23x “my son” is mentioned in Proverbs.
This book is a book of practical wisdom with a plethora of subjects, and one cannot deny the emphasis on parenting in this manual.
You could say that the entire book is a series of counsels from a father and mother to their children – “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).
Below is a list of some of the principles for parenting that we can glean from Proverbs.
- Proverbs 13:22 – With aging parents should come growing generosity.
- Proverbs 13:24 – Discipline is a tool for teaching our children our love for them.
- Proverbs 15:10 – There ought to be severe consequences for children that reject discipline.
- Proverbs 17:6 – Grandchildren are a blessing.
- Proverbs 17:21, 25 – A wise child brings joy to his parents.
- Proverbs 20:7 – Children will learn integrity from their parents.
- Proverbs 22:15 – Discipline is a means to address the sin of our children.
- Proverbs 23:13-14 – God’s discipline is harsher than our own.
- Proverbs 23:24 – Obedience is a source of joy for parents.
- Proverbs 29:15 – Wisdom can be a by-product of discipline.
- Proverbs 29:17 – A disciplined child can become a thankful adult.
So, when I see and read God referring to Himself as the Father, I am aware that my own Dad and Annie’s dad are not perfect examples of what God is like, but they aren’t inadequate either. They both give me glimpse of my Creator.
The passage that comes to my mind when I think of my Dad is Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” My Dad bleeds the Bible. His ability to recall and integrate Scripture into life is unparalleled. He loves God’s Word more than man’s word. His relentless pursuit of knowing God inspires all who he shepherds as a pastor, befriends, and reaches out to. I am happy to have him as a Dad.
The verse that comes to my mind when I think of my father-in-law is Proverbs 20:7 – “The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him.” My father-in-law could be summed up with the word integrity. It suits him well as a man above reproach who serves as an elder at his church. He served in law enforcement for decades and kept his faith and testimony in the recurring challenges and temptations of evil. Both of these men are role models for all young men.
They are worthy of our admiration and a “Happy Father’s Day!”
“One of the greatest gifts wives can give their husbands is to relieve them of the responsibility of being everything to them. Husbands cannot do it. It is too high a standard. They are, after all, just men. They haven’t been given a witty romantic script, and they cannot produce a perfect ending in just less than two hours. They live in real life, and they have real-life weaknesses and foibles. They have annoying habits and inexplicable idiosyncrasies – just as we do. Dearest wives, we must grant permission to our husbands to be imperfect.” (Susan Black, Marriage is Hard)
After my blog post from Wednesday, I was given the above mentioned question to address. The 5th Commandment is about honoring your mother and father.
All these commandments – of course – are important, but there must be a reason this is the first of the horizontal commands. The horizontal commands (Commandments 5-10) are those commands that primarily reference our relationship with our neighbor; the vertical commands (Commandments 1-4) primarily reference our relationship to God.
So why Commandment #5? Why did God put it here? Why is this the first in the list of the last 6? Is it more significant than then others? Let me give you some reasons this commandment is given here and why it is so important.
First, real relationships start in the home, because that is where our discipleship and discipline and true character is seen and revealed. No one knows us better than our families and there is no better barometer of our spirituality than the family dynamic. If you want to know whether an individual is living an exemplary life, whether they are modeling God’s truth and holiness, whether they are serving God and His church, then look at how he or she relates to his family.
Second, family relationships mirror our relationship to God. Remember Paul’s instructions to fathers, mothers, and children? He wrote, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, AS TO THE LORD. … Husbands, love your wives, AS CHRIST … Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD, …” (Eph 5:22, 25; 6:1). Each of these phrases not only modifies the verbs that precede them but they give us a reflection of what is supposed to happen when each member of the family unit lives in a godly fashion. When they do that, they are mirroring their own submission or obedience or love to God. In other words, children who don’t obey God, struggle in their obedience to God; wives who don’t submit to their husbands don’t often submit to God; husbands who don’t love their wives as Christ loves the church don’t often love Christ in that same sacrificial way.
Third, parents need to live a life in a manner worthy of honor. Remember when Paul said, “Fathers, do not provoke (or sinfully irritate) your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col 3:21)? Don’t make your children’s struggle with honor you by being dishonorable. If they have a trouble honoring you, make it because of their sin and not yours.
Fourth, it is in our nature to hate authority. This is as old as Adam and Eve rebelling against God’s authority to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is in our nature to not respect and revere and honor anyone who is above us. It is in our flesh to look at those who tell us what to do and say, “I don’t think so”. We need this Commandment to remind us that we live a life of submission and honor to those who have come before us.
Fifth, we tend to de-value those who are older than us. We abandon our parents into nursing homes never visiting them. We try to fill our churches with young families only at the expense of older couples. We don’t help those who are older have a voice or influence in the world as they ought. We make them the object of mocking or jokes. We create so-called death panels in our health care system to euthanize them when they have reached a point of being expendable.
Sixth, and finally, God sets up a structure of authority in the home. We already had structure before the Ten Commandments – of course – but now we have it as part of God’s moral law. The family functions with someone leading it and for children they are to defer to their parents. We know this is the case because the responsibility of teaching truth and the law falls on those who are in authority – the parents (Deut 4:9-10, 40; 6:4-9).
Jews made this a very important commandment in their religious system because of this promised reward. One well known rabbi, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught, “Great is the commandment of honoring father and mother because God preferred it over the honoring of Himself.” I don’t know if I would go that far, but you can see how important this was for the Jews. We need this Fifth Commandment.
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“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16).
The commandment to “honor” refers to something that is heavy or weighty; it is giving due weight to something or someone’s position. It is not something demonstrated through someone displaying affection or “tipping their hat” to another; it is demonstrated through a careful listening and following of an authority. It is a desiring of what they desire; it is a living in a way that pleases another.
The honoring of one’s parents is a reverence for them. It is treating them as God expects us to treat Him. Let me give you some examples of how we can honor parents.
- We honor our parents by obeying them. The Bible is filled with verses that command children to honor their parents with their own obedience. Proverbs 1:8-9 – “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. Ephesians 6:1-3 – “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.” Colossians 3:20 – “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Or “all things that please Him.” This is a no-brainer when you are living in the home and are under your parents’ formal authority, but I would argue when you have taken on personal responsibility and independence and left that home, your authority structure is no longer present. Therefore, you are still called to honor but that absolute obedience as you become an adult yourself begins to phase out. This happens with marriage. Each mate leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife or husband (Gen 2:24). Obedience stops then. It is natural for all of us to move out of the formal authority of our homes and our obedience to our parents will evolve, but until then it is one way we can honor them.
- We honor our parents by caring for them. There is a time for all of us when our parents become physically needy and are more reliable on others for assistance. That is a wonderful opportunity and time we have to honor them during a period in their life when too many people don’t bring them honor or reverence. There are a few passages that come to mind where we see this illustrated. John 19:26-27 – As Jesus hangs on the cross, he looked down to his distraught mother and next to her was the disciple of love – John – and he said, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Jesus knew he would no longer be able to care for his mother Mary, because Joseph had likely dies, and we wanted to make sure she was cared for. I Timothy 5:4, 8 – “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. … But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Families have the first responsibility to care for their widowed parents; then comes the church. Because parents brought their children into the world, they now have the privilege of honoring them by caring for them and honoring them in this manner. And if they refuse to do so, they are demonstrated themselves to be no different than one who has no affection for God. Our care for our parents would include doing so – of we are able – in our homes or theirs, keeping them away from dangerous nursing home facilities or isolating them away from friends and family towards the ends of their life or drugging them up to make us have to work less to care for them, etc.
- We honor our parents by listening to what they have to say. Children would do well to take James’ advice and be slow to speak and quick to listen (Jas 1:19). Solomon himself wrote, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Prov 23:22). This is not the only time Solomon gives such counsel (Prov 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 5:1).When we are young, no matter our age, we always think we know more than those who are older than us … and this always seems to be magnified when your parents are talking, doesn’t it? And yes, sometimes your parents are wrong, but listening to them is a sign of respect and honor. The Puritans says children were to be the echo of the parents. If a parent spoke, the child is to echo back honor by listening to them – not arguing or debating.
- We honor our parents by thanking and being thankful for them. Parents invest and sacrifice so much for their kids. The most conservative estimates I have seen is between 1 and 1.5 million dollars to raise a child until the age of 18! How about thanking your parents they love you more than becoming millionaires? The rides to soccer practice, the presents bought at Christmas and birthdays, the meals provided, the time sacrifices in giving counsel, the vacations, the memories, the life lessons passed on, etc. Be thankful in all things (I Thess 5:18) and that includes what parents do for you.
- We honor our parents by walking in truth on your own. One of the most often referred to verses by Christian parents in III John 4 – “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” This Apostle of love, John, has a strong fatherly affection for his readers just as a parent would for their children that have listened to their godly upbringing and are now living for the Lord that your parents followed.
The worst problem each child has is a wicked heart. And he best and only remedy for such a heart is the truth of the Gospel.
Maybe the biggest problem with young people today is their failure to submit to and respect those in authority over them. And you know what that communicates on a larger scale? Someone who doesn’t honor their parents as they should expose their heart’s failure to also honor God as they should. Because these relationships are so similar and emblematic of one another, you can’t have one without the other. One who struggles with obeying God’s command of honoring his parents is going to find himself struggling frequently with honoring God Himself? Why? Because honoring mom and dad is really honoring God. That’s where it all comes back to, doesn’t it?
These are just some ways we can honor our parents.
As we said earlier, this is an important commandment for the infrastructure of the family, because parents are instructed often in the O.T. to instruct their children regarding God’s law. They are to teach their children what God commands of them and who this God is they serve. But none of this could happen unless children were receptive and respectful of what their parents have to say.
Stuart Scott’s book The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective is one of the most comprehensive books on how to love your wife. I have been through this book a number of times with couples going through per-marital counseling, on my own when I was engaged to Andrea, and then a few other times as a refresher for my own role as husband.
The book gives biblical help on love, leadership, physical intimacy, stewardship, serving your spouse, communication, resolving conflict, dealing with sin, anger, anxiety, fear, lust, etc.
One of my favorite sections of his book is Chapter 5 entitled “A Husband’s Understanding – Of Marriage.” It is in this chapter we learn the purposes for marriage, having the right commitment to marriage, and God’s intentions for our marriage.
On pg. 65, the question is asked, “What are you portraying?”
It is a question addressed to the husband about his leadership in the home. The author gives the following 7 analogies that are not appropriate for the husband to be and they are analogies that are so easy to find yourself exhibiting in your home.
- Are you a “king lording it over his vessels?” This is the husband who dictates everything to his wife and believes his wife is only there to serve him.
- Are you a “hireling over sheep?” This is the husband who leaves when anything gets tough and refuses to sacrifice towards his wife.
- Are you a “tolerant roommate?” This is the husband who is not committed to his wife, ignores his and her sin and just does whatever he wants.
- Are you a “business partner?” This is the husband who thinks everything in the home should be split “right down the middle” with his spouse.
- Are you an “irresponsible steward or drifter?” This is the husband who avoids his responsibilities, depends on others to fill his responsibilities and just always “goes with the flow.”
- Are you a “preoccupied worker?” This is the husband who is always busy and distracted and uninvolved in every or most things.
- Are you a “patrolling supplier?” This is the husband who provides for his family’s physical needs but is never personally involved.
Or are you the husband who is exemplified in Ephesians 5:25-33?