Ephesians 6:2

June 19, 2011 | Brian Bill

I’m reminded of a story from Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”

Showing honor is like giving a gift.  I want to give someone a present this morning to help each of us better understand this concept.  [Invite a father up to platform]  You’ll be able to tell how much this dad likes the gift by his facial expression.  The same is true when we honor others.  People appreciate honor and we can see it on their faces when they receive it.

Watch now as this gift is opened [gift is a small plastic bag full of dirt].  What did you notice when he realized that I gave dirt to him?  Many times we treat each other in dishonoring ways, and it’s like dishing out dirt to them.

I have a second gift that I’d like to give [gift is two 100 Grand candy bars].  I’d like you to keep one and then give one away to show honor to someone else.

Friends, when we dishonor someone, it’s like giving dirt to them.  Likewise, when we honor someone, we’re giving them a valuable gift.

We’re concluding our “Eight Words to Change Your Family” series today with a special focus on honor.  Since today is Father’s Day, this message will have application to dads, but actually honor is a quality that we’re to develop not just for dads, but for God Himself and for everyone else we come in contact with.

Honoring your parents is always proper

Specifically, this sermon is directed more toward kids than it is toward parents.  And since we’re all children in one way or another, it applies to each of us.  Here’s the big idea for today: Honoring your parents is always proper.

I came across a quote this week from a book called, “Ancestors: The Loving Family in Old Europe.”  Researching pre-industrial family life, Harvard historian Steven Ozment writes: “For a modern age faced with a family crisis, there is good news from the recovered history of the family: this smallest and seemingly most fragile of institutions is proving to be humankind’s bedrock as well as its fault line.  Its strength lies in the cohesion and loyalty of the parent-child unit around which the larger worlds of households and kin, community and nation, and the global village necessarily revolve.  Among those various social worlds, only the family…gives life and stability to others. The family is the great survivor amid the changing ages and cultures that envelop and shape and test it for awhile, only to run their course and pass away.”

What Dads Really Desire

I read an article called, “So What Does Dad Really Want for Father’s Day?”  Here’s what the author found when she interviewed some dads:

  • A hug, a kiss on the cheek and four words… “I love you, dad.”
  • To spend the day with my kids doing something we all enjoy.
  • A personalized note from my wife and kids about me as a dad.
  • The assurance that my kids are going in God’s direction for their lives.
  • The spiritual growth of my family.
  • A big hug from my three girls because they will be grown and out of the house too soon.
  • For my daughter to understand I want her to be safe, respectful and courteous to others…And for the same daughter to understand that I lecture, complain and urge her because I care, love her unconditionally, and wouldn’t trade being her dad for the world.
  • Respect.

One dad said he wouldn’t turn down an elk-hunting trip, and another said he’d take a new motorcycle.  Otherwise, most dads passed on gifts, hoping instead  to just enjoy their family’s presence.

Knowing that there are some pretty cool dads here, I decided to ask what they wanted for Father’s Day.  Here are some responses:

  • An uncompromising, unconditional, and relentless pursuit for truth…If I could know, somehow, that I instilled truth as a life lesson and value into my children, that would be the best present I could ever get…Well, that and an iPad…haha.
  • All a dad wants for Father’s day is the same thing he wants everyday: love (moms get it all) and respect (it isn’t easy being dad).  
  • All I want is to have them around and spend some time together.
  • For my kids to stop and listen to those who have gone before them, and take heed of their experience and wisdom.
  • For time with them and for all of the kids we have raised to be with Jesus.
  • I already got mine (he told me he loved me).  
  • Home-made breakfast!!
  • I…could not think of anything that really stood out. I think this is because all in all I am lucky to have the kids I do and don’t need anything else from them to show that they love and respect me. They do an above average job of that year round.
  • Family cookout and swimming then…shhhhhhh…do u hear that?  Shhhhh…that’s right it’s called quiet! Shhhhh

When you put all this together, what all these dads are saying is that they’d like to be honored by their children.

Defining Honor

The word “honor” literally means a “heavy weight.”  It implies that we assign the greatest possible weight to a person in terms of respect by holding them in “high regard.”  To honor someone is to consider them to be weighty or heavy; to esteem and value our parents as precious.  On the other hand, to “dishonor” means to treat someone as if they were “light or insignificant.”  To honor is to treat with distinction; to dishonor is to treat them like dirt.  To honor our parents is to give them the esteem that God does.

I like this definition from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: “To show honor entails an affective side (a feeling of respect or reverence) and a set of outward manifestations, such as gestures (bowing before or being attentive) or actions (conferring titles or privileges).  All these ways of showing honor elevate the person that is honored.”  We’re to show honor in both our attitudes and in our actions.  To honor is to elevate and to esteem and to live out in experience.

In his book The Tribute and the Promise, Dennis Rainey writes: “Honoring your parents is an attitude accompanied by actions that says to your parents: ‘You are worthy.  You have value.  You are the person God sovereignly placed in my life.  You may have failed me, hurt me, and disappointed me at times, but I’m taking off my judicial robe and releasing you from the courtroom of my mind.’

I came across a simplified definition of honor from the book I referenced last week called, “Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids.”  I like it because I’m simple and I think it also captures the concept in a way that kids can understand and practice.

Treating people as special,

doing more than what’s expected,

and having a good attitude.

Here’s a homework assignment.  Write this definition down and have each of your family members memorize it and then come back to it often as you live out your faith at home.

Learning to Honor

Please turn to Ephesians 6:2 and notice how it begins: “Honor your father and mother.”  The emphasis here is on the attitude, not merely the act, of obedience.  This quotation from the 5th Commandment describes a heart disposition.  It deals with the way we obey.

Let’s make some observations:

  • This is a hinge commandment.  It divides those directed to God (1-4) from those related to our relationships with others (1-10).  When we’re out of step at home we’ll be out of whack with God and others.
  • This is the first commandment that deals with the family.  This one focuses in on the parent-child relationship and the seventh commandment deals with marriage and purity.
  • This is directed not to parents but to children.  The atmosphere of the home is in large part related to the response of the children, not just to the loving leadership of the parents.  
  • This is in the present imperative, which means we are to continually honor as a habit.
  • It’s in the singular so Paul is addressing each of us individually.  One pastor writes: “If you have parents, you are to honor them no matter how old you may be.  We never outgrow this command.

It’s obvious that something has gone drastically wrong in our society between parents and children.  First, there is an increasing loss of authority for parents and second, there is an escalating disrespect for parents from their children.  Unfortunately, this will only get worse as it’s a sign of the end times according to 2 Timothy 3:1-2: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.”

The family is in deep trouble today but Scripture has the solution!  Specifically, as children confer honor upon their parents, we will see families fortified.  When this command is not obeyed, the very fabric of society will unravel.

Scripture tells us eight times to “honor your father and mother.”   It’s repeated so much because it doesn’t come naturally to us.  Obedience gets the job done; honor addresses how the job is done.  Obedience is the duty; honor is the disposition.  Our parents are to be prized because they are worthy of great weight.

Honor is the most important ingredient in any family relationship.  As husbands and wives honor each other they can have a marriage that moves toward oneness and intimacy.  When parents honor their children, their kids will know that they’re accepted, unique, secure, and that they have a purpose in life.  And, when children honor their parents, the family will experience more harmony.  Honoring your parents is always proper.

I read about a Jewish Rabbi who was known for the way he highly honored his mother.  When she wished to get up on her bed, he would stoop down and bend over so that she could use his back as a “stool.”  On another occasion, his mother’s sandal broke so she had to walk across the country barefoot.  The son responded by putting his hands under her feet as she took each step so that she wouldn’t hurt her feet on the rough stones.

An Important Distinction

Turansky and Miller make a distinction between respect and honor.  The Greek word often translated “respect” is phobos, from which we get the word phobia or fear.  “Respect is outward, focusing on a person’s position or on the power of an office.  People respect judges because of their authoritative position.  When only respect is emphasized in family life, it leads to outer conformity, false intimacy, and, eventually, distant relationships.”

The word translated “honor” in the New Testament means worth or value.  “It’s one thing to respect (fear) God because of his tremendous power and greatness…and another thing to honor (value) Him because of those qualities…It is one thing to obey a crossing guard out of respect for the position.  It is yet another to show honor to that crossing guard because of friendship.”

  • Respect acknowledges a person’s position; honor attaches worth to that person as an individual.
  • Respect teaches manners and proper behavior in the presence of others; honor teaches an appreciation of that person.
  • Respect can make a family look good on the outside; honor builds the hidden bonds that provide strength and lasting unity.

Let me add that some of you are dealing with a mom or dad who has not acted in honorable ways toward you.  Perhaps your parent is an alcoholic, has abandoned you, or abused you.  You may not be able to respect the person in such cases, but you can still honor their position as parent.

Profiting from the Promise

Paul underscores the importance of honor in Ephesians 6:2 by saying: “Which is the first commandment with a promise.”   Actually, this is the only commandment of the 10 that spells out the benefits of keeping it.  Honor is so honorable that God Himself underscored it with a promise.  

I am really looking forward to our “Summer of Promise” sermon series that will begin next week.  God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God.  It’s been estimated that there are over 30,000 promises in the Bible, which according to 2 Peter 1:4 are “very great and precious.”  We’ll learn together how to appropriate and apply them to our lives.

Here’s the promise in Ephesians 6:3: “That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  There are two parts to this promise:

  • Quality of Life.  Our days will be lightened: “That it may go well with you.”  The word “well” is an adverb meaning fine, well or good.  It refers to that which is beneficial.
  • Quantity of Life.  Our days will be lengthened: “And that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” When children honor their parents they will escape a great deal of sin and danger.  Samson and Absalom are two examples of sons who did not honor their parents and as a result, their lives were cut short.  Incidentally, I think this promise about living long also refers to our legacy.  When we choose to honor our parents, there is a ripple effect that travels down through the generations.

Did you know that one of the reasons God gave for the Jews being sent into Babylonian exile was a failure to honor parents?  Ezekiel 22:7, 15: “…They have treated father and mother with contempt…I will disperse you among the nations and scatter you through the countries.”

Do you want your life enriched and extended?  If so, then honor your parents.  Deuteronomy 27:16 says, “Cursed is the man who dishonors his father or his mother.”  Proverbs 30:17 paints a vivid picture of what can happen when we diss our dads or malign our moms: “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.” 

Honoring your parents is always proper.  Here are some other reasons to honor our parents as suggested by Ray Fowler:

  • It is right (Ephesians 6:1)
  • It pleases God (Colossians 3:20)
  • It teaches respect for authority (Romans 13:1-2)
  • It places you under God’s protection (Proverbs 6:20-23)
  • It brings peace and joy to your parents.  In Proverbs 15:20 Solomon says, “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.”
  • It helps you grow in wisdom (Proverbs 4:1-4)

Closing Questions

I close with some key questions.

  • How are doing at showing honor to others?  Romans 12:10: “Honor one another above yourselves.” 

How can you honor someone this week?

1. Are you honoring or dishonoring your parents? 

Have you been treating them as distinguished or like dirt?  Do you consider their advice and their role in your life as weighty or worthless?  Proverbs 1:8 challenges us to heed what our parents tell us: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”  Let’s determine to not be like the honorless household described in Micah 7:6: “For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.”   

Here are some practical pointers to help us honor our parents:

  • Place great value on your relationship with them.  Knock off the attitude that says, “It doesn’t matter.”
  • Take the initiative to improve the relationship in whatever increments you can.
  • Recognize that your parents have done some things right.
  • Thank your parents for the sacrifices they have made for you.
  • See your parents as Christ sees them.
  • Forgive them, even as God in Christ has forgiven you

2. Parents, are you showing honor to your kids, or do you more often treat them as something not very valuable?  

Are you calling your kids to an attitude of honor that is reflected in their actions?  Dads, are you doing what Ephesians 6:4 commands?  “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”   Colossians 3:21 adds, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”  

3. Adults, are you honoring your aging parents today? 

Are you looking for ways to demonstrate care and concern?  Leviticus 19:32 says that we are to, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.”  While Beth and I have not had to do this yet, we want to be ready to care for our parents if they need us.  1 Timothy 5:3-4 says, “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”

There is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale about a family with two children and an elderly grandfather.  The grandfather could no longer eat neatly at the table. At first the parents rebuked him; then they made him sit in the corner; eventually they took away his knife, fork and spoon and placed food in a trough where he would eat with his fingers.  One day the parents saw their children playing outside with some wood, a saw, a hammer and nails. “What are you building?” they asked.  They replied: “A trough for you when you get old!” Are you taking care of your elderly parents?  What are you teaching your children right now about honoring the elderly?

4. How are you doing at honoring God? 

Is He weighty to you or do you regard Him as worthless?  Psalm 29:2: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”  I still remember a verse I was taught my freshman year at Moody Bible Institute.  During my Old Testament survey class at Moody, our professor hammered home the importance of honoring God in 1 Samuel 2:30.  I’ll never forget it because he emphasized it so much: “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” 

the One who is the only way is the only one who can change your family

And so ends our “Eight Words to Change Your Family” series.  Change is impossible unless we hold onto another word.  That word is Jesus.  He is the Word.  Jesus is the name that is above all names.  As we end this series, the One who is the only way is the only one who can change your family.  And He does that by first changing you.

Quoting Isaiah, in Mark 7:6 Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Honor is a heart issue.  Where is your heart today?   If you want to honor others, you must first make sure you are honoring Christ.  Check out John 5:23: “That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.  

In the very next verse Jesus teaches the importance of not just hearing, but of believing and receiving the free gift that He offers to each one of us: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Are you ready to cross over from death to life?  Are you prepared to change?  If so, confess that you are a sinner and repent, which means to turn from the way you have been living.  Believe that Jesus died in your place on the cross, as your substitute, and that He rose again on the third day.  And then honor Him by receiving Him as your Savior and Lord, as your forgiver and leader.  Once He changes you then He will change your family through you.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?