Top Ten Words: How Much Do Your Parents Weigh?

Top Ten Words: How Much Do Your Parents Weigh?

Sep 22, 2015

 Top Ten Words: How Much Do Your Parents Weigh? — Exodus 20:12

Sermon Series by Pastor Dusty Mackintosh

Next Step Christian Church, Thornton, CO


The Ten Commandments


The command to honor our mother and father calls us to weigh heavily our parents in every way: their needs, their opinions, their words and deeds. In the ideal, honoring parents teaches us to love and honor God and love and honor others. In practice, we are commanded to honor sinful and broken human beings. This is difficult, but it comes with a promise to you and generations to follow.

Tip the scales towards your parents.

Honoring the Parents — Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

The father and mother part, well that is pretty clear. We can

expand that to include things like spiritual fathers and mothers, mentors and the like. But, we cannot simply substitute any of these in place of our biological parents.

Honor – Weight

What is honor? I heard recently that “if you need it defined, you don’t have it.” We sort of have a conception of what that means. In the Greek, it has to do with assigning a high value to something. In my Hebrew word study, I discovered a new metaphor and I found it tremendously useful. The root of “honor” is the idea of weight, like a heavy burden. So my parents are a heavy burden? Some of you might say “Yeah, I knew that!” Okay, not exactly. Considering something as heavy, ascribing to it that property, we can see how the idea of honor develops:

I am going to honor your payment of gold — it is heavy enough.

I am going to honor your word of payment — I ascribe to it a heavy weight.

I believe you have a lot of honor.

When you say something to me, I weigh it heavily, I consider it carefully on the scales of my mind, on the scales of relationships.

Even in the medieval, chivalrous sense of honor, the knight’s

reputation had “weight.” So many good deeds, so much accumulated trust, such “Honor!”

Isn’t that crazy helpful? I don’t think I had ever heard that definition before.

So honor grants weight: or a position of respect and authority in your life. You weigh (or count) someone’s word more heavily, you weigh someone’s relationship more valuable.

Honor tips the scales

Honoring — a financial obligation

This can get ridiculously practical. Before we expand and

explore this commandment, let’s be sure we have the most straightforward possible applications of this.

First, to children in the household of their parents: Honor your parents; obey your parents. Weigh their word, their commands, so heavily in your mind that you simply do them. Simple.

Another practical and primary application of this commandment: Shoulder, take on, the financial burden of your parents. Weigh heavily their needs and take care of them. This is social security.

This is the sense addressed by Jesus in Matthew 15: Jesus addresses a practice the Pharisees had of declaring their possessions “devoted to God” and thereby dodging their responsibility to “honor” their father and mother, in this case, to take care of them financially.

So this commandment sets up a generational Social Security system, which makes one very practical application of the promise at the end. You take care of your parents, and if everyone follows suit, you will be taken care of in your old age. “That you might live long in the land…”

The Pharisees were dodging Social Security tax, but face to face, with their own parents. Jesus rebukes them, quoting Isaiah saying, “You honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me.”

You are using a legal loophole. I am after your heart. We will come back to Matthew 15…Jesus lays it out so clearly, really summarizing all of the commandments: it is all about the heart.

What is so important about parents?

So we have two very practical applications, but if this applies to all of us (my parents aren’t in a home yet), and if it is all about the heart, what is so important about parents?

This is in the top 10.

Only two human relationships are called out in the Top Ten Words, written by the finger of God, spoken to all the people (three if you count “neighbor,” but that’s a little more generic): your parents and your spouse. Your parents come first. The Ten aren’t necessarily arranged in descending order of importance (in fact I think this one comes here for a different reason) but this is top billing. This honoring is really important.

Parents are universal, foundational and representative.

We all have parents. No matter who you are, no matter how

involved they end up being, every human being on the planet has parents. This is a universal. So God speaks here into the universal and fundamental human arrangement.

They are your earliest social relationship. The way you relate to them forms and shapes the rest of your life. You learn how to relate to others, how to love and honor others. Every interaction you have with them throughout life is magnified by those early times. Freud got crazy, but he was on to something here. You are who you are in relation to them. Just as damage and wounds or even abuse in that relationship cascade through the rest of your life, so health and love strengthens the rest of your life. What is your responsibility in a healthy parent-child relationship? Honor. There is a sense in which your parents already weigh a lot in your life, regardless of what you admit. They loom large in your life. They have power. They have affect in your life.

Honor recognizes that…the scales are tipped toward your parents.

And, finally parents are representative.

From Vertical to Horizontal

We are in the midst of a shift in the Ten Commandments from “Vertically focused Commandments” (the holiness of God, teaching us to love God with all our heart, mind and strength) to “Horizontally focused Commandments” (teaching us to love our neighbor as ourselves).

The last two commandments we’ve studied bridge this gap. The Sabbath is God’s Sabbath, rooted in His Creation, an invitation into His holiness. It is made for man. It is rest. It is celebration. It is freedom from slavery. It is an awesome chance to learn to love one another as well as love God. (May 2015 SR)

Now we look at the fifth commandment: honor your father and mother. The horizontal component is immediately obvious. In the ideal, through our parents, we learn to love and honor others.

But we also have “father and mother” as a living metaphor for God. Hundreds of times, God calls Himself our Father. Occasionally, poetically, there are maternal references. Profoundly, Jesus calls Him Father, which means in the very heart of the Trinity, in the midst of eternal 3-in-1, there is this kind of relationship — this kind of Honoring happens in the being of God from eternity.

When we picture the ideal father/mother-child relationship, we see how this plays out. Children depend upon the parents for life — their life proceeds from Mom and Dad: their daily bread, their knowledge, each moment is from their parents. At the start, in the ideal, this Honoring (weighing heavily) happens automatically. Mom and Dad loom large, they are the stuff of the child’s life.

Now this shifts as children grow. Children get to know Mom and Dad as persons — that echoes our growing relationship with God. But they also get to know that Mom and Dad aren’t actually omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent beings. True story. So they are prepared to discover the Truth behind the metaphor, the Being, the Heavenly Father who is everything they once thought Mom and Dad were and more. In the ideal circumstances, this interplay of metaphor, of relationship — us to God, us to parents — continues to teach and mature us. We learn to honor our parents, and so we learn to honor God. We honor God even as we honor our parents. And we learn, in the oldest relationship we have, how to love others as a reflection and continuation of our love for God.

Parental honor becomes Divine honor. Divine honor commands Parental honor.

Parental love becomes Divine love. Divine love commands Parental love.

It’s a vicious circle! A feedback loop: earthly family to Heavenly family. Horizontal to Vertical — from that closest, earliest earthly relationship, we extend out to love our neighbor as


How Much Do Your Parents Weigh?

Are They Worthy of Honor?

So, the question for you is, how much do your parents weigh? Are they heavy? Too personal?

Tip the scales toward your parents. Among all your relationships, give a little extra weight to your parents simply because they are your parents. When they speak to you, lean into what they are saying. Listen a little harder. When it comes to time, tip the balance in their favor — give them more time than you would others simply because they are your parents. When you speak about them, honor them in your words.

Full disclosure: honoring my parents is natural and easy. My parents are worthy of honor. People who know them honor them for who they are, without having a Commandment to do it. I have walked alongside some friends who struggle with this, whose parents are making this really difficult, if not impossible.

How do you honor your father and mother…if you’re parents aren’t worthy of honor?

This whole ideal of Mom and Dad teaching children what it looks like to love and honor…it is all horribly wounded and

crippled by sin, and Mom and Dad are both sinners. Now the weightiness of parents, the authority and position they have, is being used to hurt. You want me to give them more?

Let me make it worse.

The Promise

This commandment is the first commandment with a specific promise: “that you may live long in the land the LORD, your God, is giving you.”

Or, as repeated in Deuteronomy, and then later in Ephesians 6, it is expanded: “That it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”

This is not a guarantee that the length of your life is directly proportional to the extent that you honor your father and mother. Nor that if you honor your father and mother, everything else is guaranteed to go perfectly.

Well, then, what is it?

Here I was surprised. What I expected to find was that the “you” was plural. It is a kind of generic social good — it is good for you as a people, you will dwell long in the land as a people if you are the kind of people who honor father and mother. There is a generational legacy there, a continuity, as well as the Social Security kind of care of the elderly by their children.

However, the promise is apparently to you. In the same way that it is you who are commanded to honor your father and mother, it is you who gets some kind of temporal benefit. “It is well with you, you will dwell long in the land…”

Isn’t the value you get related to the honorableness, the wisdom and honesty, the virtue of the parent you are honoring? That makes logical sense…but it doesn’t show up here.

The apparent claim is that something happens in you, or to you, in this ongoing process of “honoring your mother and father” that corresponds to some form of blessing. There is a “possibility” in there, a “might,” not a guarantee. But what is going on here?

Could it be that honoring your father and mother is good for you? Regardless of their worthiness? This is easy if your parents are honorable. All of our parents are sinful and broken human beings. All of our parents have made mistakes…when they have hurt you, wounded you, maybe in ways or at moments when you were most vulnerable…

But could it be that God desires healing and redemption in your earliest, most basic relationship? Could “honor” include things like forgiveness, reconciliation and hope?

Does honoring still have room for being careful and setting

appropriate relational boundaries…all of that? Absolutely.

But for you, for your sake, that it might be well with you, and honoring God’s commandment to you, teaching you to honor and love Him…take a step in honoring your mother and father.

Tip the scales toward your father. Honor him.

Tip the scales toward your mother. Honor her.


How do we do this? How do we “add weight” to our parents? I want whatever blessing is associated with that. God clearly believes this is fundamentally important, and that this is a necessary component of loving Him and loving others.

One small step towards giving “more weight” to your mother and father. What does that look like?

Perhaps your mom or dad have already passed. You can still honor them. Take some time today to remember something they taught you, a lesson you learned from them, a story you shared. Better yet, share that story. One of my great memories is painting Logan’s nursery with my dad, and he’s just telling me stories about his dad. Generational honor.

Perhaps your parents are alive and kickin’…Make a special effort, today, to lean in to that relationship. Call them, have dinner with them, thank them, tell them you love them or honor them. You know what your relationship looks like — give it a boost, give it an extra step, give it weight, give it honor. For me, if my parents weren’t here, I’d Skype them tonight. I don’t do enough of that, but I can honor them that way.

Perhaps your parents are alive…and you kind of wish they weren’t. Or you are pretending they aren’t. That is because there is real pain there. There is history and hurt and garbage. They are not honorable…but that isn’t the point. You are called to honor them.

Maybe it looks like a phone call…or a letter…a little crack in the door of reconciliation…or it is a prayer of forgiveness…or just “God, help me to want to think about trying to start forgiving.” Give it some weight. The truth of your human experience is you can’t make your parents weightless. Lean into forgiveness, lean into the relationship.

Find a way, today, to honor your father and mother.

Not only for their sakes, though it is for their good.

Not only for your sake, though it is for your good, that “it may be well with you.” You strengthen your foundation for relationship, your capacity to love others, and your capacity to love and honor God.

Ultimately, honor your father and mother to honor God. He commands “this is the course of righteousness” and we follow, we trust, and we discover love.

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