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Lesson 2: Honor Your Father and Your Mother *

Introduction: Have you ever had someone compliment you and afterward you wondered if was a compliment or a criticism? Today, in our continued study on relationships, we study God's plan for the relationship between parents and children. God gives a wonderful promise to children who have the right relationship with their parents. When we examine that promise we find that it is more than simply a promise. Is it a promise and a threat? A promise or a prediction? On the other side of the relationship, what obligations to parents have to their children? Let's dive into God's Word and find out!

  1. The Promise of Life and Death

    1. Read Exodus 20:12. Parents, how many of you think the Ten Commandments are no longer binding on humans? (I thought so!)

      1. All of you parents are also children. We see the advantage for parents in this text. Children, what advantage do we see for you? (The command says that honoring your parents allows you a long life.)

    2. What do you think it means to "honor" your parents? (Read Ephesians 6:1-3. Paul equates "honor your parents" with "obey your parents.")

      1. What promise does Paul see as a result of obeying your parents? (A long and better life.)

      2. Is length of life what is actually being promised in Exodus 20:12? If you say "yes," why does the command add "in the land the Lord your God is giving you?" (Ephesians clearly interprets this to mean long individual life. However, the additional phrase in Exodus 20:12 seems to link "honoring" parents to the existence of the nation.)

        1. What link do you see between honoring parents and the continued existence of a nation?

      3. Read Exodus 21:15 & 17. What connection do these texts have to length of life for children who do not honor their parents? (This is clearly another reason why dishonoring parents was tied to a short life.)

        1. Leviticus 20:9 and Proverbs 20:20 also prescribe the death penalty for cursing (repudiating the authority) of parents. Should we have laws like that today?

        2. If we did, how would society be different?

    3. Read Deuteronomy 21:18-21. I doubt that parents loved their children less in those days than they do now. Would you bring your son to the local elders?

        1. Did Samson's parents bring him before the elders? (In Judges 14 we read of what appeared to be stubborn and rebellious conduct by Samson. I've got to wonder how many parents really had their sons stoned. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that "no record in the Bible or in extra-biblical literature has come to light which indicates that this punishment was ever carried out.")

        2. If, as I would guess, parents did not often (or ever) have their sons stoned, then why do you think this commandment is in the Bible? (Three reasons. First, the text tells us that the command was intended to influence the behavior of children ("All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.") Second, the penalty for adults who are stubborn and rebellious towards God is eternal death. This is a life lesson. Third, v.21 tells us that evil influences were to be purged.)

    4. When we start reviewing these harsh commands, you may be saying "Whoa, let's run back to the New Testament and see what Jesus says about this. He would not be so harsh." Read Matthew 15:4. What penalty does Jesus say should apply to disobedience for dishonoring parents? (Jesus links the texts we just looked at: Exodus 20:12 and Leviticus 20:9.)

      1. Let's read on to understand Jesus' point. Read Matthew 15:5-9. What does Jesus include in the command to "honor" parents? (Financial help to parents.)

    5. How many of you have teenage children? How many of you can remember when you had teenage children? What practical connection exists for teenagers between obedience to parents and a better, longer life? (It was just two days ago that I suggested that two young people should turn their important life decisions over to me for the next few years. Mature parents can see the life-long impact certain decisions will have on their children. If children accept the decision-making of their mature Christian parents, their life will be better.)

    6. Read Colossians 3:20. Why would it please the Lord for children to obey their parents?

      1. Why does the Bible say that children should obey "in all things?" (It tells us that children are to obey even when they do not like it.)

  2. The Obligation of Parents

    1. Let's revisit Ephesians 6:1. What limit do you find on the obligation of children to obey their parents? (It says obey your parents "in the Lord." Thus, it seems to add the limitation that parents must be following in the ways of God.)

      1. Parents, what responsibility does this place on you in giving commands and instructions to your children?

    2. Read Deuteronomy 6:5-9. What obligations to parents have to bring God's requirements to the attention of their children?

      1. When should this teaching start?

      2. When should it end? (The text seems to say that this teaching should go on continuously.)

      3. If parents do not teach their children to obey God's requirements, what expectation can parents have that their children will obey them?

    3. Read Colossians 3:21. What additional obligation rests on fathers (and mothers) when it comes to requiring children to obey? (Don't make them bitter.)

      1. What, specifically, would you recommend to avoid making your children bitter? (The first thing is to evaluate the rules you require your children to obey. Don't get into disputes with your children about things that do not matter. Uniformly enforce the rules that do matter. You should listen to your children and if they are right about some rule being arbitrary, then stop trying to enforce that rule. The second thing is to be kind and loving with your children - even when you are enforcing the rules.)

    4. Let's revisit the very harsh sounding directive in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Why are parents required to bring their son to the town elders? Is it just to get a good group of stone throwers? (The "elders at the gate" were the judges of legal matters (see Joshua 20:4). From this we conclude that the position of the parents was also "on trial.")

      1. What does the requirement of going to the town elders teach parents about dealing with difficult children today? (It teaches us to seek counsel from wise and godly counselors. "Town elders" would likely be those who had raised their own children, who took God's teachings seriously and who were wise. If your children say that you are being unfair, or if you seem to be making your children bitter, this is a signal to parents to seek counsel from other wise and godly parents.)

      2. Notice another fact in Deuteronomy 21:19: it requires both the father and the mother to take the son to the town elders. What does that teach us about the obligation of parents in bring up their children? (Parents are a "check" on each other. Not only is the other parent a "sounding board" for discipline, but the parents should agree on how to raise the children - or at least agree on important matters. In this case, the child would not be put to death unless both parents agreed he was hopeless and the town elders concurred.)

    5. Friend, do you want to have a long life? Do you want your children to have long and better lives? Being an obedient child, and being wise and godly parents is important. God instructs us to learn His will and teach it to our children. Will you agree to do that today?

  3. Next week: Parenthood - Joys and Responsibilities.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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