5 Ways to Honour Your Parents

This past weekend at Coastal Church we took time to honour and bless the mothers of our congregation. We don’t do this out of social convention or because it’s on our calendars. We do this because blessing and honouring parents is not only a Biblical principle, it’s a command. In fact, it is one of the ten commandments given to God’s people in Exodus 20:12:

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

The origin of Mother’s Day can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman times. However, in North America, it started around the turn of the 20th century. A lady named Anna Jarvis desired a day set aside where families could show special honour to their mothers—a day focused on attending church together as a family. The church would be able to recognize and honour each mother because she would be wearing a white carnation. Church was a central part of Mother’s Day. However, after Mother’s Day became a national holiday, Jarvis became disenchanted with the holiday because of its commercialization. So much in fact that she disowned the holiday and even launched lawsuits against people using the term Mother’s Day. My guess is that she was saddened by the fact that flowers, cards, and candies had replaced the holiday of simple church celebrations that she dreamt of.

So, if we are commanded in scripture to honour our parents, how do we practically do so?

1. Ask for their advice.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
– Proverbs 1:8-9

Parents have the benefit of experience, regret, and lessons learned and can offer a perspective that we, as children, can’t always see. The verse above assumes that the parents follow God and His ways, but this principle can still apply even if your parents aren’t Christians. If this is the case, then you probably won’t seek their advice about God’s will, but they will still likely know things that you don’t, and it’s really honouring to ask for their advice. It could be that your parents are good at gardening, finances, running a business, or making the perfect omelett. Even if you have to be creative, your parents usually have something unique to offer. As a parent, I love to show my kids how to do things better, and it brings me joy when they ask me something instead of just Googling it.

2. Forgive.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
– Matthew 6:14-15

Let’s face it, parents are not perfect. I know that because I am a parent who has made mistakes, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so; hopefully not too many. In the same way, your parents aren’t perfect; maybe for some of you, your parents hurt you deeply. But as followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to forgive in the same way that we have been forgiven. Jesus’ words may seem really harsh, but Jesus wants us to understand this principle.

The door in our hearts that opens to allow us to extend forgiveness to others is the same one that we open to receive forgiveness from God. So, if we close the door by not extending grace towards those who have hurt us, we have also closed the door to be able to receive forgiveness.

3. Be thankful.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of
God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Being a parent can be challenging. There are endless diapers, sleepless nights, all the crying (from the kids and us), and navigating through the ever-changing stages of our growing children. But it’s also so life-giving to experience gratitude from your children for all your efforts, isn’t it? The other day, my son told his mom, “Thank you so much for helping me with my science homework.” This unprompted and sincere show of gratitude made my wife’s day. Simply saying thank you to your parents for what they have done is truly honouring. What could you thank your parents for?

4. Speak life.

The Bible says that our words can carry words of death or Life (Proverbs 8:21). This isn’t exclusively for parents; we need to speak words of Life over every aspect of our lives. But it’s really meaningful to speak words of Life regarding your parents.

Tim Keller (Pastor and author) says:
“Respect their [parents’] need to see themselves in you.” Parents long to see how they have impacted their children, how their children are a reflection of their strengths, their values.
“You don’t realize how important it is to give them credit where you can. You don’t realize how critical it is just to say, ‘You know, everything I really ever learned about saving money I learned from you.’ To say, ‘You know, Dad, that was one thing you always taught me that I really, really appreciated’.

5. Care for them.

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives,
and especially for their own household, has denied the faith
and is worse than an unbeliever.
– 1 Timothy 5:8

This is particularly important as parents age. My wife and I were talking about how roles change throughout our lives. Our parents, of course, cared for us, taught us, and sacrificed so much to raise us. As adults, it’s our privilege to return some of that care. It could be as simple as offering tech support and helping them navigate those incessant updates on their devices. Caring could look like showing them how to use ‘the cloud’ and their 17 universal remotes or driving them around because they don’t have the same confidence on the road as they used to. My wife Rebecca has recently started spending one day of the week with her parents. She’s helped with computer stuff a few times, but she mostly always comes home with more groceries and gifts in the car than she ever leaves with. Their relationship has changed so much since starting our own family, and it’s easy to get caught up in the business of raising small children. As she regularly visits them now without the kids, she’s noticed the gift of time spent and a deeper level of conversation and insight than has been possible for a while now. She knows that it’s a gift and that as she cares for them, they, in turn, care for her.

Just over a week ago, my mom’s dad, my grandpa, went to be with Jesus. He had just celebrated his 98th birthday. Over the past few years, my mom and aunt showed what caring for and honouring an aging parent should look like. As his health slowly declined, he required full-time care. My aunt took him into her home to give him dignity and make him feel loved during his final time on earth. They both showed me what real love looks like, the self-sacrificing kind of love that Jesus demonstrated for us.

Regardless of life stage, we are to look for ways to honour our parents. It’s a command, not a suggestion. This list certainly isn’t exhaustive; my prayer is that you will think of so many more ways to honour your parents. And my hope is that as a church we put this into practice, not just on Mother’s Day.