First Things First

December 26, 2023

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12, NIV).


He called me yesterday, a blast from the past. I was buried in clinic so called him back later. It was great to hear from him after 15 years, a Christian physician who had been sitting with my past favorite pastor from a distant town. My name had come up. He called just to check on me. I asked him about his own life and practice. “I’ve just retired; still healthy, but my parents have reached the age they need a lot of help. I decided to take a break from my life to care for them.”


I certainly admire this physician for taking seriously his responsibility for his parents.


God thought that honoring our parents was important enough to make it one of the Big Ten.

However, the Western world has moved so far in the direction of autonomy that honoring our parents is often limited by our convenience or by our perception of their benefit to our lives.


Jesus speaks to this when he chastises the Pharisees:


“…You get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions! Moses said, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel out of that by saying that it’s perfectly acceptable to say to father or mother, ‘Gift! What I owed you I’ve given as a gift to God,’ thus relieving yourselves of obligation to father or mother…” (Mark 7:11-13, MSG).


One of Jesus’ very last words on the cross was to hand his mother’s care to a disciple he loved (John 19:26-27). Last words need to be listened to.


God’s command is not just a biblical method for social welfare prior to the Social Security Act.


The family structure, grounded in a foundation of parental respect, is at the center of God’s plan for humanity. The more we mess with it, the more our culture will crumble. The more we honor it, the more we will be individually blessed. It comes with a promise.


When my wife and I returned from work at a distant city, we purposely committed to a small church with older people because my parents were there. You cannot imagine the blessings we received by sharing worship with them and caring for them until God took them home.


Not everyone should quit their jobs, or move their church membership, or bring parents into their homes as they become more dependent. But some should, and all of us should respect and honor our parents from the time we are weaned to the time we become dependent on those we have raised.


And what if your parents do not deserve honor? Jesus took care of that in Matthew 5:44.


Dear Father,

Help us all, help us all return to this great command, so you may be glorified and we may be blessed.


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