The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
 
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HONORING PARENTS

From what I understand, folks in my age category often are referred to as the “sandwich generation.” This classification applies to those who not only have young children they are raising (or maybe young adult kids they are helping to launch), but who also have parents that find a measure of assistance at their particular age and stage of life to be helpful.

The fifth command recorded in the Decalogue (the “Ten Words” of Exodus 20) begins “Honor thy father and thy mother….” (v. 12). The word translated “honor” is the Hebrew verb kabed and comes from a root meaning “to be heavy,” “weighty,” “respect,” “mighty,” etc. In other words, the verb stresses the “weight” or “significance” that parents deserve and should receive. The Septuagint used the verb timao in this passage. This Greek word focuses on the honor ascribed both to a superior by a subordinate and to elders, rulers, or guests by others (R. Honeycutt, 398).

The noun form kabod  (translated “glory” and “honor” in the Old Testament) describes the nature and presence of God (Honeycutt, 398; F. Wood, 82). Applying the same root word for both God and one’s parents highlights the fact that “honor” involves (1) prizing parents highly as a valued treasure (Prov. 4:8), (2) caring and showing affection for them (Psa. 91:15), and (3) showing respect for or revering them (Lev. 19:3) – (W. Kaiser, 424).

Against the backdrop of this positive command presented within the 10 Commandments, how can adult children encourage, support, and assist their elderly parents with an attitude and approach through which God is honored and parents are treated as highly-valued treasures? Allow me to offer the following outline in an attempt to answer this question. First, make parents (and other elderly adults) a Priority. Recognize the priority placed on children by parents and other interested adults (relatives, teachers, etc.) and reciprocate with a continual outpouring of appreciation, attention, and affection.

Second, treat your parents and other elderly adults with Courtesy. Listen to your parents when they reminisce (even if you think they are rambling). Receive their input regarding “next steps” for them as plans are discussed and decisions are made. Respond with “Yes Ma’am” or “No, Sir.” Such responses might be considered old-fashioned by many in our society (or perhaps nonexistent or obsolete in some parts of the country), but relating to parents with courtesy and respect not only accompanies the admonition of Scripture, but courtesy will never be old-fashioned or obsolete.

Third, treat your parents with Dignity. Parents may not be as agile or move as quickly physically or mentally as they did when younger. Your parents may not hear or see as well as they did in earlier years. Your parents may have difficulty eating due to dental issues. Your parents may have so many doctor appointments that you might think that these visits have become the highlight of their social calendar. Regardless of their health situation and any accompanying limitations, treat parents with dignity. Remember that the wealth of their wisdom and experience probably surpasses your own. In fact, they may have forgotten more than you’ll ever know or experience.

Finally, treat your parents with Integrity. Give them the best care possible as they move into and through their “Golden Years.” Steward financial resources entrusted to you with integrity. Refrain from plotting and scheming about ways to secure monetary benefit for yourself (perhaps at the expense of appropriate care for your parents) by “hiding” assets intended for their retirement so that Uncle Sam pays for your parents’ care. Consider how egregious such an approach is when the resulting care does not “honor father and mother.”

               Family is the first unit of society. The original and primary focus of this commandment concerns the benevolent care of elderly parents.  The second part of this verse, “that your days may be long” was a national promise to Israel but this commandment also, like all of the commandments, speaks of a new quality of life available to those who love God and demonstrate this love relationship by adherence to His instructions. Strong family life contributes to stability as a nation and is the best deterrent to moral deterioration of society. So, when God commanded His followers to “Honor father and mother,” he was not offering a mere suggestion. Rather, the Lord issued a divine imperative which, when honored and obeyed, affords immeasurable blessing to individuals, families, communities, churches, and entire countries.

                                                           

                                                                                                                        Daniel