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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
What do you think it means to honor your mom and dad? Well, what’s it mean, do you think, for small kids? Or what do you think it means when you’re an adult? And what’s it look like when you’re thirty years old or forty years old or forty-five years old, what’s it look like to honor your mom or your dad?
Or what’s it look like when you have kids that are five, or six, or seven, and they’re real small and you’re the parent and you have this command. They’re supposed to honor you. What’s your role as a parent? And then what do you do when you’re ten, twelve, fourteen, fifteen and you’re very coherent and you understand how life works. And you realize, this command was given to all of God’s people. This command was not given to a Sunday school class.
So, with that, I’ve divided the structure of it by asking some questions. So let’s look at the text together. It’s really pretty straightforward. The command is, Exodus [20:12], “Honor your father and mother...” The promise is, “…so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
“Honor your father and your mother.” So honor your parents. The promise then, God is saying to this group of people as He’s moving them into this land. There’s going to be a correlation between how you respond to your parents and the quality of your life in this new land that I’m going to give you.
What does it mean, then, to honor your parents? Let me give you a definition of the word “honor” here. This word, literally, in Hebrew, means “to be heavy.” It means “to glorify.” It means “to ascribe value and worth to” your parents.
It means “to respect them” or “to hold them in high regard.” And the word usage in the exact same form of this Hebrew word, to give you a little color, a little background on how this word is used elsewhere, in Leviticus 19:3, the word is used for the honor or the awe and fear and respect that’s to be given God.
In Deuteronomy 26:19, this exact same word, in this exact same form, is used for fame or praise or speaking well of. It’s the enhancing the reputation of another.
And then finally, this exact same word in 1 Samuel 2:29 and 30. It has the idea of wanting to please, wanting to obey someone in a relationship.
So that’s the idea of honor. It’s the idea of valuing, respecting, obeying, speaking well of, lifting them up, giving weight to their position and to their personhood.
Now, the question then is, well why did God give this command? And if you have that pen that I’ve asked you to bring I’m going to give you three reasons why I think God gave this command.
And have you noticed that this command is very different? We’ve had four commands and where’s been the focus of all the first four commands? Vertical. No Gods but the true God. No worship but authentic worship. Don’t abuse My name. The Sabbath day, it’s My day. Keep it holy.
And now, what He’s doing, this is the transitional command. This command goes from how we are to relate to God in our own personal life. This is the very first command that deals with human relationships with one another.
And so, the very first reason He gives this command is that the family is the foundation for human relationships.
And you’ve heard this said probably on James Dobson a million times. “As the family goes, so goes the nation.” And it’s true. There is a reason why this is the fifth command.
The second reason is it’s the foundation for respect of authority. This idea of honoring has to do with respect or obedience to authority. It will be impossible for small little boys and small little girls, if they don’t learn to respect and obey a parent that they can see, they will never respect or obey other human authority.
So, the foundation for family relationships. Second, the foundation for the respect of authority. And third, the foundation of human development. The foundation of human development.
Every kid is always asking two questions: Can I have my own way? And do you love me? And the answer to, “Can I have my own way?” And I mean my selfish own way for me. The answer’s always no.
And the answer to, “Do you love me?” The answer is always, yes. Regardless of what they’ve done, where they’ve been, what they go through. And when you keep those two things in balance, you’ll produce kids that are very secure, have a healthy sense of significance, and know what it means to submit to authority.
So God gives us this brand new way about how relationships work in the family. It’s the foundation of human relationships, respect for authority, and human development.
Now, turn the page if you will, and let’s get down to the real practical. What does it look like to honor our parents? And I’m going to look at this in three stages or phases. I want to talk about what it looks like to honor your parents when you’re a child. A smaller child up through the preteens in the home.
Then I want to move on because as you study, you know, I’ve looked up every verse in all the Bible, Old and New Testament, about family and obeying and honoring and wherever it pops up. And then what you find is that when kids get to be in those later teen to early adult years but still living in the home, it looks different to honor your parents.
And then what you’re going to find is that when you are a middle-aged parent and your parents are aging, you’re still to honor your parents. But what the Scripture says what that looks like is completely different.
So let’s look at them one at a time. What’s it look like to honor our parents as a child? I honor my parents by, write the word in, obeying them. When there’s a small child, whether they’re three, five, seven, nine, eleven. I mean on up through the teens. But a child honors their parents, first and foremost, by obeying them.
Ephesians 6:1 to 4 says, “Children.” It’s a command. “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Now, did you notice what he’s quoting here? Honor your father and mother. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit, is reaching back to the fifth command. “Which is the first commandment with a promise.” Why? “That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
So, children, here’s your responsibility. Obedience. And then notice the next line. And notice who’s morally responsible in the home. Does the next line say, “parents”? Does the next line say “mothers”? What’s it say?
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up,” it’s an interesting word in the Greek that has, for the full development of the child, “…bring them up…” or nurture them spiritually, emotionally, physically. Create an environment. How? “…in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
And so, when a small child up through those teenage years, they honor parents by obeying. And if you will, with that pen that you brought, circle the word “obey.” It’s a compound word and it’s kind of interesting so it’s worth kicking around. The word “obey” here is “hupo” – to be under. “Akouo”
And I use that because there’s a sound. How many people play guitar in here? Okay. Got a handful. How many people when I say, this room has good acoustics, you know what I’m saying? An acoustic guitar is a kind of guitar. That’s where we get our word “acoustic” or “hearing.” “Hupo” means “to be under.”
And so, there’s a picture here where obedience is, your little children, especially, need to be under the hearing of your word. That means they obey you when you speak. Children obey your parents. That means, do what they say.
And I’m going to suggest that obedience has three characteristics. One, it’s immediate. Two, it’s complete not partial. In other words, when you say to your kids, “Clean up your room,” sixty-seven percent of a clean room is not obedience. A hundred percent of a clean room is obedience.
It’s immediate, it’s complete, and it’s with a good attitude. The number one thing you need, as parents, to teach your kids early on and by the way, when you start real early, the better it is for them and the better it is for you. Teach them to obey.
And we got a generation of people that this is how it goes. Have you ever been to a grocery store and there’s about a two or three or maybe four-year-old and they’re in the car, right?
And the lady or the guy is going like this and the kid’s leaning over, reaching over everything, and the parent, “No, no, no.” “Can I? Can I have?” “No, no, no, you can’t have that.” “Can I?”
And, you know, you watch this battle. In fact, sometimes, when Theresa and I walk around if I catch this, I just can’t, I could get about fifty feet and I just watch. I just want to see how much of this is going to go on. And you know who almost always wins those battles? It’s not the parent.
Do you know all of the McDonald’s commercials, by in large, you know who they’re geared for? They’re geared for kids. You know who determines where you go out to eat in most families in America?
The older parents who are thinking about nutrition and what’s best? No. What? The kids. And how do they get their way? “I want to go to McDonalds! I want to go, I want to go, I want to go!” And nag, nag, nag, nag, nag. And we have a generation of people that kids have learned to teach their parents rightly how to obey them. And so we’ve got five and eight and nine year olds directing the world.
How many times have you been, you know, a little convicting here, certainly happened to me. How many times have you been over to some friend’s house, when your kids were small, or maybe now and they’re back, either playing in the back bedroom or they’re playing with some toys over here.
Or, I remember one time, they were playing in a sandbox. And this is so classic. And so you all go over there and, let’s not make it you, let’s make it some very insensitive, probably, parent that’s not anything like you but this could happen somewhere, someday.
And so, they say, you know, you guys have had coffee and dinner and you’re ready to go and you do what parents do. “Honey, I’ll go tell the kids it’s time to go.”
And so, there are two kids playing out in the sandbox and you say, “Johnny! Okay. It’s time to go, right now, let’s go.” And then, like parents, you get out from the table so you come to one of those doors. Not the front door but one of the doors and you start talking. Right?
Now, and when you look, neither kid has moved. They studied you for years. I mean, they didn’t even flinch. A toy didn’t even come out of the sand. And then you talk for five or six more minutes because you’ve been trained by your child and then you go back and say, “Johnny! Right now! Put those toys away and let’s go.”
And then you move from that doorway to right near the door where you’re actually going to leave and you start talking again. The one kid looks at the other and goes, shrugs his shoulders, keeps playing.
And then, pretty soon, you realize it’s been about fifteen minutes. And then, because you’re a highly trained adult, “Johnny! Right now! Get out here. And the kid casually looks at his friend and goes, “It’s about time to go. I’ll see ya.”
And you know what? It’s kinda funny when you tell it like that. But you know what that kid is learning? That kid has learned and has been taught that when your veins pop out and when your voice is high and when you’re screaming like someone’s ready to die, it’s only then that you’re going to act and only then that they need to obey. And now, when it’s three and five and six, we can laugh in a room like this. When they’re sixteen, it’s not very funny.
Children, number one responsibility, the only command I can find in Scripture for a child, is obedience. And parents, your number one responsibility is not their self-image. Your number one responsibility is not to make them a great volleyball player, basketball player, ballerina, or musician.
Your number one responsibility is not that they get into a good school, have good grades, and are, you know, have great social skills. Your number one responsibility is to make sure that your kids know how to obey you, who they can see, so they can learn to obey a God who they can’t see.
And that’s what it means to honor your parents. And by the way, you know, if you’re a student or a child here, I would just ask, do you obey your parents? And do you do it with a good attitude?
When there’s a conflict between your schedule and there’s something you really want to do and your parents are in a bind, do you have a cooperating spirit that says, you know what? God placed my parents here and they have a life too and, “Yeah, mom, dad, that’s okay. You all go ahead, I can miss this one soccer game.”
See this is really, really important. This word wasn’t given just to a group of adults. This word was given with young people standing and hearing and this was very, very serious. So serious that, you know, in Deuteronomy 21, don’t read that unless you’re, like, have had dinner and you’re in a relaxed mode and you just want to think.
But juvenile delinquency was a non-issue in the Old Testament community. Because you know what the price tag or the penalty was for cursing your mother or your father? I mean, just talking back in a cursing tone and showing disrespect for your mother or father? They stoned them.
Now, I don’t have any place in the Old Testament where they actually that I hear of had to inflict that. But just it being on the books, if I was a young kid, I would say, “Ooh, I think I’m going to obey mom and dad.” There is a healthy fear that is positive. And I think it’s important for us to have that delicate balance and, yes, I think there was a generation where parents were harsh. I think there was a generation where kids were to be seen and not heard.
And I think that pendulum has swung so far that we have not taught our kids to obey us and we do not take it seriously. And we do great harm. What does it look like to honor your parents, as a child? Very simply put, you obey them.
If you want more information on this, we put a series together called Effective Parenting in a Defective World. And we walk through about eight sessions, nine sessions on how do you teach your child to obey? How do you discipline your child? How do you help them develop their full potential? How, as a parent, do you create an environment where your kids can be who God wants them to be?
The second aspect is then not when they’re a child but as a young person I honor my parents, by respecting and cooperating with them. This is for, kind of, the middle to late teens, early adulthood but you’re still living in their home. You’re still eating their food.
They still buy, you know, a pretty good portion of your clothes. The car insurance, you’re not taking care of. In other words, you are still dependent. You’re mature. There’s a natural tension and there is a breaking away and you’re making more and more of your own decisions, and you’re choosing your friends, and you’ve been taught well, and you’re making good progress.
And now respecting and cooperating with your parents is what it looks like to honor them. Notice Proverbs 23:22. It says, “Listen to your father who gave you life and do not despise your mother when she is old.” I would add, don’t despise her any time. But especially when she’s old.
He goes on to say in Proverbs 20:20, “If you curse your parents, your life will end like a lamp that goes out in the dark.” You need to respect your parents. You know what? You can disagree. Are you ready for this? Your parents don’t even have to be right. It will happen. On rare occasions. If you’re sitting here and you’re a student and you’re listening to my voice and, you know what? There are certain times where, yeah, they don’t get it.
And they say, this is the way it is. And you’re thinking, that is totally wrong. You know what God’s will for you is? Respect your parents, cooperate with them. God is sovereign. Your parents will get over it. They’ll look back one day and realize how smart you were and how much you knew and they should have done it your way.
But you know, God’s going to hold you responsible to respect and cooperate with your folks. And you know what? Wise parents understand there’s real tension. The picture I have, the word picture that has helped me so much with my kids is during this time, those middle teens and on, I view my kids like a kite. And what they really need to do is they need to learn how to fly and fly on their own.
And what you do is you just keep letting out string. You just keep letting out string. And as long as they’re doing fine, you keep letting out string. And the string is is that you have responsibility over here and you have authority over here.
And they get to make more and more choices the more and more responsible they are. And when they make really bad choices, the responsibility and the authority, you just keep them together.
And you know what? How late they stay out, when they can use the car, how much money gets allotted to here or there is all based on the more responsible they are, the more and more and more you let loose.
One of our kids right now, just, she’s very, very mature, she’s doing things at seventeen that none of her brothers did. Because she’s more responsible than they were. They say girls, you know, mature faster and part of that, I’m sure, is true physically. But with her, it’s true spiritually.
So one of the things I wanted her to learn is, I’m thinking, you know, a year or so from now, she’s going to have to make all the decisions. And so, Theresa and I sat down and we figured out, you know, how much money, in general, do we spend on everything for our daughter? And, I mean, not just some sort of allowance but clothes, makeup, camps, everything and we decided that we would take that x amount of money and just give it to her each month.
And she has her own account and she makes her own decisions, she saves money, she is learning all the things like, you know, she just went to a camp and she paid half of it. Well, she had to figure out last December how much money she’s going to save.
And see, what you want to do, the goal is not that you restrict your kids and create some artificial bubble, whether it’s in a school or your home or some environment.
What your goal is, how do I help my kids learn to make great decisions? How do I help my kids learn to be loving and others-centered? And how do I help them learn to be responsible? And that’s, and they love God. You don’t want them to become independent. You want them to transfer their dependence from you to God.