Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at .email@example.com.
The scriptures say to honor your mother and father. What if your parents are not the Godly examples they are supposed to be? (Divorced because of adultery (both), with one of them being an alcoholic. All while supporting one of them financially, so they do not end up on the street.) How can I honor either of them when I have no respect left for them?
I pray for patience, kindness and understanding knowing how difficult marriage/relationships can be even for Christians, but I feel guilty all the time because I know that I cannot fulfill what God asks me to do here.
Of course you are referring to the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “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). By the way, the two tablets have four commandments written on the first tablet and each has to do with man’s relationship with God. The second tablet has six commandments and each of these has to do with peoples’ relationships with each other.
Honoring mom and dad is the first commandment on the second tablet. God’s concern here is for the ongoing functioning and security of the family unit. As the family goes, so goes a society. Cohesive family units center around mom and dad—their actions, morals, values and beliefs. As these are passed on to children, society itself remains strong and functional. This is what “so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” refers to—a strong familial foundation for the society and culture involved.
God intends for mom and dad to care for their children with patience, instruction, discipline, correction and love as they imprint their values and prepare their children for life. Children then love and respect their parents and honor them accordingly.
Biblically, you have the right to expect that you mother and father be parents of which you can be proud.
For example, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians12:14: “After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” It is such a shame that you are needing to care financially for one of your parents. God never intended for you to be in this position. When I was born, my mom and dad decided that one of their responsibilities was to put us children through college. So, they did. My dad said over and over, “You can have a summer job and make money then; but during the school year your job is to make “As”. Does it get any better than that?
Hebrews 12:5-11 describes the loving concern with which a father trains, instructs, rebukes and encourages his children. God the Father is our fathers’ model.
My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
My parents did just what God said. When it was time for disciplining correction for some of my “not the best” behaviors, my parents came down to my eye level and said, “I love you too much to let you get away with that sort of behavior. So, I am now going to … (at that point they told me the age-appropriate discipline they were going to administer) so that you’ll know never to act like that again.” Notice again the above mentioned result of proper discipline: “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I realize now that my parents were training us for a harvest of righteousness.
Let me show you, according to Paul, what a good dad might look like. Paul’s qualifications for the “overseerers” or elders of the church are a good model for all dads:
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. … He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap (1 Timothy 3:2-7).
According to the Bible Parents are to meet their children’s’ needs for appreciation, acceptance, approval, comfort, encouragement, respect and security—among other things.
Can you imagine how easy it must be to honor parents like these!
The word, “honor,” means to “to show respect for someone.” Holding someone in “high respect” means to esteem them. Esteem might describe the honor shown to a Nobel Laureate. From what you describe, you certainly can’t respect your mom and dad—and certainly not hold them in any sort of esteem.
Unfortunately, God’s plan broke down in your case. I am really, really sorry. God designed something much better for your home than divorce because of both parents’ adultery, one parent’s alcoholism, and the other now needing your financial support.
With all that being said, I think that the operative word for you is "grace". Give them grace. They don't deserve it. You can't respect them; they are not respectable. "Honor them" may mean that you extend mercy and grace to two people who may never deserve it—and you have done that by caring for them financially! You are honoring two parents who don’t deserve it. Please stop feeling guilty for thinking that you’re not honoring them! In your case honoring is not something you have to feel in your heart. Honor is shown by your actions.
I want to commend you for making the best of a difficult situation. Every parent ought to have a son like you.
Well done—and may God give you special grace to continue loving them as evidenced by your actions. This is the real meaning of honor.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor at Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: January 10, 2011