Why Honor Parents?
About the Guest
The Scriptures tell us to honor our father and mother, but why? Dennis Rainey tells why keeping the fifth commandment to honor our parents is so important. Dennis reminds us that honoring our parents is key to the foundation of any nation or society, but it isn't always easy. Honoring an imperfect parent demands faith and trust that God is in control. Perhaps honoring our parents is really for our good as much as it is theirs.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
The Scriptures tell us to honor our father and mother, but why? Dennis Rainey tells why keeping the fifth commandment to honor our parents is so important.
Why Honor Parents?
Bob: The fifth commandment—the commandment to honor our father and our mother—feels like it’s not that big a deal; doesn’t it? Dennis Rainey says, “We don’t realize how significant that commandment is.”
Dennis: A nation’s very survival is at stake over how its children treat their parents. Why does God want us to honor our parents? It’s good for a nation, and it’s good for you. This command, in Exodus 20:12, is the only command with a promise: “…that it may go well with you.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll explore, today, why the fifth commandment—the commandment to honor father and mother—really does make a difference for all of us. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
You know, there are some messages I’ve heard where I can kind of take you to the spot in the road where I was listening to the message. I just—it just had that kind of an impact on me. Well, it was August of 1992 that my family and I were in Colorado, on vacation. I had just been to Little Rock and met with you for the first time to talk about the possibility of moving to Little Rock and helping to start FamilyLife Today. As we left, you gave me an eight-cassette album of you and Barbara. This was audio from a video series that you’d done—
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Bob: —on your book, Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem.
Dennis: That’s right. I remember it now.
Bob: One of the messages from that audio series was a message on “The Forgotten Commandment.” This really has been a life message for you.
Dennis: It really has. I was given, by God, a bunch of powerful models—
—of parents and grandparents that were worthy of honor. Bob, I don’t know exactly when the message began to truly percolate within my soul; but as I spoke to high school kids in the early ‘70s, all over the country, I remember thinking: “Not everybody comes from a family like I had. They’re having difficulty honoring their parents.”
God commands us in Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 12 to honor our mother and father. It’s—as God says, it’s the first commandment with a promise. I think He wants to teach us something very, very important—both generationally and also spiritually.
Bob: Well, the message we’re going to hear this week on this forgotten commandment—on the fifth commandment—is not the same one I listened to in August of 1992—
—but you, actually, got this message out and shared it recently with a group of folks / kind of freshened it up and updated it with some further reflection.
Dennis: I spoke to the Fatherhood Commission, which is a group of men who are all about men’s ministry all across the country and around the world. Their theme for the next couple of years is “Honoring the Father”; and they asked me to speak. I kept praying about what to speak about. I thought, “I could speak on this, or I could speak on that.” I kept going back to their theme of their ministry over the next couple of years. I thought, “’Honoring the Father’—maybe, I should dust this off and speak to those men.” I feel like I’ve spoken when I’ve done a better job. I don’t remember speaking recently, however, and having so many people—both at the event and after the event—write me / call me and thank me for just dusting off the fifth commandment and reminding them of what they needed to do with their fathers.
Bob: Well, we’re going to hear the first part of the message as you take us into what the Scriptures teach about this important commandment from God—that we should honor our father and our mother.
[Previously Recorded Message]
Dennis: I don’t know who this message is for; but, unmistakably, God has directed me to give this message to this group. I want to talk to you about honoring your father—your earthly father. I have been in counseling situations with a lot of men, who are being used mightily by God in ministry. I find a unique theme that I think you need to make sure you have dealt with personally, along with your spouse, but also, those that you minister to.
I really thought about coming and speaking about the vision before us and what we need to be doing; but I kept being forced back to where the Bible takes us, looking in the rearview mirror at where we’ve been because—if you don’t deal with those issues related to your earthly father and honor him—those issues will end up dealing with you, working their way out through your marriage / your family, with your sons, your daughters—and ultimately, impact those you are seeking to minister to.
It is interesting that, of the Ten Commandments, the first four deal with—what?—our relationship with God. Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 12, has those first four; and then, as God turns the corner from the vertical relationship with Him, He then addresses us and commands us to a human relationship.
Now, keep in mind—God was in the process of calling a unique people to form a nation. So, you’ve got to believe that the order is equally inspired with the words that God spoke as He directs us with this command—Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God has given you.”
In my Bible, I have written above those words: “The forgotten commandment.” This is a generation that bashes, blames, casts guilt, and reminds parents of everything they have done wrong. We, as followers of Christ, have a responsibility, back to our parents—
—whether they are alive or dead / whether they were good or evil—and that’s why this commandment is so startling.
I want to venture back to the summer of 1966. I’d just graduated from high school, and I stood on the white gravel chat driveway that had a basketball goal against the garage where’d I shot a billion shots. My mom and dad were standing there. My mom seemed awfully small that day as I loaded up my Bel Air Chevrolet, a four-door / six-cylinder shift. My dad wouldn’t trust me with a V8, and I wouldn’t have either. [Laughter]
I was saying goodbye to my parents as I was leaving for college. Had to be God—He prompted me to look my mom and dad in the eye and tell them—
—I think for the first time in my life—“I love you.” I backed out of that driveway, and headed out, and looked over my shoulder at my mom and dad standing there. It was an incredible moment. So much so, it took almost a decade later before I reflected on that and began to realize that I had been a neglectful son, assuming their love / assuming their presence.
As I had started in the high school ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ®, some years later, I spoke to high school students about honoring their parents. It would get very quiet in the room. I, then, spoke to college students and young men and women coming on staff with Cru®. After I spoke about the forgotten commandment, they would come and stand in line to tell the stories of abusive fathers / of fathers that they had neglected to honor.
One person handed me this note after the class was over:
Dear Dennis, I appreciated your talk today. It brought back some memories I have about my dad that I would like to share with you. Every day that I can remember, my dad took me, hugged me, kissed me, and said, “Goodnight.” And every night, he verbally told me that he loved me.
My dad died four-and-a-half years ago when I was a freshman in college. I was with him that night when he died. That night, he hugged me, kissed me, and told me he loved me. And I was too embarrassed to tell him that I loved him. He died of a sudden heart attack two-and-a-half hours after I went to bed. I remember standing over his body, saying, “Dad, I love you. I love…” but it was a couple hours too late.
I think God, in His providence, put us in families to teach us a lot of lessons. When we’re obedient to His Word, we—not only get to know Him in the process because it says, “He discloses Himself to those who obey Him,”—but we, also, grow spiritually as we honor our parents.
Reflecting back on that driveway experience in 1966 some years later—in fact, a decade to be exact—my dad died. I had spent those previous ten years in a very baby-step way of attempting to honor my dad—let him know that I loved him / appreciated him and just sought him to let him know how much I cared about him. But still, as they summarized his life in a 30/35-minute ceremony, life didn’t seem very fair.
How could you summarize such a great man’s life in such a brief period of time?
And so, I sat—about to write a tribute my mom. I’d like to say I finished—that year in 1976—I didn’t. It was 1982 before I finished my tribute to my mom. I sent that tribute to my mom instead of taking it to her and reading it to her. When she got it on a cold February day, she called me on the phone; and she said: “Is this about your mean, old mom? Is this about me?” I said, “It sure is, Mom.” She hung it right above where she had breakfast every day. She made the mailman read it—the repairman / the plumber. [Laughter] There were a lot of captive people who had to, ultimately, read that tribute.
Why is that? Why?—because parenting is hard work / really hard work.
I’ve done a lot of things in my life—led a lot of different endeavors. Nothing was as challenging as raising four teenagers at one time / and then, raising all six of them through the teenage years—pressing me to Jesus Christ—I’m telling you. There’s a lot of exhaustion about being a parent. In your later years, you begin to realize that parents don’t get the appreciation and the praise that they deserve.
Why do you think God wants us to honor our parents? Well, I think, first of all, because honoring our parents is foundational to any nation or society.
Remember how the Old Testament closed before there was 400 years of silence? Listen to this: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” We are watching that happen today!
I got a phone call from my grandson, James. It was a phone call I saved on my cell phone because it’s about 90-seconds long. It says: “Hey, Poppa, would you pray for me and my school? They just had to shut our school down. The FBI is here. The police are here because there are some kids that are threatening to kill other kids in the school.”
This is Russellville, Arkansas—35,000 people. This is in the buckle of the “Bible Belt,” and they’re shutting down a junior high. The day before yesterday, they announced that 10- and 11-year-old boys in New Jersey were threatening a bomb plot in their school—an elementary school. We’re watching that decree of destruction.
By divine decree, though, the commandment to honor one’s parents was listed before the remaining directives about murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting. In establishing Israel, God assigned a priority status to the institution of the family and its relationships. In doing so, the Lord makes a clear statement: “Do you want your nation to live a long time? Do you, not only want to survive, but also have peace in your homes but also peace in your nation?
“Then, begin by esteeming and respecting parents.”
A nation’s greatest defense—it’s not its military—it’s the family. Our nation’s greatest asset is not the national treasury—it’s the family. The moral spine of our country is not the lawmakers—it’s the family, which spawns and nourishes character that creates a nation. That is why the health and life expectancy of a nation can be measured by the way its people honor or dishonor their parents—a nation’s very survival is at stake over how its children treat their parents.
Why does God want us to honor our parents? It’s good for a nation, and it’s good for you. This command in Exodus in 20:12 is the only command with a promise:
“…that it may go well with you.” If you have enough people, where it’s going well with, what happens to a nation? We’ve enjoyed that, folks, for years! We can no longer go to the bank on it because the very foundation that created that respect has crumbled.
A second reason why God wants us to honor our parents is because honoring an imperfect father demands faith and trust that God is in control. He has not made any mistakes. There are all kinds of stories in here—some of you were abused / some of you were abandoned. Is God in control? Josh McDowell told about how his father was the town drunk. He made this statement: “I am the father I am today because of how my father didn’t do it. I determined I was going to do it differently—
—“God’s way.” That’s faith and obedience.
Romans 8:28 is not a trite, cute saying for a poster: “All things do [emphasis added] work together for good…”—whether it’s an alcoholic dad, an abusive dad, a sexually- abusive father. How can God use those scars to proclaim redemption? We’ll talk about that later.
God wants you to have your heart connected with your heavenly Father’s heart. And for that to occur, whether you are an adult child or whether you are raising children, that very honor has to flow from the heart. Malachi nailed it when he said, “I’m going to restore the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”
It’s a heart problem—it’s a heart problem that we have.
Jesus, when He was pointing out how far the Pharisees’ hearts were from God, in Mark, Chapter 7:6-13, said: “’You rightly prophesied the commandment to honor your father and your mother. Yet, when you train your disciples that you’re training, you train them as they walk up to their parents’ house to put their hand over their billfold and say, “Corban,” (which means dedicated to God). So, if your parents ask you for money, you say, “Oh, you know, Mom and Dad, I’m really sorry. I already dedicated that money. I can’t give you anything.”’” So, they use religion as a way to keep from meeting the needs of their parents. Jesus said, “’Your hearts are far from Me.’”
Now, isn’t it interesting that the commandment that Jesus went to—
—to point out their hardened hearts—was the issue of honoring your parents? Could it be that the command to honor your parents could be a part of thawing your heart / thawing someone that you’re discipling to better follow Him?
Bob: Well, we’re listening, again, to the first part of a message from Dennis Rainey about the importance of the fifth commandment. And when we rebel against this / when we don’t do—when we don’t enter into what God’s called us to—there are consequences in our life.
Dennis: Yes. Think about the rest of them: “Don’t steal,” “Don’t commit murder,” “Don’t commit adultery,” “Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife,”—I mean, these are bedrock issues of a society, and a culture, and a nation.
I think—today, it’s interesting just to look at it, Bob. It’s the first commandment that has anything to do with human relationships out of the ten. It goes through the first four that talk about our relationship with God. Then—boom: “Honor your father and your mother.” And the question I asked / I think the question of the moment for the listener: “Could it be that your obedience toward the fifth commandment / toward honoring your father and your mother could be what God uses to thaw your spiritual heart? Could it be that there would be a breakthrough—where you forgive them / you finally let them out of jail—and find out in the end you’re the one that was locked up?”
I just want to challenge you: “Do what God wants you to do.” That’s all I want to challenge you to do. If honoring your parents and writing them a tribute is what He wants you to do, I’d encourage you to get a copy of my book.
You just need to know—I have donated all of the royalties from my books, since the beginning of time of working here, at FamilyLife—
Bob: You’re not making any money from—
Dennis: I’m not making any money.
Bob: —people calling to get the book.
Dennis: It keeps this broadcast on the air. Don’t buy it from Amazon, for goodness sake’s. [Laughter] But if you want to keep this broadcast coming strong—yes, order a book from FamilyLife.
And let me just say a word to the Legacy Partners. When I was recording these messages, Bob, at WinShape, in northern Georgia, one of the engineers that was recording was a Legacy Partner—that’s a monthly donor to FamilyLife. I got a chance to shake his hand and thank him and his wife for standing with us and keeping FamilyLife Today on the air. I know I’m speaking to a few Legacy Partners, right now, who keep this broadcast on the air. I just want to say: “Thank you. We could not do this without you. I hope you’ll honor your mom and dad and hope you’ll continue to give generously.”
Bob: And right now, if a listener will make a generous donation to support FamilyLife Today, we’re going to send them a copy of your wife’s new book, which is called Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. And we’re excited about the book. It’s our gift to you when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and make an online donation; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone; or when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. Ask for your copy of the book when you make your donation; and “Thanks, again, for your support of this ministry.”
By the way, we’d like to add a “Congratulations!” today to Anthony and Loretta Hugar, who are celebrating their 42nd anniversary. They are from Beavercreek, Ohio. Of course, we are the Proud Sponsor of Anniversaries™. “Congratulations!” to the Hugars for their anniversary today.
And I’ll tell you what—you don’t get to 42 years without some help along the way. I’m just thinking about all of the couples that I know—
—who have been investing in the lives of other couples by hosting events like The Art of Marriage® events that we’ve had people hosting, now, for four or five years / The Art of Marriage small group study that people have been doing. I think, if you sat down with couples like the Hugars and said, “Have you had help?” They’d be able to point to things like that and say, “This is a part of how we’ve gotten to where we are today.”
I say that because, this week and next week, our team is encouraging you to consider hosting an Art of Marriage event or an Art of Marriage small group throughout the spring or in the summer. If you will contact us to get the small group kit or the video event kit, this week or next week, we’re going to include a marriage ministry pack of additional marriage resources designed to help you help others. Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like information about The Art of Marriage video event or the small group series.
And then, of course, finally, if folks want information about your book, The Forgotten Commandment, or help in writing a tribute to honor their father or their mother, they can order the book, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. We also have some articles available there to help them with the process of writing a tribute.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation about the fifth commandment and why it’s so important. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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