As we saw earlier Paul says that we are worse than an unbeliever when we do not take care of our parents. As I have listened to financial stewardship podcasts over the years, one thing that really struck me was how many people who really want to help their parents are dealing with corrupt family members, who are positioning themselves to take money and houses from their parents. People are fighting over the opportunity to take from their parents. The Bible calls Christians to be different.
Recently a young lady came up to me with a question, “What does it mean to honor your parents?” Although I pointed her to a few Scriptures that came to mind, I don’t think I had a great answer to her question. It got me thinking, how can adult children obey and honor their parents? Ephesians 6:1-3 says,
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Honoring our parents has lifelong ramifications. Although there are circumstances where obeying this verse becomes impossible (parents die, they are abusive, they abandon their children etc.) we are called to honor them. So here are some ways we can apply this verse as adult children.
- Be thankful for them
It’s fascinating to think of how helpless we are when we come into this world. We can’t feed ourselves, we can’t walk, we can’t clean ourselves and we can’t communicate. Even in the cases where our parents are unbelievers we owe a lot to them. We should be thankful for them and it’s going to be impossible to honor your parents unless you begin by being thankful for them.
The fact that you are still alive today is a pretty good reason to start with. Just go on the front page of any news site and chances are you will find some story of a parent killing their child, or abusing their children. Of course this is a much more difficult issue for those who were neglected and abused by their parents, but for the majority of us there’s a lot more to be thankful for than not. And even where thankfulness seems impossible, as believers we are thankful for the evils in our lives that God uses for our good and His glory. (Genesis 50:20)
- Talk to them
It is imperative that we strive to cultivate relationships with the people God sovereignly ordains in our lives. And there is no one more important than your parents. God sovereignly, before the foundations of the earth, determined to place you in the family you were born in. He hand picked your parents and knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).
You look like your mother and father, and no matter how far you travel, or if you change your name, you will always have their blood in your veins. It is a relationship God has given you that you must do everything within your power to cultivate.
And it all begins with talking with them. Talk with them as frequently as possible. Ask them how they’re doing. Think of questions to ask them. Find things in common.
One of my favorite things to do is to go preach at the nursing home in our neighborhood. It’s fascinating to talk to the people living there. So many of them have children who won’t talk to them and they go months without talking to anyone younger than them. It’s sad to know that most have children who simply will not talk to them.
It’s easy for people to have weeks, and months go by without talking with their parents, but the Bible calls believers to be different. First Timothy 1:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Sometimes providing for your parents goes beyond writing a check, and a phone call is in order.
- Talk to them respectfully
The word for honor in Ephesians 6:2 is τίμα which means to determine the value of something; and in this case the value is supposed to be high.