Updated: Oct 27, 2020
The Word: Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-4
We honor God when we honor our families.
I. Connect to My Experience
One of the most popular television networks aimed at entertainment for children often produces shows that rarely feature parents. The focus of the shows center on the lives of the kids and the parents are usually at work or off screen for some other reason. If the parents are featured, they provide a caricatured version of a hovering mom and a goofy dad, both of whom are out of touch with today’s happenings. This scenario gives us a window into our world and the way some cultures view the young and old.
In your home of origin, what was the attitude toward older generations in your family?
If you were raised in a home with multiple generations present, what did you learn through that experience?
The Ten Commandments are easily grouped into two distinct sections or “tablets.” The first “tablet,” which includes the first four commandments: 1) His place, 2) His image, 3) His name, and 4) His day. These commands focus on loving God and is summarized within the Shema: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). The second group or “tablet,” which includes the remaining six commandments, focuses on Israel’s social relationships and is summarized in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The last six commandments should not be considered distinct from the first four commandments, as they emerge from the proper worship of God.
This week’s study makes the shift into the second “tablet” of commandments. These latter commands may seem more accessible, practical, and pertinent to many. However, since they emerge from the first four commandments, we must still read these within the context of the entire collection, because we will only understand these commands fully within the character and nature of the God whom we are called to serve and worship in the first “tablet.”
A. Honor Your Parents (Read Exodus 20:12)
At the time of the Sinai experience, it was a virtue among all cultures to honor parents and the elderly. It seems unnecessary for God to command them to do something that was already a cultural value; however, God’s commandment comes with a promise.
What is the promise that God adds to the commandment? (That one may live long in the land your God is giving you. In other words, we will live a long life through each succeeding generation.)
What is the connection between honoring father and mother and living long in the land God is giving the people? (Honoring provides healthy relationships and thus resulting in a healthy community. Those who follow God’s laws produce a stable society.) What does one have to do with the other? (Strong, godly relationships influence the community.)
The mention of this long life in the promised land suggests two things: (1) The blessing that God promises to those who are obedient; and (2) The promise of the land for God’s people when they are faithful and obedient in following God’s will and direction.
As we’ve seen over the last several weeks, God’s “Ten Words” for the people at Sinai do not appear out of thin air; rather, God’s commandments are born out of a history. These commandments, or “family rules,” come in the midst of a relationship.
Knowing that God had been at work in the lives of this people long before this day, how does that speak to the importance of honoring their fathers and mothers? In what ways could they honor their mothers and fathers? (Respect, meet their basic needs, and protect them.)
What was it that fathers and mothers offered to future generations? (the story of God’s faithfulness; the stories of their emancipation; God’s defeat of enslaving powers)
What are some of the stories of God’s faithfulness that have been passed down in your family? In your church? How have those stories shaped your understanding of God and your identity in this world?
How would the stories of God’s faithfulness affect later generations’ hope of living long in the land?
What would happen if these stories didn’t get told, retold, and incorporated into present behavior? (Breakdown of the family would lead to the breakdown of the covenant.)
B. Christian Advice for Children and Parents (Read Ephesians 6:1-4)
These four verses are found in the last part of what is known as Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. However, since manuscript evidence omits the phrase “in Ephesus” (1:1), this letter may have been written as a circular letter so that it could be read aloud in various churches. This conclusion is consistent with the lack of personal greetings attached to the letter, as well as the more generic tone of the ethical instructions in the last three chapters.
These verses are part of a larger passage often referred to as the “Household Codes,” all of which are preceded by the verse, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). In this passage, Paul addresses children and parents. Paul addresses both parties, calling both to the recognition that Christ is to be present in their relationship.
Knowing that Christ is present in each of our relationships, how does that alter the way we relate to our family members?
Why are children to obey their parents? (it is what is right [Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.]; it is in line with what is instructed in the fifth commandment [Exodus 20:12] to children; it opens the door for blessing [Ephesians 6:3])
Why do you think Paul took the time to address fathers (parents) and not just the children? (All family members need to live a life worthy of honor and one of obedience to Christ.)
How would you rephrase Paul’s instruction, “Do not exasperate your children,” in your own words?
Why is this important in the parent-child relationship? (The instruction given to fathers—that they not exasperate or “provoke [their] children to anger” (NRSV)—recalls guidance earlier in the letter that uses a noun with the same root to warn against letting “the sun go down while you are still angry” (4:26), which might “give the devil a foothold” (v. 27). This might involve avoiding actions, attitudes, innuendos, and words that might create anger or resentment, or might escalate a situation. This would certainly rule out harsh and severe forms of discipline, humiliation, and condemnation in responding to one’s children.)
What was Paul saying in these verses about the spiritual responsibility of parents? (Spiritual instruction begins at home.)
Why do you think the Bible gives instruction/guidance to both parent and child, both young and old? (Regardless of the role we play within the family, we are called to godliness and being Christlike in all our relationships, which includes the family unit.)
C. Connect to My Life and the World
It is obvious that western culture is geared toward the young and new.
What do our attitudes about the young or about the elderly reveal about us and our priorities?
In what ways can we honor our fathers, mothers, and older generations?
One of the things we must recognize is that not all fathers and mothers have lived honorable lives. Some may have exhibited terrible patterns of behavior, sometimes abusive behavior toward their children or others, and have left a toxic wake.
Are we still called to honor fathers and mothers whose legacy is anything but honorable? If so, how? If not, why? Are there limits to honoring our parents?
D. What Does All This Mean?
“Honor your father and your mother” is the bridge commandment between our responsibility toward God and toward one another. The principle undergirding all family relationships is the word “honor,” which means give weight to, take seriously, treat with utmost respect.
Think about it. It is no coincidence that the commands regarding interpersonal relationships begin by focusing on the family. How we learn to get along within the family affects how we relate to others outside our family.
Our lesson writer, George Lyons, sums it up this way: “If you take a step back and consider the message of Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-4, it can feel overwhelming. You may feel discouraged thinking about what you have or have not done. The good news is that the purpose of the fifth commandment and Paul’s instruction for children and parents is not to place a guilt trip on us as children and parents, but to guide us in developing healthy, godly relationships within our family, to strengthen the parent-child relationship, and to help families grow in their relationship with God and with each other.”
As I (Bernard) close, are there some of you who have been tremendously hurt by your parents? There may be some of you who have not treated your parents with honor.
Father God, I pray that you would heal the memories of the hurt and failing of all the people reading this lesson today. Would you help them take the necessary actions from this point forward. Abba Father, would you help each person to treat their family members with honor, knowing that Christ is present in every one of his/her relationships. I pray this in the powerful name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Read Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-4 several times this week. As you do, consider the ways to incorporate their instruction into your family life this week.