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What's a Child to Do?, Part 2

From the series House or Home - Parenting Edition

As an adult, how do you honor your parents - especially if they have been less than honorable? Join Chip as he explores this difficult and controversial issue with candor and biblical guidance.

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Message Transcript

God is really clear. “Children, honor your parents,” teens and young adults, “by respecting and cooperating.” Parents, be worthy of respect. Live a life worthy of respect.

The rules haven’t changed because they are teenagers or young adults. More is caught than taught. As someone said earlier, “We are late all the time – guess what – I guess our kids are going to be late all the time.” “I’m sloppy with what I put in my mind – guess what – your kids will be sloppy with putting in their mind.” If you have debts that you haven’t paid and you’re not disciplined with your finances – guess what – don’t be shocked that freshman year when they get that credit card and they start spending it and you have these big bills because you co-signed or because of their relationship with you, you’re liable.

Last year, are you ready for this? More college students went bankrupt than graduated from college. But when you’re a freshman, they give you a t-shirt, a credit card, five thousand dollars’ credit, “Woo! Are you kidding me?” Well, who taught them? Who taught them?

And what I would say to your teenager or to your young adult is: are you respecting your parents in the area of your speech, before God? If God is looking into your heart, how do you speak about your parents? Are you respecting in the area of your dress? That’s always a big one, isn’t it? And I don’t mean how you dress in front of your parents, I mean after you leave and your backpack and you change clothes in the bathroom at college or at high school.

Are you respecting your parents with your attitude? With your body language? How about those grey areas like music, movies, friends, Facebook, tweets? If your parents could see all that goes out, does it respect? You don’t have to agree with them, but does it respect them? Guess what, you’ll get your day. You’ll get a day when you get to pay all your bills, you can be your own man, be your own woman, call your own shots. But right now, you’re not doing that. And until you get your day, you respect and cooperate with your parents. And if not, you are disobedient to God.

Are you respecting them in your chores and your school and in your work? Now, part of the revolution that has occurred, is most of your kids, even younger ones, are smarter than you in technology. And that has created this sense of, “I don’t need you. I don’t need God, I don’t need you, I’ve got Google.”

And there’s sort of this little arrogant superiority that comes, but what happens with technology is they now think they are smarter than you, and when, what does knowledge do? It puffs up. There’s an arrogance. And here’s what I would say to your teenager and young adult: Jesus knew a lot more than His mom and dad, and He obeyed them and He respected them because He understood God had placed them over Him for that season.

As an adult, I honor my parents by affirmation and provision. Affirmation and provision. Proverbs 23:24 says, “The father of a righteous man has great joy. He who has a wise son delights in him.”

The greatest way we affirm our parents is by our life and by our words. The greatest gift you can give your parents.

You’re forty and they are sixty-five or you are thirty and they are fifty-something. Or you’re fifty-five or sixty and they are in their eighties. The greatest gift you’ll ever give your parents as an adult is to be a godly, righteous man or woman. It’s your character.

See, when parents are young, we vicariously think that our kids’ success is a direct reflection on us and we live vicariously and we want them to be in certain schools and win certain trophies and have upwardly mobile jobs and go to schools that we try and do it in a sophisticated way, if you’re a Christian, to talk about what school they went to and how well they did and what their GPA was.

And basically, what we think is all, that little mirror is a big reflection that is telling all of our friends, really, how wonderful we are, mostly, more than our kids. Why else would grown dads and moms scream like absolute idiots with nine-year-olds running around bases or kicking soccer balls?

Will it really matter who wins this game on Saturday afternoon at all? And, yet, we’ve got kids in tears and dads down kids’ throats and, well, why? It’s because when that little kid isn’t kicking it the right way or hitting the ball or she didn’t do this recital right, it’s this reflection on me. I must not be a good parent. Lie.

Let me just fast-forward for you. I can tell you with all honesty, their accomplishments are miniscule compared to their character. And when you meet people that are heartbroken, kid has been in juvenile hall, kid has been in prison, they have been through a marriage or two, an abortion or two, been through a lousy relationship, made some bad choices. I will tell you, there are parents that would tell you, “I couldn’t care if they ever went to college; I couldn’t care how much money they ever made. If I just had a sane kid that loved God, loved me, told the truth, and I could trust them, I’ll tell you what, you just think of the lowest job in the world, they could have that job and I would be proud of them.”

So, the problem is you don’t want to learn that late. And so, as a forty-year-old, as a fifty-year-old. For some, if your parents are really old, as a sixty-year-old, the journey never ends. You’re still someone’s kid. And your character, your godliness, how you raise your kids, your values communicate your life.

Notice Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,” notice those who deserve it, “when it’s in your power to act.” So, we affirm them by the kind of people we become, but we also affirm them by our words and our actions. Communication. I can take you to nursing homes and you can walk through nursing homes and you ask people, “When is the last time someone visited you? When is the last time someone visited you? When is the last time someone visited you?” “Ten years ago.”

Old people are thrown away like old shoes. And we, as believers, heaven forbid, do that. But when was the last time they got a phone call? When was the last time they got a personal note? When was the last time they said, “Hey, you know what? I was thinking about you, I went to this conference and, Mom, I just want to let you know I have focused a lot on what you have done wrong because I have my baggage. And you know what? Boy, you did a lot right. And here, I made a list. I love you. I thank you. Dad, thanks so much. I know you struggled drinking during that season of my life and I have had some pain, but Dad, thank you.”
When was the last time you gave them a call? And just, sometimes, I do understand there are hurts and there are pains but to say, “Every Sunday afternoon,” we have a son that almost always, every Sunday afternoon, he calls us. Just, “How are you doing? Everything okay?”

Our daughter, I don’t understand the mother/daughter thing. I think they talk about every other day, or sometimes more, but you know what it is? It’s just, I don’t care how old or how young is when your kids don’t communicate with you, you feel rejected. You just feel rejected. And we have the power, we have a responsibility to honor, to give respect, to have reverential awe.

This sounds really trite but without them, I’ve got news, you wouldn’t be here.

So, they may have been not the shining star examples that you would have loved, but without them, you wouldn’t be here. So, you’re indebted. And God says whether they deserve it or not, respect them, honor them.

Now, we’ll talk about there are times when you can’t. But what we can do is communicate, be thoughtful. What does it take to include them on some of those special events or, set it up on their computer. It’s one, little click. And then let them see the faces if you have grandkids.

But take some time to invest and give them, in some cases, give them what they don’t deserve. That’s – isn’t that grace? Isn’t that what God has done for us? So, affirmation.

The second half of honoring our parents as we are grown and they are older, notice what the apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy chapter 5, verses 4 and 8. He says, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice.” How? “By caring for their own family and so,” circle the word repaying, “and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”

Now, Paul is writing to Timothy, Timothy is a young pastor, he is going, Hey, this thing about holistically caring and loving people, man, we’ve got all these ladies and they are widows and we don’t have enough money to go around. Paul, what should we do? He said, Well, time out! Time out! “The widows that are widows indeed,” there’s no family around, there are no kids, there are no grandkids, “make sure you take care of their needs.” But if they’ve got kids, if they have got grandkids, you tell them true religion is: take care of your mom! Take care of your grandma. That’s where you need to do it first.

And notice that word repaying. There was a time that you can’t remember and I can’t remember that you were going [makes crying noises]. And your face was all squirty and they cut the umbilical cord and you got dropped into someone’s hands and you were helpless and hopeless unless your parents did something for you you couldn’t do for yourself.

Guess what, everything that goes around, comes around. There’s a day that you may be here and there’s a day where your parents may get there. What they did for you, you now do for them. Take care of them. We commit financially to provide for the needs of our aging parents. That’s biblical.

Now, you’ve got to figure out whether that’s in the house, whether that’s through money, whether that’s through assisted living. There are multiple ways and I know multiple issues. But at the end of the day, you need to know: honoring my mother and father is I stand in the gap and I have got to figure a way to take care of them in their twilight years.

He goes on to say in verse 8, “If anyone doesn’t provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So this isn’t like a mild, little command that is on the side. This is important. This is pretty radical.

When you are an adult, you affirm by your life and your words and you provide for them.

Now, there are four times, I think, from Scripture that you can’t honor them the way that God wants you to – that He commands us to – because of extenuating circumstances.

The first time that you cannot honor your parents is the priority of salvation – Mark 10:23 to 31. Jesus makes it very clear. There are going to be times where someone wants to come to faith and your parents are going to say, “Don’t believe in Jesus. Do not believe in the gospel.”

I remember a young Jewish guy this happened to. His father says, “You believe in Jesus as the Messiah, I will have a funeral for you and I’ll disinherit you.” Well, should he honor his father’s wishes? No. He trusted in Christ, he was separated from his family. There is a price to pay.

In the Early Church, there was a price to pay. And so, there are times where, on the priority of salvation we say, “I would love to honor you, but I have to honor God and His Word first.

Second is the priority of service. There are times where multiple, I could tell a million stories of some young person, college age or a little after, feels very called of God to either go to the mission field or go, and [the parent], “No, can’t do that. Boy, that job will never pay. We didn’t send you to that school to end up doing some ministry stuff. And we are against it.”

If God calls one of your kids or God calls you and your parents say…now, be sure, you certainly want to respect their views, but you can’t let, if God calls you to do something, you can’t let your parents’ view hinder you from obeying God.

Third is the priority of marriage. There are times where you try to leave, right? Right? The biblical model: leave, cleave, become one flesh. You try and leave and you have parents that meddle with your life and sometimes they do it with money and sometimes they do it with phone calls and sometimes they just keep jacking around with your life.

And when it gets between your parents and your mate, your mate always wins. It’s the priority of marriage. Theresa’s dad was, she didn’t have the most pleasant of all childhoods and so that carried on early in our marriage and I didn’t know how to handle it and he would come and criticize and criticize and criticize and criticize and criticize. And she would be depressed for two or three weeks every time after her parents left.

And I didn’t know what to do with it and on my end, my parents, we had pretty dysfunctional families, actually, as I shared earlier. And so, my I think mostly my father, but he couldn’t let go and so he would call our house person-to-person. Remember the old days when you could make a phone call person-to-person?
So, Theresa answers the phone, hears my dad or my mom, someone on the other end, and an operator going, “Will you receive a person-to-person call for Chip Ingram?” Translation: we don’t want to talk to you! How rejecting could you be?

So we’ve got this and I’d like to tell this story like I’m really the strong, brave hero who steps in and protects my wife. I was really slow and I felt between the rock and the hard place. And first of all, I was a little afraid of her dad and I didn’t want to disappoint my dad. And it just, this was not working.

And I just realized, You know something? If you have to, if honoring parents, obeying God, you obey God and honor your wife. And so, I had a phone call with my dad. I said, “Dad, let me tell you something, you call like that anymore, you’re not welcome in my house. It’s a package. Okay? We became one. Me, Theresa, and the kids. You can love us all or none. You can’t just pick one person to love out of a family. So, you are welcome, would love to have a relationship with you, don’t ever do that, don’t call that way ever again.”

With her dad, he came to visit and after one day, he started on the routine, “That faucet is leaky. These knives aren’t sharp enough. Aye, yi, yi, yi, yi.” And so, I said, “Fred, come on, let’s go to Safeway. I’ve got to pick up milk and bread.” And so, we do, and we get back and I’m working up the courage the whole time.

Finally, we, I work up the courage and he starts, I said, “Fred, don’t get out of the car yet. Fred, let me tell you something, okay? Your daughter, I know you don’t mean it because you’re oblivious to it, but you are very, very critical of your daughter. And you have been her whole life. That really has affected her. And, Fred, when you do this, it actually affects me, because she gets really discouraged and depressed because she doesn’t think she measures up because you keep telling her that.” Help me, Lord. Help me, Lord.

“Fred, we are going to go in that house and if you say one critical word to my wife, you will be on a plane in two hours. And you will not be welcome to come back until you can come back with positive, encouraging words for her.” Whoo. Now, fake it. “Do you understand?” Act tough.

And he walked in that house and he was not critical of my wife anymore. But some of us, it’s just, some of that is with a mother-in-law, maybe it’s a sister, maybe it’s a brother, but the priority of marriage. No one gets between you and your mate. And you do not honor your parents if they behave in those kinds of ways.

The last and final way is just the priority of wisdom. Some of you come from backgrounds where there has been an abusive relationship, either sexually or physically, there has been alcohol, drugs, violent anger, outbursts. You’ve had situations where you went out for a little while and you come back and your children were endangered and you just realized, Oh my lands, they weren’t even, three years old, they weren’t watching them and there’s a pool in the back. Or they play games; they manipulate.

There are certain times where wisdom says, and you have addressed it. And every time you try and address it, it’s fire and there are arguments. And it’s just, it’s chaos. And you have tried and tried and tried. There are times where you set a boundary around your family and because of the dysfunction of other people you say, “We love you, we honor the office, but until these behaviors change, we won’t be here for Thanksgiving. The grandkids won’t be here at Christmas. And you are not welcome in our home. This kind of behavior… you can’t come with your vodka and your orange juice deal and get sauced at my house. You can’t come and fall asleep in bed smoking. You’re not going to do stuff that endanger me or my family and dishonor God.” And I will tell you, that is so hard to do. And most Christians feel so guilty, as though…

Notice what it says in Proverbs 9. It says, “He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.” When before your heart, you have tried everything you can do to make things right, and the response is insults and the response is more dysfunction, “Don’t reprove a scoffer, lest he hates you. Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser. Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.”

And this is, by the way, I would talk to your pastor. In some cases, I would talk with a really good counselor. There are certain things and certain people and certain buttons that keep messing with your life, your family, your marriage, and your children and at some point, you pray it through. Enough is enough and you set some boundaries.

And there’s an opportunity. “When these behaviors change, we will reengage. Until then, we are not going to.” Very tough. Very important.

Honoring your parents does not mean you obey them as adults. Honoring your parents does not mean there are warm, fuzzy feelings and you do what they want. Honoring your parents as an adult means you affirm their good, forgive their bad, and have as much relationship as possible that doesn’t violate the priority of service, your marriage, wisdom, or salvation.

You say to them, “Regardless of what you have done, I am committed to provide for you financially and I want to be a reflection of Christ. But it has to be inside certain boundaries that honor God as well as you.”