Honoring Our Parents

By Jonathan Halbrook

Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (Eph. 6:2-3).

When my father gave me an opportunity to write an article of special interest to young people, I chose the subject “Honoring Our Parents.” I have decided to present some passages that teach us to honor our parents, along with some observations about my own upbringing which helped me to understand the meaning and application of these passages.

Train Up a Child

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

Parents are given this instruction by God to train up a child in the way he should go. I am thankful to God that I had two parents who tried very, very hard to do what this verse says. Now that I am 23 years old and living away from home, I hope I am able to hold up my end of the bargain and fulfill my responsibility by not departing from what I have been taught in God’s Word. God gave me two parents whose goal was to raise me as a Christian, and nothing but a true Christian, no matter what else I chose to do in life. They did not care if I was in the band, in drama, in athletics, or in any other good activity as long as it did not interfere with my faithful attendance at church or lead me to compromise my faith in God in other ways. With that understanding, they fully supported me in whatever I did.

It was hard for me to understand why my dad always would say that he hoped I was good enough to play high school sports but not good enough for intercollegiate sports. Now I understand that it was all based solely on my spiritual well-being. Young people idolize sports figures, but my dad believed most intercollegiate sports open the door to great temptations. With my parents’ encouragement, I went to Florida College where I not only received a good education and enjoyed plenty of intramural sports, but where I also made good, life-long Christian friends. I was spared the danger of being tempted to miss church services on long road trips as might otherwise have occurred in college sports.

As I look back on my childhood training, I realize we should honor our parents for trying to fulfill Proverbs 22:6. Because of that training, I know the right way to go in life even though my parents cannot go with me. I will have no excuses if I do not make it to heaven because I was brought up knowing the truth.

Teach Them God’s Word

Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deut. 6:4-7).

I was certainly taught what was right as a child. From my youth up, I was taught that there is one true God, that we must love him with all of our hearts, and that we must always listen to his Word. Bible lessons were always conducted in our home where Dad and Mom would sit down together with us to read and discuss the Bible one chapter at a time. We were taught memory verses from every book in the Bible. What-ever we may have learned in any one study session, if nothing else it showed where their hearts were as parents. There was a practical point they always wanted to get across to David, Deborah, and myself: Be a Christian, in the true sense of the word.

We were taught Christian conduct such as showing respect to our parents and other adults. We were taught to say, “Yes, sir,” “Yes, ma’am,” “Thank you,” and “Please,” because such expressions reflect the kindness and respect a good Christian should have.

I can look back and remember the people they looked up to, who their “heroes” or “superstars” were. You probably have not heard of most of them because they were not people like Michael Jordan, or Emmit Smith, or Ken Griffey, Jr. No. The way we admire these people is the same way my parents talked about people like Roy Cogdill, a fearless gospel preacher who would preach the truth on anything to anyone at any time in any place. They could tell you about his debates in defense of the truth like some children can tell you the stats of Ken Griffey, Jr. for the year.

My parents’ heroes included Kate Johnson, whom we all learned to love as such a nice person and a great cook. But all of that was secondary compared to her great faith which made her a true hero to my parents. She wanted to be at church so badly that she would come with severe back pains. When her back hurt so much that she could no longer sit, rather than leaving the service, she would just go to the back of the building and stand so that she could be a part of the service in spite of so much pain. (To learn more about her godly example, read my father’s article on “Kate Hankins Johnson, a Virtuous Woman” in the Guardian of Truth, July 7, 1994, on pp. 396-397.) Such people are my parents’ heroes, which just shows me what values are most important in their lives.

From my upbringing I have learned we should honor our parents for diligently teaching us God’s Word. But also they should be honored for reflecting in their lives the values, attitudes, speech, and conduct taught in God’s Word because this is a part of our training when we sit in the house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up (Deut. 6:7).

Provide For the Family

For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children (2 Cor. 12:14).

My parents provided the best they could for me to meet my physical and material needs. My parents have never indicated any interest in being wealthy. My mother is still a housewife and homemaker even though we could have had more material things if she had taken an outside job. When I used to want something we could not afford, I would tell my dad to ask for a raise. He said we should be thankful for what we have and we can get by if we try. It has seemed to me that my parents have struggled to pay their bills through the years partly because my dad does not really care how much money he makes and partly because my parents seem to concentrate so much on paying their honest debts instead of using their money for vacations and childish things.

I have come to understand that David, Deborah, and myself are the greatest expenses my parents have, and this is what they have been concentrating on even when I have not understood it. Why have my parents had bills to pay? I now understand. I never remember going to school without adequate or proper clothes. I never went hungry because my mother is such a great cook. Perhaps I should admit some bias in that statement, but if you ever eat her cooking you will agree with it. The point is that I have learned to honor my parents because they have spent their lives providing the things we have needed as children rather than seeking things for themselves.

Parental Discipline

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

The duty of this passage could not have been easy for my parents in my case because I did have a bad temper at times. Now I realize they had a valid reason for every decision with which I disagreed at the time. The reason was never to take away the fun out of life, as I foolishly thought, but always had to do with keeping me within the guidelines a Christian should follow.

Being raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord meant that I was taught that the work of the Lord is first in priority. Why did I miss part of the daily football practice sessions during the week of Vacation Bible School every year? Someone loved me enough to teach me what was of first importance. Why did I miss a high school baseball game so that I could attend all of my dad’s debate with Jack Freeman on the divorce issue in 1990? Someone loved me enough to teach me true priorities. Baseball is over and the one game I missed is forgotten but there is still error being taught on divorce in churches of Christ, and I will be facing that error for the rest of my life.

So that I could be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, my mother has loved her husband and her children as a keeper “at home,” as taught in Titus 2:4-5. My mother is a smart person and could have found many jobs outside of the home. But I thank God that she considered her work in the home as her full time job. I was part of her job and will benefit in many ways from her dedicated work for the rest of my life. I thank God that she did not find something else more interesting than her husband, her home, and her children.

My parents believed Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” In fact, I think my parents knew this verse really well and it was a good thing they did when I came along. I learned to obey what my parents said because they said it, or else learned it through a belt, a switch, a hand, or whatever it took at times. Such discipline took place without abuse but with much love and patience. I am who I am today because my parents loved me enough to discipline me properly. At times I was stubborn, and it took a lot of this kind of love, but I am glad I had parents willing to do whatever it took to help me get the point. They did everything they knew to do to make sure that I would turn out to be a Christian.

I have learned to honor my parents because of their goal in life to raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is the training they have given to me in so many ways. This is the training I must never forget. Some day when I have a home of my own, it must be my goal to raise my children with this same kind of training.

Respect for Parents

Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (Eph. 6:2-3).

I was taught to honor my parents by the training I received while in their home, but now that I am away from home, I have learned to honor them in a new way because of the training they gave to me. I sometimes do not think I will be able to do as good a job as they did when I have my own family. There have been so many sacrifices made on behalf of David, Deborah, and myself. I know what some of them are, some I have forgotten, and some I will never know about. Plenty of sacrifices were made and it is not enough just to say, “Thank you.” I cannot pay back to them everything that they have done for me. But I know the main thing they want for me out of it all is for me to go to heaven. I have learned out of it all that when I sin it hurts God, me, and my parents. I do not try to be a Christian for them but for God. But I love them because they taught me to serve God, to be a Christian, and to go to heaven.

I hope this article will not only help other young people to honor their parents, but also help parents to realize the importance of their work. Hopefully, all parents will realize that the way they act is a great influence in determining how their children will act. “Ahaziah the son of Ahab … did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother” (1 Kgs. 22:51-52). The old saying, “Like father, like son,” still holds true today.

Chances are, if the parents are alcoholics, then their children will drink alcohol. The same principle holds true when parents are weak Christians and try to get as close to sin as possible without actually sinning. Their children will most likely act the same way. There is always the temptation for young people to get close to sin, so it helps greatly when the parents set an example by seeing how far away from sin they can get so that they know with certainty that what they are doing is right. When children see this attitude and conduct, it instills in them a desire to want to do the right thing.

Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 6 p. 25-27
March 16, 1995