the morning. Later on we’ll be taking a look at God’s Top Ten, the Ten Commandments. We’ve already examined the first four commandments and if you missed those messages they’re available on our website. This morning we’ll be exploring the fifth commandment which simply states, “Honour your father and mother.” That’s what it says, but what does it mean? Is it just a commandment for young children or does it still apply to me today? Well, stay tuned and we’ll try to answer that a bit later.



At the beginning of January we started this series on the Ten Commandments, and now after exploring the first four commandments we are about to take an abrupt turn. So let me review. Here is God’s Top Ten… the Ten Commandments… as we find them in the New Living Translation…

1. Do not worship any other gods besides Me.
2. Do not make idols of any kind.
3. Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
4. Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5. Honour your father and mother.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not testify falsely against your neighbour.
10. Do not covet.

Now, when we started this whole thing we looked at an event that happened over in the New Testament, in Mark chapter 12, thousands of years after these commandments were given to the Israelites. By this time, Jesus was on the scene and the Religious experts of the day really had it out for Him. So they set out to trap Jesus using a variety of questions which could cause Him some trouble. Kind of like today, where if a politician says one thing he ticks off one activist group, but if he says something else, he ticks off another group. But every question they threw at Jesus He was able to answer with incredible wisdom that no one could argue with. And while most of the religious experts were getting frustrated and even a little desperate, one of them was impressed by Jesus. And he asked Jesus a sincere question. Check this out…

Mark 12:28 (NLT)
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the discussion. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Now, you’d expect Jesus to quote one of the Ten Commandments we’ve already listed from Exodus 20, wouldn’t you? But no, Jesus quoted from an entirely different book of the Bible (Deuteronomy 6) when He says…

Mark 12:29-30 (NLT)
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’”

Basically, “Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got.” And then He adds from yet another book (Leviticus 19)…

Mark 12:31 (NLT)
“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Let me put the Ten Commandments back up on the screen. Now, Jesus said the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got. Doesn’t that pretty much summarize the first four Commandments? The four we’ve already looked at?

And how about what Jesus said was the next most important… “Love your neighbour as yourself”? Doesn’t that pretty much wrap up the rest of them? The first four deal with our vertical relationship with God, and the last six deal with our horizontal relationship with others.

And this isn’t just by coincidence. Our relationship with God lays the foundation for healthy relationships with others. Read this verse from 1 John chapter 1 aloud with me…

1 John 1:7 (NLT)
But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from every sin.

Circle the word “then” in your notes. That’s a pivotal word in this verse. If we live in the light of God’s presence, THEN we have fellowship with each other. So in the context of the Ten Commandments, it’s only after we get the first four straight that we’re truly prepare to deal with the next six. Only after you learn to love God can you truly love others they way God calls us to.

But this morning we are ready to make that shift in focus as we look at Commandment number 5…

Exodus 20:12
Honour your father and mother.

Now before you parents go out and hit your kids over the head with this commandment, you need to realize that for them to show you honour you need to be honourable. That’s your responsibility. Okay, now you can go hit them over the head with it.

What this commandment says is pretty simple. It says, “honour your father and mother.” But how? That’s the question I want to know. How do I honour my mother and father? What does it mean for me now that I’m grown up, moved out, and married? Well, before we get to all that, let’s first consider the word “honour”. The word “honour” comes from a verb meaning, “to be heavy”

Honour – “To be heavy”

So the word “honour” carries with it a sense of weight or importance. We don’t simply dismiss our parents, their words, their views, their opinions… we take them seriously. And I think that means something different for us at the different stages of life. So what we’re going to do this morning is examine what it means for us to honour our parents from the time we’re little children all the way up to adulthood. And we’re going to do that by identifying a keyword to go with each stage of life. All set? Let’s go.


What Does it Mean to Honour our Parents?

As children: Obey them

God’s calling children to obey their parents. He’s calling them to submit to their parents’ wisdom, authority and care, The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus…

Ephesians 6:1 (NLT)
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.

Colossians 3:20 (NLT)
You children must always obey your parents, for this is what pleases the Lord.

Anyone here seen Supernanny? That’s the new show on ABC on Monday nights. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a reality show (as if we didn’t already have enough) that focuses on a different family each week. But each of these families have something in common: unruly kids. And into their lives comes the Supernanny, a.k.a., Jo Frost, who teaches the parents how to discipline their children and cope with a wide range of issues from potty training and sibling rivalry to sleep problems and tantrums.

They’ve only aired two shows so far, but from what I can see the biggest problem these kids have is that they won’t obey their parents. And so Supernanny arrives and teaches the parents how to get their homes under control, what punishments are appropriate, and how to get their kids to obey them rather than having them obeying their kids.

Children have a responsibility to obey their parents. But I should add, the weight’s not entirely on them. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children what it means to obey them. Unfortunately, current trends in our society seem to be working against this. If you look back a couple generations, parents and especially fathers were often unreasonable tyrants in the home. That was one extreme. But today, we seem to have moved to the opposite extreme to the place where parents and especially fathers have abdicated their place of authority in the home.

But children desperately need for their parents to set those boundaries and to correct them and discipline them and help them grow into the people they need to be. That’s the task God has given to parents. You see, God knows that there is a rebel streak inside the heart of every little kid. And God knows that parents are going to have to carefully and consistently confront that destructive force or they will eventually lose their children to a spiritual shipwreck. So throughout the Bible God gives guidelines for parents on how to establish boundaries for their children and how to discipline their children and how to nurture them and love them. Read the Bible, you can find them. If you need help, check out our library and you can find some helps there.

So we have this commandment… Honour your father and mother. And I believe that God would say, “Children, at this point in your life you honour your parents by obeying them.”

So children honour by obeying. What about when you enter adolescence? What does it mean for a teenager to honour their parents? Well, there’s two keywords here…


As teenagers: Respect and Cooperate with them

In fact, while most translations of the Bible use the word “Honour”, the Contemporary English Translation uses the word “respect”.

Exodus 20:12 (CEV)
Respect your father and your mother…

Children can obey their parents out of a sense of duty or fear of punishment if they don’t. But as a teenager learns to respect and cooperate with their parents, it’s more about and inward spirit than a sense of duty. It’s more about attitude than action.

God knows that there’s got to be a bit of give and take during the teen years. After all, He designed us and He knows that it’s during these years that we learn to make our own decisions and exercise our independence and discover who we are. And it’s at this point in our lives when to honour our parents means that we respect them and cooperate with them. During this phase, we don’t need constant supervision and a long list of dos and don’ts. And sometimes that means making decisions that will affect us the rest of our lives. But as much as parents wish they could make those choices for us, they can’t. So it’s in this period of your life that carrying out of the fifth commandment can be understood to mean, “Stay respectful. Cooperate with your parents. Work your way through the issues of life together.”

Of course that’s not always easy. Anyone here ever been a teenager? Show of hands if you’ve ever been a teenager…

Well, if you’ve been a teenager then you know full well that there are times when teenagers clash with their parents. And it’s during this stage of life that teens become convinced that all adults have suffered irreparable brain damage. When I was a teen I had answers to questions that weren’t even being asked. Now there are times I’m amazed I can even tie my shoes.

By the way, that isn’t anything new. Listen to what Mark Twain wrote well over a hundred years ago…

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I go to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned.”
~ Mark Twain

And so God says to adolescents even during this troublesome, turbulent time, “Obey the fifth commandment.” Yes, during this time teens are supposed to begin to differ and disagree with their parents. That’s all part of the separation process. But all through this agonizing era, teens are called to be respectful and cooperative toward their parents so these changes can be navigated within the context of the family community and not in isolation.

Proverbs 2:1-4 (NLT)
My child, listen to me and treasure my instructions. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure.


But most of us aren’t children anymore, nor are we teens. We have moved on in life to become adults ourselves, and with that come a whole new series of challenges. It’s at this point in our lives that many of us have established our own families and households and careers, but our parents are still alive and a part of our lives. How do we honour our parents now? I want to suggest to you this morning that we honour them by treasuring them.


As adults: Treasure them

The fifth commandment does not expire when we leave the home. So for us adults, the way we honour our aging parents is very simply… we treasure them.

Proverbs 23:22 (CEV)
Pay attention to your father, and don't neglect your mother when she grows old.

Once we have come through that turbulent period of our lives called adolescence, once we have got out on our own and maybe even gotten married and had kids ourselves, we start to realize that our parents’ brain-death was only temporary, and maybe it never really existed at all. And we start to realize what we put them through and what they sacrificed in order to raise us. We start to recognize how much love, time and energy went into our upbringing. And if that’s been you, then you know that your heart begins to soften toward your parents, and you have those golden years to treasure your parents and to be there for them.

As I was preparing this message this week, I got to thinking about where I’m at in life right now. And I realized that the world is keenly interested in me and people like me. People are always trying to recruit me for something or other, I’m still up on a lot of the new technologies, I’ve got lots of friends and family and I’ve hopefully got a long, bright future in front of me. And I’m told that most of the advertising that exists today is aimed at me and people like me. That’s just the demographic that I’m in… everyone wants a piece of me.

But I realized, that’s a whole lot better than nobody wanting a piece of me. Let me tell you something… the older our parents get, the less love and respect and esteem and interest they receive from the world they live in. There are some great things about growing older, but that’s got to be about the worst. Multiply that by a diminishing social calendar, the loss of their own parents, facing the empty days of retirement, and physical limitations forcing them to give up activities they enjoy… and what do you have left? For many of our parents, the brightest flame that burns closest to their heart is us… their children. For many of them, that is the most important part of their lives.

The sad thing is, at a time when they desperately want to be part of our lives, you and I may find that we don’t have time for them. I mean, we’re always rushing here and there, working on projects at work, being tied up with our own kids, pursuing our career, trying to pay the bills… We get so preoccupied with all of this that it can be pretty easy for our parents to get squeezed out.

We don’t intend for it to happen, it just does. And before long, it’s been weeks or even months since we’ve even picked up the phone to call them.

I want to suggest to you that for those of us who are adults who have parents who are still living, to honour them means to treasure them. We make sure they’re a part of our lives. We keep them informed about life-events. We make sure they get to see the grandkids. We drop in on them or we call them for no reason other than to talk. We treasure them.

Sometimes we just need to slow down long enough to say “thank you” to our parents and give back to them some of what they’ve given to us. After all, if we don’t show that we appreciate what they’ve done for us, how will they ever know? As Shakespeare wrote in King Lear…

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”
~William Shakespeare (in King Lear)

Some of you live near your parents, some of you live some distance away. So treasuring our parents may need to take different forms. But it’s still important. Just a couple weeks ago Sandra flew to Ontario to spend some time with her mother. Her mother’s getting older and Sandra wanted to make sure that she took the time to treasure her mother while she still could.

Within the next couple of months Chris and Rosita are taking a trip. You think it’s been cold here in Charlottetown over the past week? Guess where they’re going. Yellowknife. They’re heading up into the Northwest Territories to visit Rosita’s parents. That’s treasuring them. That’s honouring them.

There’s a bumper sticker that says…

“Honour your parents: they haven’t written their will yet.”

But what we’re talking about here this morning goes way beyond that.

Here’s something else: As our parents continue to age we may find them more and more reliant on us. What does society tell us to do? Society tells us to shuffle them off somewhere were they won’t be an inconvenience… where they won’t cause us undue hardship. I’m talking about nursing homes, which I believe play an important role in our society. Now, sometimes a parent may reside at a nursing home of their own choosing. Sometimes the level of medical care or personal care required is so great that it’s just not feasible to do on our own and the decision to register them at a nursing home is appropriate. There are times and circumstances when that is the only viable option. But not always. And the convenience of a nursing home is no excuse for children to ignore their parents during their time of need.

I don’t think we need to return to the concept of the extended family home with three or four generations living under one roof, but I do believe that we need to make sure that our parents do not lack for the necessities of life and that they aren’t left in need or loneliness.

Is that too much to ask? Is the sacrifice too great? Let me ask you…

  • How many times did your parents put their plans on hold to drive you somewhere?

  • How often did they clean up after you or run errands for you?

  • How often did their wants and their needs take second place to yours?

And by the way, Jesus set the example for us by caring for His own mother. When Jesus was hanging on the cross He was experiencing excruciating pain. He was fighting for every breath and He knew full well that He would be dead within hours if not minutes. During this time, the Bible records only seven things that Jesus said. One of those is found in John 19…

John 19:26-27 (NLT)
When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Woman, he is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “She is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

Even though He was dying and knew it, He made sure that His mother would be cared for. That’s the picture of a Son treasuring His mother. Is it any wonder the commandment to honour our parents ended up in the top five?

Some of us here this morning are already beyond this stage. For some of us, we’ve already experienced the loss of our parents. And that is a very difficult reality of life. Let me just say to those of you who may have already lost your parents, you can still honour them by cherishing them.


After they’re gone: Cherish them

You can cherish them by holding on to memories, by being grateful, and by passing on what they taught you to your own kids.

So regardless of where you’re at in life, you can honour your parents. You can do it by obeying them, by respecting and cooperating with them, but treasuring them, and by cherishing them. And I would add that there’s some overlap in all of these stages.

But why? Why does it matter? Well, other than the fact that it’s just the right thing to do, there is actually something in it for you. We haven’t looked at the full verse where this commandment is found yet. Let’s do that now. Read it with me…

Exodus 20:12 (NLT)
Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God will give you.

And Paul restates that in Ephesians…

Ephesians 6:2-3 (NLT)
“Honour your father and mother.” This is the first of the Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: If you honour your father and mother, “you will live a long life, full of blessing.”

Kind of reminds me of the old Bill Cosby line… “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” Now you need to understand, this was literally true for the Israelites of the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 21:18-19, 21 (NLT)
“Suppose a man has a stubborn, rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. In such cases, the father and mother must take the son before the leaders of the town… Then all the men of the town must stone him to death. In this way, you will cleanse this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.”

So this promise of having a long, full life as a result of honouring parents was literally true. Because if you didn’t… well… your life wouldn’t be all that long.

But even today, think about this. Rebellion in the home will often lead to rebellion in the world. People who grow up and never learn to honour their parents never learn how to live in society. You see, the family unit is really kind of a laboratory where children learn interpersonal skills and they learn to respect authority. And when that doesn’t happen, then they’re going to have problems when they get out into society and could lead to a messed up and possibly even shortened life.


What about Parents who are Not Honourable?

Now, there’s one more thing that I want to address before we finish up here. I don’t know all of your backgrounds. I don’t know all of your family situations. But even in a group our size, there’s a good chance that some of you had parents who weren’t honourable. Perhaps they abused you, perhaps they neglected you, perhaps they abandoned you… and maybe they hurt you so deeply that you don’t think you can ever honour them.

Does God want you to fake it? Does He want you to pretend that the hurt never happened? Does He just want you to cover it up and get on with your life? No. God is not asking you to ignore the pain you feel, He is not asking anyone here to deny the hurt their parents caused, and He is not asking anyone to gloss it over, to pass over it lightly or to forget it.

On the contrary, He wants you to identify the pain, and own it, and grieve over it. And if you are going to come out on the other end you are going to have to deal with it. And ultimately you are going to have to discuss it with your parents. And that isn’t going to be easy. But you do need to express your grief and your disappointments with them. You cannot continue to allow what they did to you yesterday determine who you are today.

This is just an observation, but nowhere in the Bible are we specifically commanded to love our parents. We are told to love our spouse, to love our God, to love our neighbours, and even to love our enemies, but nowhere are we told to love our parents. Perhaps the interpersonal dynamics between children and parents are just too intense. Some of us come out of it intact and some just barely escape. Sometimes too much has transpired. So we aren’t specifically commanded to love them but we are commanded to honour them. And sometimes that means we need to forgive them and get on with the life that God wants us to have. You say, “I’ll never be able to forgive them,” then they win. Because the New Testament teaches us that we will be forgiven in the same way that we forgive. Doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, doesn’t mean it’ll be quick. In fact, it could take months of serious soul searching and focused prayer and some good counseling before you’re ready to forgive them, but you need to do it.

“It is possible to maintain cordial contact, assist a bad parent with such basic needs as food or housing and medicine, and not spend a lot of time marinating in negativity in front of them or behind their back. It may not be ideal, and it may not salve your feeling, but that small something you do ennobles your soul anyway.”
~ Dr. Laura Schlessinger

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Let’s get out of here and honour our parents.




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