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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Why FEAR God?

Throughout the Bible we are told to fear God, but have you ever considered what that means?

At the start, we need to make some important distinctions about the biblical meaning of “fearing” God. While these distinctions can be helpful, they can also be a little dangerous because God’s Word is so much higher than my human words.

When Martin Luther struggled with the “fear of God,” he made a distinction between what he called a servile fear and a filial fear:

The servile fear is a kind of fear that a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor, the jailer, or the executioner. It’s the kind of dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person. Or it’s the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a brutal master who would come with the whip and beat the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward a malevolent owner.

The filial fear draws from the Latin concept from which we get the idea of family. It refers to the fear that a child has for his father. In this regard, Luther is thinking of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.

This distinction can be helpful because in Deuteronomy and in Wisdom Literature, we are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 3:7, 9:10, 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, 33:6). The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God, which is often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and casual with the God of the universe. We are invited to call him Abba, Father (Romans 8:15) and to have the personal intimacy he promised to us, but still we’re not to be flippant with God. We’re always to maintain a healthy respect and adoration for him.

If we really have a healthy adoration for God, we still should have an element of the knowledge that God can be frightening. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). As sinful people, we have every reason to fear God’s judgment; it is part of our motivation to be reconciled with God.

Jesus even warns his disciples not to fear men who may kill them, but to fear God, who could not only kill them but throw their souls into hell (Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:5).

But the good news is, for those who are in Christ, there is no longer condemnation (Romans 8:1)

[print_link] [email_link] Adapted from R.C Sproul

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Equality of the Genders

John MacArthur supports the “traditional view of women,” but he has a nice summation of the equality of the genders before God, in his book Different by Design.

The prevalent Jewish tradition about women did not come from the Old Testament, which makes it clear women are spiritually equal to men in that:

They Had the Same Responsibilities as Men: To obey God’s Law (in Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments are given to both men and women), to teach God’s Law (Deuteronomy 6:6–7 and Proverbs 6:20 indicates both are responsible to teach the Law to their children, which means both must first know it), and to participate in religious festivals (e.g., Exodus 12 and the Passover).

They Had the Same Protection as Men: Penalties given for crimes against women are the same as those for crimes against men (e.g., Exodus 21:28–32). God equally values the life of a man and the life of a woman.

They Took the Same Vows as Men: The highest level of spiritual commitment available to an Old Testament believer was the Nazirite vow, which was an act of separation from the world and devotion to God. Women as well as men could take that vow (Numbers 6:2).

They Had the Same Access to God as Men: God dealt directly with women in the Old Testament; He didn’t go through a man when He wanted to communicate with a woman. For example, the Angel of the Lord (a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ) appeared to Hagar (Genesis 16:8–13) and Samson’s mother (Judges 13:2–5).

The New Testament, like the Old, teaches the spiritual equality. Galatians 3:28 teaches the absolute spiritual equality of men and women in Christ. The New Testament does not treat women as spiritual inferiors:

They Had the Same Responsibilities as Men: All the commands, promises, and blessings of the New Testament are given equally to men and women. We have the same spiritual resources and the same spiritual responsibilities.

They Had the Same Access to Jesus as Men: The first person Jesus revealed His messiahship to in the Gospel record was a woman (John 4). Jesus healed women (Matthew 8:14–15), showing them just as much compassion as He did men. He taught them (Luke 10:38–42), and allowed them to minister to Him personally (Luke 8:3). The first person to see the resurrected Christ was a woman (Mark 16:9; John 20:11–18).

He goes on to explain that roles between men and women were different, but I do not agree with his position on leadership and ordination being limited to men alone. When a woman is called by God into the ministry, she has an obligation to follow that leadership and calling as much as any man.

Patrick Morley, in his book Man in the Mirror has a chapter on how to be happily married and brings up roles.

If a man’s greatest need is to be respected, then submission is the appropriate response to a husband since the opposite of submission is resistance. The main problem with marriages on this topic is that men don’t know what it means to love as Christ loved the church. Biblical love is a decision, not a feeling. He adds four types of marriages in in a submit/resist and love/hate matrix:

  1. Love and Submit (Ozzie and Harriet Nelson): these couples share life together and share responsibilities. Biblical examples could be Abraham and Sarah or Mary and Joseph.
  2. Hate and Submit (Edith and Archie Bunker): this may be the most common type of marriage that is not working. The husband does not get it (Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 5:28-29).
  3. Love and Resist (The Lockhorns comic strip, or the BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances): this is about a wimpy little guy dominated by a strong willed and screechy woman. Perhaps this has grown out of the feminist movement, but even a “housewife” is not immune to this. It is the man’s responsibility to love her irrespective of his wife’s response.
  4. Hate and Resist (JR and Sue Ellen Ewing): she nags him, idles the day away, contends with his authority, disrespects him, she is sarcastic towards him. He treats her harshly, doesn’t consider her feelings, and disrespects her. More than likely those in this type are already divorced, except for one partner hanging in there to make it work.

I’m not an expert on marriage but have been with the same godly woman for over 30 years.

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Four Basic Doctrines

The following is another lesson from my Sunday morning Bible study, covering about four weeks!

In James 2, he discusses the subjects of godless favoritism and godly faith. Immature people talk about their faith; mature people practice their faith. James gives the simplest of tests to see if one is mature or immature: the way we treat other people really indicates what we believe about God. A man can’t say he loves God and yet hate his brother (1 John 4:20).

Let’s take an overview of what we find about favoritism:

  1. The Command Against Favoritism (James 2:1-8)
    1. The Examples (James 2:1-4): His readers are guilty of the following sins:
      1. Treating rich visitors with great respect (James 2:1-2a, 3a)
      2. Treating poor visitors with no respect (James 2:2b, 3b-4)
    2. The Enigma (James 2:5-7): James cannot understand this, for often it was the rich who persecuted them and ridiculed their Savior.
    3. The Exhortation (James 2:8): James says, “Obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures.”
  2. The Consequences of Favoritism (James 2:9-13)
    1. To break this law is to break all laws (James 2:9-12).
    2. To show no mercy is to receive no mercy (James 2:13).

Here is the meat of the four lessons. In the beginning of James chapter 2, the author examines four basic doctrines in light of the way we treat other people:

The Deity of Christ (James 2:1-4)

  1. Jesus was not a respecter of persons (Matthew 22:16)
    1. Jesus did not look at outward appearance, but at the heart.
    2. Jesus was not impressed with status and riches (Mark 12:41-44)
    3. Jesus saw potential in sinners (Matthew, Peter, the woman at the well)
    4. Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19)
    5. Paul was judged by his past (Acts 9:26-28)
  2. Jesus was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3)
    1. Jesus had no home to call his own (Matthew 8:20)
    2. Jesus grew up in despised Nazareth (John 1:11, 46)
    3. Jesus was judged by human standards, and rejected by his own people (John 7:24)
    4. Jesus used Peter, Zaccheus and John Mark in spite of their failures in the past.
  3. A prescription for us:
    1. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus.
    2. Look at people as children for whom Christ died.
    3. Check our prejudice and motives (James 2:4)

The Grace of God (James 2:5-7) the emphasis is on the fact that God chooses, which involves grace. We are his children by his sovereign choice, not our merit. No one deserves salvation (Ephesians 1:4-7, 2:8-10).

  1. God ignores national differences
    1. Peter at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:34)
    2. Must one become a Jew before becoming a Christian? (Acts 15)
    3. No distinction between Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28)
    4. No condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 2:6-16)
  2. God ignores social differences
    1. Masters and slaves, rich and poor all equal to God (Ephesians 6:9)
    2. Who makes one poor or rich? (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
    3. God chooses the poor (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
  3. Poor in this world and rich in the next (1 Timothy 6:17-18). God promises the kingdom to those who love him
  4. James slams the people (a stern rebuke) in James 2:6-7.
  5. The doctrine of grace forces us to relate to people based on God’s plan and not the basis of human merit or status. Jesus broke down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:11-22) between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, educated and ignorant, young and old, black and white.

The Word of God (James 2:8-11) James reaches back into the Old Testament laws (Leviticus 19:18), and teaches a lesson like what we find in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

  1. Why is love of neighbor called the royal law?
    1. Love affirms that we are his disciples (John 13:34): true believers are taught to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
    2. Love rules all other laws: love is fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). Who needs other laws if we would only love one another?
    3. Obeying out of love makes you a king: since hatred makes one a slave, love sets one free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings.
  2. Take any of the Ten Commandments and you will find ways to break it when you respect a person’s position or status. For example:
    1. It makes you lie to some people.
    2. It leads to idolatry, lifting some people up.
    3. It even leads to mistreatment of parents.
  3. Christian love does not mean I have to like the other person, or agree with him on everything; but treating that person as God would treat them, and the way God has treated me.
    1. It is an act of my will.
    2. The motive is to glorify God.
  4. Christian love does not leave a person where I find him: love helps people to reach higher and go better, helping the poor, love builds up others.
  5. We only believe as much of the Bible that we practice. If we fail in this most basic challenge, then we will not do other lesser matters of the Word. Let’s not be like the Pharisees and careful about lesser matters and careless about the important foundational stuff (Matthew 23:23).

The Judgment of God (James 2:12-13) believers will not be judged for our sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1) but our works will be judged (Romans 14:10-13, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

  1. Our words will be judged
    1. The two visitors mentioned in James 2:3.
    2. Careless words (Matthew 12:36).
    3. Words from the heart (Matthew 12:34-37).
    4. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26, 33-37, 7:1-5, 21-23).
  2. Our deeds will be judged
    1. Additional insight (Colossians 3:22-25).
    2. Sins are not held against us (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:17).
    3. But our sins affect our character and works.
  3. Our attitudes will be judged (James 2:13)
    1. Contrasts: showing mercy, showing no mercy.
    2. The lie: that we can earn mercy by showing mercy.
    3. The law of liberty (obedience sets us free).
    4. We are able to walk in liberty (Psalm 119:45)
  4. The law prepares us for liberty: a child under rules is not mature enough to handle himself. He received outward discipline until the time he develops inward discipline.
  5. Liberty is not a license to do whatever you want, but the freedom to become who we are meant to be in Christ.

This is just the first half of James 2; next time we will dissect various types of faith.

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