Read: Proverbs 23:22
Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her. (The Message)
More and more of us reading this blog are going to find ourselves dealing with a challenge that our parents and grandparents didn’t face: increased life expectancy—and with it, unique financial, physical and mental health needs as our parents grow older.
Life expectancy shot up to forty-nine years in 1900 from thirty-five when Rembrandt lived in the 17th century and from twenty-two when Augustus ruled the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. Since 1900, it has nearly doubled and it’s expected to be around eighty-five years in 2020. Some experts believe people’s age on average will exceed 100 years, while in some countries, the over 100 population is doubling every 10 years. The eighties-plus group is the fastest growing demographic group. Except for you and me, the fact is, everybody else is getting older!
But our culture is increasingly oriented toward youth. Though the elderly are the fastest growing segment, they’re getting squeezed out of the mainstream of our culture. So often in our society senior adults are cast aside. They’re neglected, ignored, marginalized and abandoned—even in churches and in Christian homes.
This shouldn’t be! Not in any society, and especially not in any God-honoring home. We cannot truly honor God, and therefore live in his favor, if we don’t honor our parents. There is no excuse for neglecting, ignoring, marginalizing or abandoning our parents; no spiritual basis, no financial excuse, no earthly reason to do anything that would bring dishonor to that relationship. As the Good Book says, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3)
Honoring our parents over the course of their lives—that is what God expects from us! So how do we give them honor? Here are three ways:
Respect: The first way to honor your parents is by showing them respect. The word “Honor” literally means “a heavy weight” and it implies that we assign the greatest possible weight to a person in terms of respect. Honoring someone is measuring their value; appraising them as having “great weight.” On the other hand, the word “dishonor” means to treat someone in a light, trifling or insignificant way, perhaps by ignoring their needs.
Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect [hadar—swell up with pride] for the elderly and revere your God.” Leviticus 19:3 says, “Each of you must respect [yare—fear, revere] his mother and father…” and Deuteronomy 27:16 says, “Cursed is the man who dishonors [qualah-treat lightly] his father.”
Respect is something we need to begin to teach our children again—for life, property, God’s house, each other, our elders, and the elderly—especially in the community of Christ.
Value: Another way to honor your parents is by giving them value—especially in a culture that now makes them feel out of touch, behind the times, and of no real use. To value them is simply taking respect a step further and putting it into practice.
We value them when we can seek their wisdom. Job 32:7 says, “Age should speak and advanced years should teach wisdom.” We value them when we can defer to their authority. No matter where we are in life, our parents are more experienced travelers on life’s road, so we can learn from their treasury of practical wisdom. I think it was Mark Twain who said he couldn’t believe how dumb his dad was when Mark was a teenager, and how smart his dad got once he got through those teenage years. Our parents are probably smarter than we think. And we value them when we can provide for their happiness and comfort.
Gratitude: The final way we honor our parents is by offering our thanks for them and expressing our appreciation to them. They gave us life, after all. Think of the financial burden they bore just for you—in today’s worlds, that’s an average of $200,000-300,000 just to feed, clothe, and educate you. But their financial contribution is just the beginning of all we need to thank our parents for. Think of their sacrifice of time, their example of dependability, their humor, counsel and insight. Think of the patience it took, and the faith they imparted and the hope they gave for your future. And, of course, think of their love for you—imperfect but devoted and deep.
How about showing a little gratitude for mom and pop? Give them a call or write them a note. You can even indirectly thank them by expressing your gratitude for them to your children, or by mentioning them in thankful prayer, even if they’re deceased. You can express your gratitude by offering them an act of service, or by making room for them in your day planner and in your checkbook. A. W. Tozer once said, “
Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is
one that the poorest of us can make and be not
poorer but richer for having made it.”
Honor your father and your mother! It’s not one of the ten suggestions, you know. It’s a Divine Expectation!
Your Assignment, Should You Choose To Accept It:
Select one of the three ways described above to honor your father and your mother—and do it before the day is out. If they are deceased, tell your kids or grandkids a little about your parents, and include your gratitude for those who gave you life.