September 15, 2019

Exodus 20:12: Honoring Your Parents

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Series: The Ten Commandments Scripture: Exodus 20:12

Exodus 20:12: Honoring Your Parents

Please turn with me in your Bible to Exodus 20. If you’re using one of the Bibles we provide, that’s on page 49. We’ve been going through the Ten Commandments one by one, and this morning, we’re on the fifth commandment. And that commandment is found in verse 12 of Exodus 20. Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Let’s pray. [Prayer]

If there’s anything that’s unpopular in our society today, it’s the idea of authority. People are generally very skeptical about those in authority. We really don’t trust them very much at all. And that distrust extends to the institutions that people in authority control. For example, a 2018 Gallup poll indicated that Americans have a historically low level of confidence in institutions. According to Gallup, 74% of those who responded have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military—so that’s pretty high. Also 67% trust small business. However, only 54% have confidence in the police, 48% have confidence in higher education, 38% have confidence in the church or organized religion, then 37% in the presidency, also 37% in the U. S. Supreme Court, 36% in the medical system, 30% in banks, 29% in public schools, 26% in organized labor, 25% in big business, 23% in newspapers, 22% in the criminal justice system, 20% in television news, and just 11% have confidence in Congress. So basically, most Americans don’t trust many of the key institutions in our society. And that distrust of institutions is, I believe, a part of and inseparably bound up in our distrust of authority in general. 

You can see this all over the place in movies and TV as well. In the vast majority of movies and TV shows, authority figures are portrayed as either clueless or corrupt. It’s usually one of those two things. Authorities either have no clue how to handle a certain situation or they know exactly what they’re doing but are exploiting their power for selfish gain. You can see this even children’s shows. Actually, it might be even more common in children’s shows. Just take Paw Patrol, for example. Paw Patrol is about a kid and his dogs who act heroically in various situations and basically save the day. And that’s great and everything, but what kind of role do the adults have? Usually they don’t really have much a role. So the subtle message is that the adults are kind of clueless. They don’t really know what they’re doing, so a kid and his dogs have to step in and save the day. And you might think I’m being a little picky with that, and perhaps I am. But if you pay attention, you can see that theme of the clueless adult in so many of the children’s shows and movies being put out today. So from Gallup polls to Paw Patrol, you can see our distrust and skepticism toward authority surfacing almost everywhere. 

Yet the idea of authority is precisely what the fifth commandment of honoring our parents is based on. Of course, all of the commandments are ultimately based on authority since it’s implied that the God who gives all of these commandments has authority over us. However, the fifth commandment directs us to a specific earthly authority, under God, that we’re told to honor. And that shows us that, contrary to the prevailing view of our society, authority in itself is a very good thing. Obviously, like anything else, authority can be and often is misused, but authority itself is a wonderful and very desirable thing. It’s a gift from God. In 2 Samuel 23:3-4, listen to what David says in what are identified as his last words to his people. You know, whenever something’s written down as someone’s last words, we would usually expect it to be pretty important—especially the last words of a man as godly as David. So listen to what he says in 2 Samuel 23:3-4: 3 When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, 4 he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth. So a godly leader is a blessing to those under him. David says “he dawns on them like the morning light” and nourishes them “like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” So just like sunlight and rain make all of the plants under them flourish, authority—when properly exercised—makes everything under it flourish as well. Just look at a sports team that flourishes under the leadership of a good coach or a team of soldiers that accomplishes incredible things under the command of a good officer or—as we’re going to talk about this morning—children who grow up in a godly home with godly parents and are able to flourish because of that. 

So the fifth commandment shows us that authority is, in itself, a wonderful thing. And because authority is such a wonderful thing, it’s important to be especially diligent in honoring the primary authority God’s put over us—our parents. Unfortunately, the idea of children honoring their parents’ authority is becoming an increasingly radical idea. Going along with that general distrust of authority, children are now taught to focus on expressing themselves rather than submitting themselves. I mean, if the messages of Paw Patrol and most other children’s shows are right and adults are indeed rather clueless, why would you submit yourself or honor the authority of your parents? The best way forward would be to express yourself as an individual. However, the fifth commandment turns that mentality upside down and tells us that the path to human flourishing begins with honoring our parents. You may remember we said that the beginning of this sermon series that all of the Ten Commandments lead to human flourishing. They all show us the best way to live. And that’s especially true with the fifth commandment. So I’d like to spend the rest of our time this morning looking at three features of the fifth commandment. Number one, the importance of the commandment. Number two, the duties included in the commandment. And number three, the scope of the commandment.

The Importance of the Commandment

So first, the importance of the commandment. The Ten Commandments are commonly divided into two groupings. The first four commandments teach us about our duty to God, while the remaining six commandments teach us about our duty to our neighbor. We might say that first four are primarily vertical, while the remaining six are horizontal. So you’ll notice that the fifth commandant is actually the first one in that latter grouping. It’s also commonly recognized as the foundation of that grouping. Honoring our father and mother is foundational to keeping the other commandments after it. It’s primarily from godly parents that we learn about not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, and not coveting. And you can extend that even beyond these specific behaviors to pretty much any character quality. If you encounter someone who is hard-working, productive, conscientious, responsible, mannerly, and considerate, most of the time you’re looking at the values and habits that person’s parents instilled in them. Of course, there are always exceptions, but in general virtuous character and good habits are learned primarily from our parents. 

By the way, this shows us what a high and noble calling it is to be a mom or dad. If you’re a mom or dad, you have one of the most impactful and significant ministries in the world—perhaps the most. When you think about the opportunity you have to make an impact on another human being, it’s staggering. And it would probably be overwhelming if not for the grace of God. 

So…this is why God tells us to honor our parents. Even though our parents will inevitably be imperfect to one degree or another, they still have incredibly valuable things to teach us. And so God tells us to take advantage of the lessons our parents have to teach us by honoring them. And also, let me say this. Even for children with parents who aren’t really teaching them good character qualities and good habits, there’s still so much for even those children to gain by honoring their parents—because it’s by honoring our parents that we learn how to live under authority in general and how to listen to people and how to do things we sometimes don’t feel like doing. Those are all very important lessons to learn if you want to do well in life. I mean, if you’re working a job as an adult and your boss asks you to do something and you say, “Well, I don’t’ really feel like it right now,” how do you think that going to go over? Probably not very well, right? You’re probably going to be looking for another job very soon. So these are very important lessons to learn in order to do well in a career one day or even if you just want to stay out of jail. You have to know how to live under authority—and that’s primarily learned at home. 

Also, we can see the importance of this commandment by observing the promise that’s attached to it. It says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Now, of course, this promise doesn’t imply that honoring our parents guarantees that we’ll live a certain number of years. It’s not like everyone who honors their parents lives to age 90 while those who don’t honor their parents only live to age 40. Rather, this was a promise for the nation of Israel as a whole. God was promising them that, if they honored their parents, they would collectively, as a nation, enjoy many days in the land that God was about to give them. However, there’s still a timeless principle that we can extract from that that does apply to us as individuals: honoring our parents generally results in things going well for us in life. Our life is usually better if we honor our parents. 

The Duties Included in the Commandment

So that’s the importance of the commandment. Now let’s look at the duties included in the commandment. What specific duties are involved in honoring our father and mother? I believe there are three of them. 


The first, as we’ve already alluded to, is obedience. Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” So obedience is one essential component of honoring our parents. Of course, this primarily applies while we’re still young and living at home. And God instructs children living at home to obey their parents not just in some things or just when they feel like it but “in everything,” Colossians says. If you’re a parent, I would encourage you to expect that kind of obedience from your children, which means being faithful to train them in obedience and then faithful to discipline them when they refuse to obey. Discipline is a very biblical response to disobedience. 

And this expectation of obedience is for teenagers as well. A lot of times, we assume that rebellion is sort of a rite of passage for teenagers—that it’s just what they do and that we need to give them space to do it. They’re establishing their own identity, we say. But according to the Bible, as we see both in Colossians 3 and in the fifth commandment, rebelling against your parents by disobeying them isn’t a healthy part of establishing your own identity—it’s just sinful. It’s wrong. It’s against God’s instructions for how we should live. Now, of course, there are some things that teenagers have to figure out about themselves and some steps they should be taking toward a healthy form of independence. I’m certainly not suggesting that we should parent a sixteen-year-old the same way we parent a six-year-old. But let’s be careful never to let those healthy steps toward independence be treated as if they give teenagers a license for disobedience or disrespect or any kind of rebellion. 

In addition, even when we get older and move out of our parents’ house and establish our own household, I believe honoring our parents still involves making an effort to respect their wishes whenever we can. Even though we may not be obligated to obey them like we were when we were children, we can still show them honor by doing what they want us to whenever it’s feasible and reasonable for us to do so. And yeah, that sometimes involves swallowing our pride. A couple of years ago, my dad thought I should be assuming responsibility for something that I personally didn’t believe was my responsibility. And what made it even more difficult was the way my dad communicated his thoughts to me. He basically sat Becky and I down and gave us a forty minute lecture about how we should be doing this thing. To be honest, it felt a bit demeaning. Now, maybe that was just me being oversensitive, but that’s how I felt. I felt like my dad wasn’t giving me the respect I thought I deserved. However, in the spirit of the fifth commandment, I swallowed my pride and did what he was asking me to do anyway. Now I’m not going to say that I was honoring my dad in my heart, but outwardly, I did manage to make myself do what he was asking me to do. And it’s actually an annual thing, so every year, I get to swallow my pride all over again and do this thing that my dad has asked me to do. And honestly, I probably need that in my life—and God knows that. He knows that, for the sake of my own spiritual well-being, I need regular opportunities to swallow my pride. And honoring my parents through obedience helps me with that.


Furthermore, honoring our parents involves not only obedience but also respect. The original Hebrew word translated as “honor” was a word that could also be used to convey the idea of “glory” or “weight.” To be a parent is a glorious and weighty responsibility, and we should respect those to whom God has seen fit to give that responsibility. And that includes speaking to them in a respectful way as well as speaking of them in a respectful way. For example, we speak to our parents in a respectful way by not insulting them, demeaning them, or even, many times, speaking to them as if they were one of our buddies. And then we speak of our parents in a respectful way by not mocking them behind their back or talking to others about how clueless we think they are. Obviously, that applies especially during our teenage years. 


Then, finally, honoring our parents involves not only obedience and respect but also gratitude. It’s appropriate for us to express gratitude toward our parents because, as those of you who are parents know, parenting involves a lot of sacrifice. I remember when I was a teenager going over to my friend’s house and hearing his parents mention that they regularly spent $1000 a month on groceries. Now, they had four teenagers in their household, but still I thought $1000 a month for groceries was kind of ridiculous. I remember thinking to myself that surely they must be shopping at some high end grocery store and buying all kind of things they didn’t need and spending money frivolously. But now that I have a few kids of my own, I’m beginning to see that $1000 a month actually isn’t as outrageous of an amount as I once thought it was. And we shop at ALDI and Walmart, okay? Now we’re not in the $1000 a month club yet since our kids are still young, but we’re getting there surprisingly quickly. And that’s just part of the sacrifice involved in being a parent. It’s a joyful sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice. Parents also sacrifice things like their time, their energy, their preferences, their sleep, and sometimes even their tears. So one way kids can honor their parents is by showing even a little bit of gratitude. 

Not too long ago, my kids were playing in the bathtub, and I told one of them that it was time for me to wash him. So of course he groaned and said that he didn’t want to be washed yet and asked me why I couldn’t just let him play more. And I didn’t really appreciate his attitude, so I explained to him I wasn’t washing him for me. Like me washing him wasn’t a benefit for me in any way. It wasn’t helping me. I didn’t think it was fun. Instead, I was doing it for him. So I basically required him to express gratitude toward me—forced though it was—before we continued on with the washing process. And to both of the boys credit, they actually have been taking the initiative, ever since that day, to express gratitude on a somewhat regular basis for various things that Becky and I do for them. And that’s really nice, you know—a little bit of gratitude really goes a long way. 

The Scope of the Commandment

Then, lastly, having looked at the importance of the fifth commandment and then at the duties included in the commandment, let’s now look at the scope of the commandment. The scope of this commandment does extend even to difficult family situations. Many people have parents who aren’t Christians. And sometimes, those parents will act in ways that make it rather challenging to honor them. However, regardless of the circumstance, we’re still called to show them honor. We’re called to honor our parents to the best of our ability even in situations where they’re not acting in a very honorable way. 

In fact, if you have parents who aren’t Christians, honoring them is actually the best way you can be a witness to them about Jesus. Of course, it’s also necessary to share the gospel with them. But if you want them to really see the truth and power of the gospel at work, then I encourage you to go to almost any length to show them honor. I mean, if your Christianity has the net effect of you honoring them less, they’re probably not going to want anything to do with it. If you want them to listen to the things you say about Jesus, start by simply showing them honor. Now you may not be able to do everything they want you do to. In Acts 5, the government leaders told the apostles not to do something Jesus had clearly commanded them to do, so the apostles had to respond “we must obey God rather than man.” Sometimes that’s necessary. If we’re ever faced with a choice between obeying God or obeying an earthly authority, we always obey God. However, as much as we’re able, we should strive to honor our parents even when they’re not acting in a very Christian way. 

Also, as we think about the scope of the fifth commandment, I believe the commandment also extends not just to our parents but to all of the earthly authorities God has put over us. We can see some of these authorities in other verses from the Bible. Romans 13:1, as we saw a few months ago, tells us, “be subject to the governing authorities”—meaning the civil government. We’re called to honor and submit to those God has placed in positions of civil authority in our country. Also Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” So wives should honor their husbands’ authority in a way appropriate to the marriage relationship. Then Colossians 3:22 says, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.” Nowadays, this is commonly applied to employees obeying and showing an appropriate kind of honor to their employers. And finally, Hebrews 13:17 teaches us about honoring church leaders. It says to Christians, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So the fifth commandment of honoring our father and mother can really be extended to all of the authorities the Bible says we’re supposed to honor. 


And standing behind all of these earthly authorities is the authority of God himself. Our submission to earthly authorities is ultimately a submission to God’s authority. And please understand that submitting to God’s authority is actually a wonderful thing. You see, God always uses his authority in a way that promotes our welfare. He never uses it to abuse us, take advantage of us, mistreat us, or oppress us. He always uses it for our good. 

We can see a perfect example of this in Matthew 20. In Matthew 20, when Jesus notices that his disciples are arguing among themselves about who’s going to be the greatest, he calls them over and says to them in verses 25-28, 25 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So Jesus is basically teaching his disciples to act in a way that’s the opposite of everything they see in the secular world. In the secular world, Jesus says, people who have authority love to “lord” that authority over their subordinates. They derive great pleasure from trumpeting their authority and even, many times, abusing their authority—or at least finding clever ways to use it for their own advantage. I mean, is that not a perfect description of how authority is often used and misused in the world? But Jesus says to his disciples, “It shall not be so among you.” He then points to himself as a model for them to follow. He says in verse 28, “…even as the Son of Man [Jesus himself] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Now, let’s be honest: if anyone deserved to lord his authority over others, it was Jesus. After all, he was God—infinitely glorious and infinitely worth of praise. Yet Jesus did the opposite. Shockingly, he came to this world “not to be served but to serve.” And he even went so far as to actually “give his life as a ransom for many.” 

You see, we had rebelled against God and against the rightful authority God exercised over us. And because of our rebellion against one so holy, we deserved to be punished for all eternity. But Jesus took our rebellion and the guilt of our sin on his shoulders and died on the cross to pay for our sins. He suffered God’s wrath so we wouldn’t have to and then resurrected from the dead in order to conquer sin and death once and for all. So that’s how Jesus used his authority. He voluntarily laid aside all of the privileges of his authority and instead determined to sacrificially serve us. He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

And he now invites us to receive all the benefits of what he accomplished on the cross by putting our faith in him. Those benefits include him both forgiving us of our sins and giving us the ability to follow his teachings. In fact, that’s the only way we can follow his teachings. The only way we’re able to truly obey the fifth commandment and all the other commandments is if God gives us the ability to do that. Going back to that story with my dad and I, how was I able to swallow my pride? What gave me the ability to do that? Only the grace of God. And it’s a grace that comes through the gospel. 

other sermons in this series

Nov 24


Exodus 20:17: You Shall Not Covet

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: Exodus 20:17 Series: The Ten Commandments

Nov 3


Oct 20


Exodus 20:15: You Shall Not Steal

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: Exodus 20:15 Series: The Ten Commandments