How to Respect Aging Parents

This command to HONOR is all about Parental Respect, (Matthew 15:1-20)

This lesson focuses on the heart of a leader toward his or her parents as they are aging. The hard-hearted Pharisees in this passage demonstrate a calloused heart for God and their own parents. Jesus is personally challenging his disciples to build the character quality of respectfulness towards aging parents.

In this section, Jesus rejected the man-made traditions of the scribes and Pharisees because they focused on the outside and ignored the inner person. These men were plants that God did not plant (Matthew 13:24–30, 15:13) and blind guides who were leading people astray. “Let them alone!” was our Lord’s counsel.

Historical Background:

The feeding of the 5000 and the sermon about the bread of life created quite a stir. In fact, the furor is transported to Jerusalem by the crowds that Jesus fed. When they arrive in Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus’ Galilean activities became the hot topic of conversation. The Pharisees responded to these rumors by sending a delegation to check out what was happening with this budding “Jesus movement.” They are so shocked by the blasphemous reports of Jesus’ sermons, they are now prepared to kill him, (Mark 3:6). They come to Jesus at a point of vulnerability, after the majority of his disciples had abandoned him (John 6:66). So, Jesus retreats for one more Galilean tour (John 7:1) heading toward the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28).

Here is the command: Matthew 15:4 and Mark 7:10 (Honor). The command is repeated in each synoptic narrative about the rich young ruler, (Matthew 19:19, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20). While on the cross Jesus was able to detach himself from the preoccupation of his own pain in order to keep the fifth commandment, (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). This fifth commandment is the FIRST of six commandments dealing with horizontal relationships. He honors his mother by assigning to John the responsibility of providing for her financially. John 19:27 says, “from that hour at the disciple took her into his own household.” History tells us to John remained in Jerusalem and provided for Mary until her death.

In Ephesians 6:2, Paul emphasized that behind each act of obedience towards parents must be the attitude of honor and respect. Paul also taught that grown children (rather than the church) are to honor their widowed mothers by financially assisting them, (1 Timothy 5:3–4).

1. Who confronted Jesus in this passage? Matthew 15:1 says, “some Pharisees and scribes.” During this itinerant tour, the delegation of Jerusalem Pharisees caught up with Jesus. They attacked him because he’s coloring outside the lines drawn by their oral tradition.

2. What was the nature of the disciples’ transgression? (Mark 7:3–4) They don’t properly wash their hands according to tradition, and accuse the disciples of eating with unclean hands (Mark 7:15, 18, 20, 23). The issue was clearly ritualistic and not hygienic. Their hands had to be sanctified by this ritualistic washing, based on Leviticus 15:11. In fact, the Mishnah has an entire section called yadim (hands).

The “washing” before eating had to do with ceremonial uncleanness, not personal hygiene. Leviticus 11–15 treats the subject of unclean foods. From the Jewish point of view, people became unclean by contact with any sort of ceremonially unclean object or person. To ensure purity, people would go through a rather elaborate ritual of purification before they ate. It involved pouring water on the hands with the fingers up so the uncleanness would flow off the wrists. It then was repeated with the fingers pointing downward. This was followed by rubbing each hand with the other fist.

3. Jesus answered a question with a question in Matthew 15:3. What is it? “And why do you transgress the commandment (singular) of God for the sake of your traditions?” The tradition of the elders was a body of oral literature that grew out of a desire to expound the written law and apply it to new circumstances. This growing body of oral tradition reaches back at least to Ezra in the fifth century BC, but was not written until the second century AD. The scribes and Pharisees considered it to be as binding as the written law itself, although the Sadducees rejected it, and the common people ignored it.

Over time, comments were made on passages of the law that were not as clear. The distinction between Scripture and these traditions (based on interpretations of Scripture) gradually became less and less distinct. Before long, tradition was more familiar and more revered than God’s own word. The tradition of the elders was a body of extra-biblical law that was committed to writing in the Mishnah near the end of the second century. The law of Moses contains no commandment about washing one’s hands before eating, except for priest who required to wash before eating holy offerings (Leviticus 22:6–7). The Jews of Jesus’ day thought of themselves as preserving ancient traditions, but Jesus said that what they were actually preserving was the spirit of those whom Isaiah criticized long ago.

4. Jesus answers his question by quoting Isaiah 29:13. What does Isaiah identify as their root problem? (Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6). According to John MacArthur, “their religion was intentionally external and superficial because it could be outwardly practiced with great zeal and diligence no matter what the condition of the heart or soul.”

The Pharisees pretended to worship but their hearts were not engaged. They went through the ritual and routine but had no relationship. They pretended to attribute worth to God but their worship was worthless because it wasn’t felt from the heart. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, which meant “play-actor or pretender.” The word became used for hair-splitting legalists who manipulated the law for their own advantage.

5. How had their heart condition affected their worship? (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7). Jesus said “in vain do they worship me.” The word “vain” is the accusative case, meaning “empty, folly, to no purpose.”

6. What particular command was Jesus accusing the Pharisees and scribes of neglecting? (Matthew 15:4, Mark 7:10, Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, 27:16). The fifth commandment to honor your father and mother. This appears to be the only commandment that has a promise that, “your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

7. What does the word “honor” mean? (Matthew 15:4) The verb “honor” means “to value at a high price, to assign worth through respect” (1 Timothy 5:17–18). This word was used of the price that Judas assigned to Jesus, 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 27:9). We are to place high-value on our parental relationships. The command is not qualified nor does it have exemptions; note what Dr. Laura Schlessinger says what this does not mean…

  • Honor only if the person is personally perceived as deserving of honor.
  • Honor only if the person always reciprocate.
  • Honor only if it is pleasing you to do so.
  • Honor only if you get compliments for doing so.
  • Honor only if it feels right.
  • Honor only if other people also do so.

8. List several ways you can honor your parents. (Ephesians 6:1–3, Proverbs 30:11–14, Exodus 21:15, 17, Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 20:20, Luke 2:51, 3:23, Proverbs 30:17, 2 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 5:3–4, John 19:25–27, Acts 1:14).

  • Attitude of Cooperation (Ephesians 6:1-3) Whining is passive rebellion. The story is told of a little boy being told to sit down, who said, “I may be sitting down on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.” Honoring parents involves more than mechanical compliance. A cooperative attitude in the early years involves not just obeying their words but trying to fulfill their wishes.
  • Attitude of Respect (Proverbs 30:11-14, Exodus 21:15, 17, Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 20:20, Luke 2:51, 3:23, Proverbs 30:17).
  • Attitude of Appreciation (2 Timothy 3:2) Bill Hybels says,”the older our parents get the less love, respect, and esteem they receive from the world that they live in. Our parents’ friends start to die and the marketplace no longer attaches a high value on their services, options begin to get restricted. For many of our parents the bright spot in their life is hearing from their children. The primary way we obey the fifth commandment in our parents’ golden years is just to treasure them. This even involves helping them financially if needed (1 Timothy 5:3-4). One of Jesus’ last sayings while hanging on the cross, he expressed his obedience to the fifth commandment and how much he treasured his mother, right up to the end (John 19:25–27).

9. In what specific way were the Pharisees and scribes neglecting the fifth commandment and merely giving lip service? (Matthew 15:5–6, Mark 7:11–13). When the parents of the Pharisees requested financial assistance, they conveniently claimed that the resources they possessed had already been given or “dedicated to God.” Corban (a technical term for sacrifice found in Ezekiel 20:28) was the practice of devoting things to God and thus making them unavailable to others who might have a legitimate claim on them (the word is used in Mark’s narrative, Mark 7:11).

John MacArthur writes, “Mark uses the more technical term Corban (Mark 7:11) which refers to a gift or sacrifice especially offered to God. Sometime in the past a tradition had developed allowing a person to call all his possessions Corban, thereby dedicating them to God. Because Scripture taught that a vow to God must not be violated (Numbers 30:2) those possessions could not be used for anything but service to God. The Corban possessions remained in the person’s hands and when he decided to use them for his own purposes, tradition permitted him to do so by simply saying Corban over them again. In other words, the tradition was not designed to serve either God or the family, but the selfish interest of the person making the hypocritical vow.”

10. What unclean thing in their heart caused them to deal with their own parents so ruthlessly? (Matthew 23:25–26, Mark 7:21–22) their hearts were filled with greed. The Pharisees needed to change from the inside out.

11. Where does a person start if he wants to learn how to be godly according to 1Timothy 5:4? Start with your family and learn the importance of making some people return to their parents (1 Timothy 5:3-8).

12. It is not what you eat that makes one unclean, but what comes out of a man (Matthew 15:11, 18). What are we to do when passion for God has waned…


Action Steps:

1. List a few practical ways that you can honor your parents.

2. If there are any wounds or barriers standing in the way of honoring your parents, establish a plan to start the hard work of reconciliation. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

3. Did you receive your parents’ blessings on your marriage or are you proposing to do so (1 Corinthians 7:36–38)? If you didn’t receive their blessing, consider asking for their forgiveness. This is an important way to honor your parents.

4. Have you ever expressed your commitment to provide for your parents when they cannot care for themselves? Consider verbalizing your intention to care for your parents. This is another important way to honor your parents when they are old, fearful, and insecure about their future. Most elderly parents are afraid of being left in a nursing home to be warehoused and forgotten.

Kathy Miller points out, “when flight attendants give their pre-flight safety instructions, they always say the same thing about the oxygen masks. If air pressure should drop in the cabin, oxygen masks will automatically drop from the ceiling. But those of you with children, please put your own mask on first and then assist your children. The same principle applies to the care of our parents. If were going to be of any help to them, we have to be in good shape ourselves.”

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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The Satisfaction for Sin

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

The way different theologians have developed the concept of satisfaction depends on their understanding of the obstacles to forgiveness which first need to be removed.

  1. What demands are made which stand in the way until they are satisfied?
  2. Who is making the demands?
  3. Is it the devil? Or is it the law, or God’s honor or justice or the moral order?

Stott argues that the primary obstacle is to be found in God himself. He must satisfy himself in the way of salvation he devises. He cannot save us by contradicting himself.

Satisfying the Devil: this teaching was widespread in the early church. It comes out of declaring the devil with power and the cross deprived him of it. Mankind had been in captivity not only to sin and guilt but to the devil. They thought of him as the lord of sin and death, he is the major tyrant from whom Jesus came to liberate us. Here are two mistakes:

  1. They credited the devil with more power than he has. They speak as if he had acquired certain rights over man which even God himself was under obligation to satisfy honorably.
  2. They thought of the cross as a divine transaction with the devil; it was the ransom-price demanded for the release of the captives, and paid to the devil in settlement of his rights.

The value in these theories is that they took seriously the reality, malevolence and power of the devil (the strong man fully armed). We must deny that the devil has rights over us which God is obligated to satisfy. Any notion of Christ’s death as a necessary transaction with the devil is ruled out.

Satisfying the Law: this theory assumes that mankind incurs the penalty of their law-breaking. They simply cannot be let off the hook. The law must be upheld and defended, and its just penalties paid. The law is therefore satisfied. An Old Testament example is when Darius sought to find a way to save Daniel. The law could not be tampered with. God longs to save us, but he cannot do so by violating his own law, which has just condemned us. He cannot just abolish the law he has established. The Bible says that every law-breaker is cursed and that Christ came to redeem us from the curse (Galatians 3:10, 13).

Satisfying God’s Honor and Glory: Anselm (the 11th century) declared the relationship between the incarnation and the atonement (in Cur Deus Homo?). He agreed that the devil needed to be overcome, but rejects the ransom theories on the grounds that God owed nothing to the devil but punishment.

Instead, man owed something to God, and that is the debt which needed to be repaid. Remember that believing God can forgive sin as we forgive others does not consider the seriousness of sin. So what can be done? If we are to be forgiven, we must repay what we owe. We are incapable of doing this for ourselves or others. There is no one who can make satisfaction for sin except God alone. It is essential that the God-Man make this satisfaction. He gave himself up, not as a debt he needed to pay, but freely for the honor of God.

God Satisfying Himself: these interpretations all represent God as subordinate to something outside and above himself which controls his actions, to which he is accountable, and from which he cannot free himself.

  1. The language of provocation: God is provoked by Israel’s idolatry to anger or jealousy or both. But God is never provoked without reason. It is evil alone that provokes him and God must behave like the holy God that he is. If evil did not provoke him to anger, he would forfeit our respect, for he would no longer be God.
  2. The language of burning: this depicts God as burning in his anger; kindling, quenching and consuming.
  3. The language of satisfaction itself: basically that God must act as himself; what is inside must come out.

God is provoked to jealous anger over his people by their sins. Once kindled, his anger burns and is not easily quenched. He unleashes it, pours it out and spends it.

The Holy Love of God: what does this have to do with the atonement? Just as God chooses to forgives sinners and reconcile them to himself, he must first be consistent with his character. How can God express his holiness without consuming us? How can he love us without condoning our sin? How can God satisfy his holy love? How can he save us and satisfy himself? In order to satisfy himself, he sacrificed or substituted himself for us (which is the next chapter).

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Honor and Memorial

When I was young, my sixth grade class took a field trip from Cahaba Heights Elementary School to Washington DC. I remember the train ride from Alabama to DC, and seeing the sights and visiting a lot of historic places. I was probably too young to really appreciate all that I had seen and experienced.

Now I live not too far from our nation’s capital and have been several times to see various places, like the National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and the Washington Mall with all its monuments and beautiful buildings.

But even all the way back to that sixth grade trip, I’ve always been impressed by the solemn ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The Guards carefully choreograph the event which is a moving tribute to soldiers whose names and sacrifice are “known but to God.” Equally moving are the private moments of steady pacing when the crowds are gone: back and forth, hour after hour, day by day, in even the worst weather.

In September 2003, Hurricane Isabel had passed through our area, I was living in Richmond at the time. The storm was bearing down on Washington, DC, and I read that the guards were told they could seek shelter during the worst of the storm. The guards refused, to no one’s surprise. They unselfishly stood their post to honor their fallen comrades even in the face of a hurricane.

Is it possible to have such unending devotion in this life? How about in your spiritual life? As we read the middle chapter of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1-6), I believe Jesus’ desire is for us to live with an unrelenting, selfless devotion to Him. The Bible calls us to good deeds and holy living, but these are to be acts of worship and obedience (Matthew 6:4-6), not planned out acts for self-glorification (Matthew 6:2). Action must be taken for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

The apostle Paul endorses this whole-life faithfulness when he pleads with us to make our bodies “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). They say, the one real problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. Wake each morning with this one goal in mind, to live this day for the one who die to set us free.

On this Memorial Day, remember those who have fallen in order to secure and defend our freedom; because freedom in never free.This day is more than the summer kick-off weekend, or a great time for a sale at the mall or the car dealership, it is about sacrifice.

Thank you Jesus for securing our salvation, and thank you to the fallen heroes (and their families) who sacrificed so much so that others might live. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13).

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How to Build and Maintain Integrity

This week I was thinking about Craig’s comments about the honor code at the medical college and it made me consider the quality of integrity. People always talk about it but we can’t always get a handle on just what it is. John Maxwell has some wise words on the topic:

Integrity is important in building relationships: It is the foundation upon which success is built, along with respect, dignity and trust. If integrity is weak, success is impossible. I believe integrity is about the small things, often when no one is watching. Sort of like king David talking about the kind of shepherd he was when no one was looking (1 Samuel 17:34-37). We would not even have this story had David not revealed it! He was alone, and his true character was shining. It might have been too easy to say, “It’s only one sheep, why risk my life over one stinkin’ sheep?” David had integrity.

Consider these thoughts on integrity:

  1. Integrity is not determined by circumstance: like your household or your upbringing. Circumstances are as responsible for your character as a mirror is for your looks… who you see only reflects who you are.
  2. Integrity is not based on credentials: some people want to be judged not on who they really are but on some status they have achieved. These guys want to lead out of their credentials rather than the strength of their character. No title, degree, award or license can be a substitute for one’s character.
  3. Integrity is not to be confused with reputation: Solomon once said that a good name is more desirable than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). D. L Moody once said that if I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself. We will struggle with maintaining our integrity if we do all the right things from the outside (without a changed inner strength).

Questions to help measure your integrity:

  1. How well do I treat people if I gain nothing?
  2. Am I transparent to others?
  3. Do I role-play based on the person I’m with?
  4. Am I the same person in the spotlight as I am when I’m alone?
  5. Do I quickly admit to wrongdoing without being forced to do so?
  6. Do I put people ahead of my personal agenda?
  7. Do I have an unchanging standard for moral decisions, or do circumstances determine my choices?
  8. Do I make difficult decisions, even when they have a personal cost attached to them?
  9. When I have something to say about people, do I talk to them or about them?
  10. Am I accountable to at least one other person for what I think, say or do?

Do what you should before you do what you want: Zig Ziglar once said, “When you do the things you have to do when you have to do them, the day will come when you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them.” If you know what you stand for and act accordingly, people will trust you! Great advice from a visionary leader.

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