We live in a time where authority is scorned. Moreover, we live in a time when those in authority do not want to take it. One example of this is the relationship between parents and their children. I was lucky to grow up in a home where parental authority was understood and enjoyed. However, this was not the case for everyone and I thought I would share some thoughts on the fifth commandment: Honoring your father and mother.
I believe that adherence to the fifth commandment could be the solution to many cultural woes. Furthermore, like everything else, this must start in the church before it can bear fruit in our society. The fifth commandment bears with it much wisdom; it is a main theme throughout the entire book of Proverbs.
One of the main cultural woes that I believe honoring one’s father and mother can aid is the problem of the “boomerang generation”. The boomerang generation is my generation. We are recent college graduates who are struggling to find a job so we end up back at home with our parents (Thankfully not in my case, no offense mom & dad). It is my conviction that honoring one’s father & mother can help you not end up in their basement. Let me explain:
I would like to frame my thoughts in and around the common college experience for young Christians. When a young man or woman goes away to college they are away from their parents for the first time and they are making many of their own decisions. Thus, they are capable of honoring or dishonoring their parents to a greater degree.
As a recent college graduate I look back on my college years with both positive & negative thoughts.
On the positive side, I saw myself and many of my classmates grow in their Christian faith in a way I had never seen before, especially not in high school. College is often a time that can make or break your faith. It is a tempest that either serves to prove the genuineness of your faith or the lack of weight in the bulwarks of your faith.
On the negative side, I saw myself and many of my classmates grow in arrogant zeal. We displayed a wealth of immaturity but believed it to be great faith. It is in this blind zeal that many college students, myself included, begin justifying thoughts and behaviors that are contrary to mature Christian living. Often the first target of this mentality is the student’s parents.
Because we have grown up in a society that has taught us to scorn parental authority from the time we are old enough to watch “Rugrats” it isn’t hard to see this disdain for authority maintained in the hearts of immature Christians. What I have seen happen is college aged Christians (including myself), who did not enjoy submitting to their parents authority in high school, now find that they can use “God” as an authority to disregard their parents. The problem is this other “authority” is really just their own sinfulness and not God.
Now before I go on I would like to make a qualification for the person who has unbelieving parents and became a Christian in college. Because that person’s parents are not in the covenant they are in a unique situation of having to honor their parents while above all honoring the word of God. Therefore, a student being rebuked by his parents for not cheating to get good grades should honor them by refusing to do so. If your parents are ungodly and are asking you to do ungodly things it is not honoring to anyone to do so. That being said I would like to move on.
What I have seen happen during this period of scorning parental advise on the grounds of “being sold our for Jesus” is many college aged Christians make choices that are plopping them right back at home once they’ve donned their cap and gown.
Parents, who were themselves 20 years old once, know how the emotions of a 20 year old work, especially their own children. As much as we love individual autonomy in our individualistic culture, we are the children of our parents. You are going to act in many ways like a 20 year old version of your parents when you are 20. Parents know what is going on in your head because they knew what was going on in their head when they were your age. What can often happen is a young college aged Christian tells their parents that they want to become a missionary and not do their school work. The parent can often see through this (more than the student) and see that their son or daughter really just doesn’t want to do their school work and becoming a missionary is a “Jesus Juke” on responsibility. The parent responds by saying that they think their child should study computer software and the child arrogantly responds that their parents don’t know the gospel or the Bible.
The college aged Christian could not be further from the truth. In fact in many cases the parent knows the Bible on a practical level much more clearly than their zealous child. The parent knows that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. Moreover they know that the kingdom advances just as much through the work of a faithful computer programmer who is a faithful husband and father as it does through a missionary in China. This is in no way to tell people not to become missionaries in China if they really feel called. What this should be saying is that being a missionary in China will be 90% everyday responsibilities & 10% preaching the gospel just like being a student or being a regular employee is. Parents know this. They know that no matter what you do there is going to be monotonous responsibilities. Many times, young zealous Christians do not know this. They tend to think of extravagant circumstances where everything is glorious when in reality even life as a missionary or pastor or ministry leader is filled with the mundane.
What parents are often trying to show their children at this time is that being truly zealous for the Lord involves responsibility just like every other part of life and it is important to be faithful with little (like honoring one’s parents in college) if you are going to be faithful with much (like being a missionary in China).
I think it could do my generation a lot of good to take a step back from our grandiose thought life and begin to embrace the reality that responsibility is something that is gained over time. If you are zealous for the Lord and want to do great things for Him start small. Start by honoring your parents for Him. What you will most certainly find is that your parents are teaching you how to live. They are teaching you how to take responsibility for yourself in such a way that you do not end up back in their basement when you graduate and have realized that you do not have what it takes to be a missionary in China yet. God started David as a faithful shepherd obedient to his Father. Moreover, Jesus, the King of the universe, honored his earthly father and mother; in fact he upheld the entire Law.
Leadership flows downward toward humility. Too often people of my generation want to raise themselves up to great positions only to be asked by Jesus to take a less honorable seat at the table. Let’s take heed to the words of our Lord and take a seat of humility and wait to be asked to move into a seat of honor. Honoring your father and mother while you are still under their authority is humbling. But it could be the most efficient way to move beyond their authority into a place of authority of your own!
Just food for thought.