3 : 11 November 2004

Harold Brokke

Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Ex. 20:12).


I read a little story to my child some years ago called "Wait-a-Minute Willy." It was a story about a little boy who was playing in the barn on his parents' farm. In the midst of his little occupations his mother called him twice, but in each case the boy thought he would wait a few minutes longer. When he did appear at the door of the kitchen, he asked his mother what she wanted. She replied, "I wanted you to get some wood for the stove. I didn't have time to go to the wood pile for the wood, and the fire in the stove wasn't hot enough so my cake is spoiled."

This may not have seemed important to the little boy, but it was important to the mother, and the story teaches us a lesson: A disobedient child causes hardship and difficulty for parents and superiors.


Let's change the scene. A businessman, a relative of a certain family, drives up to a very ordinary-looking home in a residential section of the city. He comes to the door, knocks, and informs the lady of the house that Uncle Jim has just arrived and he would like to know if her three children could come to a football game and afterwards go downtown with him.

Uncle Jim has ten dollars apiece to spend on them, and he would like them to pick out some clothes for themselves. The mother is quite pleased. She calls for Jane and she calls for Paul. No one in the family can find Andy. He is not there - at least he can't be seen - so Mother goes to the door and calls out to the backyard. Andy is within hearing distance, but he has other things he is interested in doing, and so he delays. Uncle Jim says they better go because the game would soon begin. When they have left the house, Andy finally appears and hears the news. Of course he is dejected and disappointed. He wishes then that he had obeyed right away when he heard the call.

Another lesson is learned! Disobedience to parents creates losses for children in matters of privilege, reward, and enjoyment.


This may still not wake up the young person to the very great issues involved in this commandment to obey our parents. But let's look at another more tragic situation.

The family has gone for an outing by the lake. The children all take the chance to go swimming. Some are playing in the sand and some are wading out along the shore. The parents have one little boy named David. (However, he doesn't live up to his namesake, David, of the Bible.)

This David has a tendency to disregard what his parents say. He usually obeys his parents only when he is forced to do so. He usually says, "Oh, I'll do it if I have to." The parents, on the high bank of the lake, look down and see little David walking out farther down the beach. The father sees a sign about five or six feet beyond the boy's depth. The sign says, "Danger, dropoff." The parents call frantically for the little boy to stop and come back. He disregards their voices and keeps on walking. He thinks, "After all, they can't force me to come back. I'm down here and they are up there." A few moments later the tragedy happens. We don't have to explain what the end of the story is.

Such things end in many different ways. But we learn a main lesson again: Disobedience to parents ultimately will end in tragedy.


Disobedience to parents causes hardship to others, losses for ourselves, and consequently, even sorrow and death. And more important than these issues is the fact that disobedience is a sin because it breaks God's law and grieves His heart.


In these illustrations we looked from the child's side. Now let us look from the side of the parents' responsibility.

The sham and double dealing of the human heart is evidenced ever so plainly in the attitude that so-called unprejudiced(?) adults have toward their children. They will often let them feed on television, movies, and not-so-comical comic books filled with killing, lust, fighting, lying, hatred, and "gang-sterism." At the same time, however, they say they won't insist on influencing or prejudicing their children with family devotions, Sunday schools, Bible clubs, or Bible camps.

The last generation of youth has been brought up in the midst of the confusion caused by this doctrine of self-expression in the bringing up of children. If these blinded educators, parents, and psychologists (we are not speaking of those who are an honor to their professions) had used guinea pigs for their experiments, it would not have been so serious; but since they used children of this generation, many parents have trouble and regret in their homes.


According to the modern philosophy of bringing up children, Mary and Joseph should never have brought Jesus to the synagogue of Nazareth or to the temple of Jerusalem. Hannah and Elkanah should never have surrendered their child Samuel to the duties of the tabernacle in Shiloh. According to such a philosophy, Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd, can lead the sheep, but of course He should leave the lambs to find their way alone. How stupid can this enlightened age of ours get? It will not be "well with us" nor will we "dwell long upon the land" unless we repent of our disregard of this command of God.


We are likened to sheep in the Scriptures. This likeness is presented in Isaiah 53:6: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Why this comparison? A sheep is an animal void of self-direction. Most animals have uncanny instincts of self-direction, instincts planted in the creature by the Creator. For instance, a baby crocodile that has just hatched into a vast new world, with the towering jungle on one side and a river on the other, will instinctively make its way toward that river. A marked bird, removed 3,000 miles from its home, has flown back to the exact location. A lamb, however, cannot find its way alone. Morally and spiritually, we are like these "stupid" sheep. We cannot find our way alone. We are made to be dependent on God. If adults need guidance because they are the sheep, how much more do the lambs need this direction? If adults do not guide their children to love and serve God, they sin against God.

Someone observed that "a child is a man in small letters, yet the best copy of Adam before he tasted the forbidden fruit." A little child is fearfully subject to influences that mar the "white paper" of his soul.


A few years ago a friend of mine and I went into a small-town tavern to give our testimonies. After entering, we noticed a little tot walk over to one of the men sitting at the bar. The man set the boy on his knee, put his beer bottle to the little boy's lips, and gave him a drink. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and gave the lad a smoke. If I never understood before, I understood then what Jesus meant when He said, "Whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his heck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling" (Matt. 18:6, 7).


In this command, the first words are "Honor thy father and mother." This word honor is chosen by God in His divine wisdom. Children must honor someone or something. They love to have a hero. Who is that hero going to be whom they honor? If the honor does not go toward godly parents, circumstances will direct it to some unworthy person or gang.

Children will give their honor wherever they find the two qualities that their natures demand. The first of these qualities is acceptance. They want to be accepted or loved. The second quality is authority; that is, authority that will direct their energies. This is not mere philosophy. This is what the Scripture teaches. This is what Paul states in Colossians 3:20: "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." That is authority. Then verse 21 says, "Fathers, provoke not your children, that they be not discouraged." That is acceptance. Children are commanded to honor their parents. This law expects parents to be honorable so they can command respect through the years of their children's childhood and maturity.


This fifth commandment is a direct command to the child. Remember, the parents are not the commanders; God is! Disobedience and dishonor to parents is dishonor toward God. Submissions to parents is the first indication of submission to God. Also, no human advice has a right to neutralize the words of Scripture concerning the rod of correction. Disobedience must be dealt with by a spanking administered in love (not in anger). The Bible says, "Foolishness [disobedience] is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Prov. 22:15).

In the Upper Room magazine years ago were the words: "Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us." If parents and children will submit themselves to the Son of God above them, yielding to Him as Lord and Savior, there will be placed in them an ability to take their rightful place as father, mother, son or daughter.


Once a visitor confronted Coleridge with the argument that he was strongly against religious instruction of children; that he would determine not to prejudice his children in favor of any form of religion, but let them choose for themselves when they grew up. Coleridge's answer was sound. He said: "Why prejudice a garden in favor of flowers and fruit? Why not let the clods choose for themselves between cockleburs and strawberries?"

The parents' office is to cultivate and nurture the garden of the child's heart for God. This is the highest purpose of the home. Here a child may discover early in life that there is a tendency in him to go his own way. It is in the home that this "own-way-ness" can best be handled.


A godly parent will discipline the child with rod and, above all, lead him to the Lord Jesus, the Redeemer from sin and self. It is in the home that children can best learn the practical lesson of honoring true authority, learning to subject themselves to parents, superiors, rules, and order. Thus they are prepared to yield to the absolute claims of Jesus Christ. It is in the home they can learn the meaning of the Cross and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

No greater words could be said than those which Paul said of Timothy's youth: "That from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 3:15).

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.


Harold Brokke