What comes to mind when you think of your father or mother? For some, the thought is uplifting. For others, it’s devastating. Yet the Bible says, “Honor your father and mother” and provides no exception clause for those of us who have had horrific experiences at the hands of our parents. So what does it means to honor them? How do we do this?

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Exodus 20:12

October 13, 2013



All right, we’re gonna start a little differently today. Close your eyes, trust me. No need to put your hand on your wallet, you’re safe. Close your eyes. Close your eyes. OK, think of the face of your mother. Think of the face of your mother, and then hear these words: “Honor your mother.” Now think of the face of your father, if you know him, and consider these words: “Honor your father.” In your mind’s eye, see the face of each of your children, if you’re a parent, and ask yourself this question: “Do they honor me?”


You can open your eyes. You feel the complexity of what I’m up against today, teaching in the Ten Commandments on, “Honor your mother and father.” For some of you, when the thought of your mother’s face or your father’s face came to mind, you smiled, and when I asked you to consider what it means to honor them, for you, it was fairly easy. They love Jesus, they love me, we have a good relationship.


For others of you, it was devastating. Concerning some of your children, you were very encouraged. For others, you were very concerned. Today, as I deal with this great commandment—it’s in Exodus 20:12. It’s actually just one verse. We’re going to spend a lot of time on it. We’re going to look at the fifth of the Ten Commandments as we continue our series. It’s very simple: Honor your father and mother. And there’s no fine print and no footnotes. There’s no exception clause for those of us who have had horrific experiences at the hands of our parents. And I don’t want to belittle that in any way, so what I’m up against this week is a lot of emotional complexity and resistance. And I just want to state that early and up front, not for all of you, but for some of you, perhaps for most of you.


So, what I want you to do is I want you to trust me. I have the great opportunity today to be in the position of a spiritual father, and that’s really my role.


When my kids are uncertain of where we’re going, particularly the two younger—Alexi, who’s nine, and Gideon, who’s seven—they trust me because I’m their father. And they’ll come alongside me, and they’ll each take a hand. The other kids are a little older. My eleven-year-old and my fourteen-year-old son—not so big on holding my hand. But for the seven-year-old, it’s still OK. He feels OK holding my hand, and the nine-year-old—she feels OK holding my hand. But if we’re going somewhere, and they feel a little uncertain or a little unsafe, they’ll hold my hand. They’ll kind of give me the look, I’ll give them the look, and then they’ll walk with me because they trust me.


I’m asking you to take my hand and to trust me today. I want you to walk with me into a place that you’re probably afraid of, wouldn’t go unless I took you there. And the reason you don’t want to go there is because it’s incredibly painful, but because it’s painful, it’s incredibly important.



What makes things even more complicated is a lot of cultural variables. We’ve separated sex from marriage, so through birth control and abortion, all of a sudden, people are sexually active without any thought of marriage or parenting. So some of you came into the world with parents who didn’t want you, didn’t love you, didn’t serve you, didn’t care for you, and didn’t cherish you.


In addition, a lot of parenting is based on the teaching of Sigmund Freud, whose whole premise was, “We need to kill our father to liberate ourselves and live free,” which according to the Bible is the essence of all our trouble, that we’ve separated ourselves from our Heavenly Father. And as we separate ourselves from our earthly mother and father, it’s to our own destruction and demise, because when we choose to sin, we choose to suffer.


And then there’s a whole parenting philosophy that comes out of Freudian psychology that basically says that separation from one’s parents is a good thing, and it’s not. Then comes an entire industry of products, goods, and services to pre-teens, teens, and young adults, extending adolescence up until age twenty-five, according to a recent recommendation, that really hit the media quite recently. The result is that people are living separated from their parents physically. They’re living separated from their parents emotionally. They’re living separated from their parents spiritually. And they’re making bad decisions, and they’re harming their own life.


And then there’s an entire culture of rebellion that comes up. I told you in the second commandment that if you idolize something, you’ll demonize it eventually. And what we have done is we have idolized youth and we’ve demonized old age. We have idolized rebellion, and as a result, we demonize honor, and that’s the culture in which we live. Good luck finding a film, a magazine, a band that is singing this basic refrain: “Honor your mother and father. Honor your mother and father.” Good luck even picking up a pre-teen or teen magazine where questions are asked and any of the answers include, “Have you talked to your parents?” Good luck finding that.


So, we’re born into a world of rebellion, we’re all acting like a bunch of orphans, and then God gives us this strong word of, “Honor your mother and father.” And it really exacerbated itself in the 1960s and ’70s where it became culturally vogue and fashionable to be rebellious against authority in general and parental authority in particular. OK, so most of you were born into a world that is in anarchy and then you struggle with the pain, yet you persist to continue in the myth that we’re all individuals and the decisions we make don’t affect others.


That’s not true, and here’s how I can prove it to you: Think about your dad and the decisions he’s made, and whether or not he’s an island unto himself, or the decisions he’s made have greatly affected you positively or negatively. And someday, your children will be thinking the same thing. Some of you say, “I don’t have children.” Well, you keep having sex, you will. Maybe that’s how you got here. Your parents weren’t anticipating and preparing for you, and when you came, they ultimately didn’t really tend to you. There’s a lot of pain that comes around this issue.


The first four commandments are about our relationship with God. There’s one God; worship him alone. Our worship of him begins by how we speak of him, not taking the Lord’s name in vain, and honoring him with a day of Sabbath rest to worship him. This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments, and this is where it all transitions from God to neighbor. And the first priority is family. When Jesus came along, they asked him, “What are the greatest commandment or commandments?” He said, “To love God and to love people.” The first four commandments are about loving God, and as a result of God’s love for you and you loving God, commandments five through ten are about loving your neighbor, starting with your parents. And here’s the big idea: I think if you could love your parents, you could love anybody. If you could forgive your parents, you could forgive anybody. You ready? Take a deep breath. Take my hand. I do love you. Let’s see where we go together.



The first question regarding this commandment is, who do we honor? Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother.” How many of you have heard this before? You’re like, “This is not new information.” Honor, who? Well, the father’s listed first. The father is the head of the household. The father is the appointed family leader. The father bears particular responsibility in the sight of God. “And mother.” Mother is alongside father, working with him. Like a right hand and a left hand, mom and dad are to be working together to love and lead the family.


This is actually very unusual because you would be reticent to find, in that day, commandments about honoring your mother. Other religions and people groups talk a lot about the family’s position as the patriarch—the father’s position, rather, as the patriarch over the family, but they wouldn’t say a lot about the respect for your mother. Here, what God does is he puts mothers and fathers in the same place on the proverbial org chart. All right, so there’s God, and then there’s mom and dad, and then there’s the kids. And so in honoring your mother and father it is both your mother and father.


The issue here of honor means to respect, to defer, to submit. It means to have love, appreciation, affection for them. Honor is something that begins internally, and then it manifests itself externally. As you have honor in your heart, it comes out in your words. That’s where Jesus says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So, if you speak negatively, pejoratively, critically about your parents, the issue is not just keeping a reign on your tongue, but getting some redemption in your heart. It begins internally and it manifests itself externally, this honor of father and mother.


A couple of things I want to show you is that a father and a mother is the ideal family unit. It’s very controversial. You single mothers, don’t bristle on me. Every time I preach on godly men, I get a number of single women who bristle, and my response is, “I love you, and if the man who impregnated you would have heard this, your situation may be different and you may not need to bristle.” So, I’m trying to help everyone without excluding anyone.


The ideal family unit is a mother and a father. A mother and a father. Now, even today, that’s controversial. Even today, that would be called bigoted and discriminatory, but that’s God’s design, that’s God’s decree, that’s God’s intent, that’s God’s plan. Yes, there will be widows. Yes, there will be divorces because of horrendous cases of sin. Yes, we live in a fallen and imperfect world. But ideally, a child would have a father and a mother who would not just be there for the conception, but be there for graduation.


What this means as well, quite practically, is that for children to honor their father and mother means that children are not allowed to play favorites. It doesn’t say to honor your father or your mother. It says to honor your father and your mother.


How many of you grew up in a home—don’t raise your hand, especially if you’re here with your folks—but your parents played favorites? They played favorites. You could tell. I think of one home where there were multiple children and the kids will literally tell you, “Well, we were dad’s children and they were mom’s children,” like just a cleaver went down the middle of the family. “And we talked to dad, we loved dad, we trusted dad, and then these kids, they loved mom, they followed mom, they talked to mom.”


Well, how did that begin? How did that happen? Well, it began with dad playing favorites and mom playing favorites, and it’s like recess at school where there’s two captains and they pick their teams. Mom says, “Well, these are my favorites,” and Dad says, “These are my favorites,” and the kids say, “Well, then I honor my mother,” or, “I honor my father.”


Horrible things happen, if you read the book of Genesis, when parents play favorites. In fact, children end up killing one another and selling one another into slavery. So, if any of you are like, “Well, I don’t know. Let me see.” Well, just read the book, all right? It doesn’t go well for parents who play favorites. It does horrifying things to their children.


Similarly, when children play favorites, the exact same thing happens. So, you as parents, you cannot just assume, you cannot accept that, “Well, these kids love me and those kids love you, and that’s OK.” It’s not OK. As parents cannot play favorites, so children cannot play favorites, and they need to honor both their father and their mother.


And you know you’ve got a real problem in the home when this happens. Let me give you an example: Dad’s at work all day—I know this is a horrible example because a dad has a job and mom raises the kids, so I’m just going to use this horrible example from my house where dad goes to work and mom stays home with the kids—and the kids are being rebellious and disrespectful. Hypothetically, let’s just say it’s the boys, OK? Just hypothetically. And then the mom says to the boys in a moment of exasperation because they will not obey, “Wait until your—” you’ve heard this before. “Wait until your father gets home.” What she’s saying is, “You do not honor your mother, you only honor your father.”


The father needs to show up and not just discipline but, what? Instruct. “Your mother and I speak with the same voice. God commands you to honor your mother. And I don’t care if you’re a teenager with hormones raging, she’s still your mother.” Honor your father and mother.


What will help this is if the father honors the mother and the mother honors the father, the children will learn to honor their mother and father, OK? If you’re a brow-beating, hen-picking, you know, neat-nicking, life-crushing woman, OK—we edit this stuff so it won’t go on the Internet. If you’re that woman—some of you are like, “I am not!” OK, something to pray about, all right. Maybe ask the guy who brought you to church and is hoping you’re paying attention.


So, if you’re that woman and you disrespect and dishonor your husband in front of the children, what do you think the children will do? You think they’ll honor their father? No, they will sing the same song as their mother.


For you overbearing, harsh men, you men who love to be in authority but not to be servant leaders, you men who like to belittle, criticize, and knock down your wife verbally in front of the children, treat her basically as she’s not. The system is not, God, you and your wife and the children. What you’ve done is you’ve pushed your wife down to where she’s just one of the kids. You speak to her like one of the kids, you punish her like one of the kids, you talk to her like one of the kids. Do you think those children will grow up to honor their mother, yes or no? No. Now, some will defend her. “Dad is a real jerk to Mom.” Others will align with their father and they will dishonor her because he’s setting a pattern and precedent of dishonor.


So, this doesn’t mean that moms and dads can’t have conflict and disagreement. It means that when they have conflict, they either deal with it privately, and sometimes, when they deal with it in front of the kids, they deal with it honorably. And some parents will say, “We never disagree in front of the kids.” If you do, just do it in a way that’s honorable, because you’re modeling for your children how you can even honor one another in a moment of disagreement. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. My children know that Grace and I occasionally disagree, that we work it out, that we honor one another, and that we work toward unity in our family, beginning at the parental level.


See, some guys, it’s like they treat their wife like she’s the first-born child. That’s not where Mom belongs. She belongs alongside him. All right, she was taken from his rib. That’s her home—not in front as feminism would teach, not behind as chauvinism would teach, alongside as God would teach.


And parents, it is important that we instruct our children to honor their mother and father, we do not play favorites, and in addition, we honor the other parent, particularly in front of the children, to set a pattern and precedence of honor in the family. Make sense?


How many of you are already feeling convicted? How many of you parents are like, “I can go now. That’s enough. That’s all I can handle.”



OK, next one. We’re going to do a lot more. Why do we honor father and mother? Exodus 20:12, “That your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Now, they’ve been slaves in Egypt for over four hundred years. God has liberated them through the Exodus. They are journeying, walking toward their homeland, but they’re not there yet. It’s a promise that God has set before them but they have not yet experienced. A lot of life is like that. It’s lived by faith. I’m just going to continue to walk with God until he brings me to that next season of life, stage, or place that he intends for me.


In Ephesians 6, Paul quotes this commandment and he tells children, “Honor your father and mother,” and then he adds this little line, and it’s the first commandment that comes with a promise. And the promise is “That your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”


So, who do we honor? Both our mother and father. Why do we honor? Because it makes our life better.


Now, first commandment is that there’s only one God. Second commandment is we’re only to worship one God. But here, we find out that if we live in a way toward our family that is worshipful and respectful toward God, it actually has benefits for us. I want you to see when you always do what is to God’s glory, it is also for your good.


So, every time you need to make a decision, don’t think in these terms: “What’s best for me?” Because actually, you’ll end up doing things that aren’t best for you. Ask this question: “What will glorify God? What will obey God? What will honor God?” And if in your decision-making, you do what glorifies God, the by-product, the benefit is that it’s good for you. See, because God’s will is holistic, and what is glorifying to God is good for us.


And so how many of you want to live a long life? How many of you want to have a better life? How many of you want your children to live a longer life and them to have a better life? How many of you want your grandchildren to live a long life and to have a better life? This is like the book of Proverbs. It’s not a dot-to-dot, this guarantees that, but this is proverbial wisdom that those who abide by these principles tend to have a certain lifestyle that goes a certain direction.


I can just tell you, with my kids, if they will obey me, they will be healthier. If they obey their mother, they’ll live longer. If they take our counsel, the way they handle sexuality, friendship, marriage, finance, nutrition, and education, it’s all going to be very different than if all they do is watch Nickelodeon, the latest teen-craze movie, and ridiculous boy band. If they listen to us instead of their peers, their life will go longer, their life will go better. Their life will go longer, their life will go better, and so will yours.


I saw it yesterday. I was preaching in Toronto, and I was sitting backstage with three generations, a friend of mine who’s a pastor, his sons who are pastors, and his dad who loves Jesus. His dad was married fifty-three years to a woman he loved with all of his heart. And I saw the patriarch sitting next to his sons, sitting next to his grandsons, and they were asking him, “How you doing, Pops? You miss grandma?” “I do. I loved her with all my heart. I’d never marry another woman. She’s still my wife. She’s in heaven waiting for me.”


The guy’s in his 70s. He told his grandsons, “You know, when I was about your age, I was married, but I was a boy. I didn’t act like a man and your grandmother suffered because of that.” He said, “One day, God convicted me, and I approached her, and I asked her, ‘Tell me the secret, private, quiet prayers that you never let me hear that you pray to God for me.’”


Men, that’s a dangerous question, is it not? How many of you don’t want to know the answer to that question. And he said, “She was reticent to tell me, and finally I told her, ‘I just really need you to tell me what your secret, quiet prayers are about me.’” And he said, “She told me, and it broke me, and it taught me what I needed to do to love that woman well for the rest of my life.” Wow. Wow.


The grandson who was listening has been married two months. Do you think that’s going to improve his marriage? You think if this kid listens to his grandpa, it’s going to affect his family and his future? Absolutely. Absolutely.



Next question, how do we honor dishonorable fathers and mothers? How many of you, this is your objection? You’ve already been there. As soon as I said honor, you immediately pulled the emergency break in your soul. You’re like, “I’m not going in that direction.” And immediately, what happens is that the hurt overtakes the honor. Your first thought is, “Nope, you don’t know my mom. You don’t know my dad. You don’t know what they said. You don’t know what they did. You don’t know what they failed to do. You don’t know what they still do. You don’t—they’re dead. You don’t understand.”


And all of a sudden, the hurt wells up. Am I saying you shouldn’t be hurt? I’m not saying that at all. Maybe what they have done or failed to do hurts the heart of God, the Father heart of God. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be hurt, but the Bible doesn’t have exception clauses for dishonorable parents, so how do we honor dishonorable parents? Again, don’t raise your hand, but how many of you, this is your situation? You’re like, “Well, my parents are dishonorable. How do I honor them?” It’s like cheering for a criminal, right? There’s something in the soul that feels wrong about that.



Let me give you some ways. Give grace. First of all, some of you are too idealistic. Your expectations are unreasonable. Even if Jesus was your father, you’d still say, “Well, I didn’t like his beard.” I mean, you’d find something, right? Like some of you, you’ve created expectations on your parents that are simply unreasonable. The Bible says that it’s a glory to overlook an offense. Some of you just need to realize, “I am expecting far more of them than I ever expect of myself.” And sometimes you’ve got to give a little grace and say, “You know what? When your parents are fallen sinners, it’s not always going to be awesome.”



Give forgiveness. This is to guard your heart from bitterness. If you don’t forgive your parents, you will become like your parents. Let me explain to you how. So, there’s a root of sin in their life. They sin against you. It’s like you’re infected now. Forgiveness is how you are cleansed from that root of bitterness, from that infection. If you don’t forgive, then the sin that lived in them now lives in you, and it’s transmitted, transmuted through the bitterness. You ever see somebody that hates their parent and then grows up to become just like them? It’s because they never forgave them.


My daughter Ashley is sixteen. She’s got her permit, learning how to drive, so pray for us all. It’s one of those seasons. She’s doing pretty good, but that’s why my beard is gray. Nonetheless, one of the first things I had to teach her was if there was something she was afraid she was going to hit, guess what she fixated on? That which she was trying to avoid.


Any of you learned this the hard way? You’re like, “I don’t want to cross the yellow line. I don’t want to—oh my gosh, I’m over the yellow line. I don’t want to hit the mailbox. I don’t want to hit the mail—how come it’s going toward the mailbox?” Why is it?


Because wherever you’re looking, that’s where you’re going. If you’re always looking at your mother, you’re always looking at your father, you’re always looking at your past, you’re always looking at your hurt, you’re always looking at your suffering, you’re always looking at their sin, that’s where your life course is going to veer. Do you understand what I’m talking about?


Forgiveness is saying, “You know what? What you did was wrong. Either justice came at the cross where Jesus died for it, or justice will come at the end when you stand before Jesus and give an account for it, but, you know, between you and me, I’m going to forgive. I’m going to leave it Jesus so I can move on with my life and stop looking at you.” Not that you ignore them, you hate them, or you despise them, but they don’t become the guiding, controlling center of your life, that the bitterness or the hurt from your mother or father—it’s not something that’s, you know, out in front of your proverbial vehicle and that which you’re constantly veering toward.


I can tell you a devastating story that comes to mind. I knew a guy, his father was an overbearing, legalistic, religious guy. Pushed, pushed, pushed the mother down like she was not just one of the children, but the worst child of all, and berated her like she was just a hated, despised child. And this man was impossible to live with, a religious blockhead. It got to the point where his very sweet wife, I would say to the point of enabling and codependent—when they got older and the kids were raised, she didn’t divorce him, but she moved out because she just couldn’t even be around the guy.


Well, his son grew up hating him, despising him, obsessing over him, but bitter against him and unforgiving. That son grew up to be just like his father, and if you told him, “You’re like your father,” he would be on the verge of violence. It was the greatest offense. Lo and behold, his wife moved out and he lives alone, just like his father. Just like his father. If he would have forgiven his father and handed it to Jesus, he could have moved on with his life.



Give honor. I know it says to honor your mother and father, so it seems like we should honor them. And one of the ways we honor them is by honoring them, OK? Sometimes this means if you can’t say something nice, you don’t say anything at all. You say, “Well, I can’t say anything good.” Then maybe certain things shouldn’t be said publicly. Maybe privately with your spouse, you’re telling them your story. Maybe for your kids, you’re warning them about the family history. That’s OK.


Before the service, I was talking to somebody who doesn’t have a father. I said, “How can you honor your father when you don’t even have a father?” He said, “I can be a better father.” That’s true. You know what I want? I want my children to grow up and to be more godly than me. And if they are more godly than me, that’s actually honoring to me.


So even if you have dishonorable mother, dishonorable father, if by the grace of God you become a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better wife, a better mother, that is honoring them.


One of the ways we honor is—in the military, they have a term, “Salute the uniform.” You understand that? Salute the uniform. What it means is, “I don’t really have a lot of respect for the person in the uniform, but I respect the uniform.” You see what I’m saying? It’s a lieutenant. I respect the uniform. I honor the uniform because many people wear that uniform, and some of them are honorable, and if we don’t honor the uniform, we’re actually going to dishonor those who wear it honorably.


Here’s the point: honor motherhood, honor fatherhood. Even if it’s hard to honor your father and mother, you can honor motherhood and you can honor fatherhood. You can salute the proverbial uniform, the rank, the office of mother and father.



Number four, give an example. Let me tell you this: if you are a person who does not honor your mother and father, you will raise children who do not honor you. Do you understand that? See, the Bible talks a lot about you reap what you, what? Sow. So, if you reap dishonor with your children, you’ll sow dishonor from your children. Does that make sense?


So, let’s say you’re always talking negatively about your parents—your mom, or your dad—and you’re venting, leaking. Worst case scenario, you’ve turned one of your younger children into your best friend and they’re your lightening rod for all of your bitterness. Your dumping all of your life onto them in a negative way. Then, what’s going to happen is you’re setting an example. You’re saying, “Here’s how we do it. We dishonor our mother and father.” You’re actually discipling them to dishonor you by modeling for them what dishonor looks like.



And give thanks. If there’s anything you can thank God for, that you can thank your parents for, thank them. Maybe they were bad Christians, but they were Christians. Call them up, write them a letter, “I just wanted to say thank you. It really dawned on me that even having Christian parents was a real blessing and a gift.” Your dad worked hard to provide. Maybe he wasn’t emotionally supportive, spiritually present, but he did provide. And you know what, there’s a lot of kids didn’t even get that.


Sometimes the way we help move our parents toward being more honorable is by honoring them in the ways that they’ve already been honorable. It’s an encouragement. It’s opening the door of honor. It’s not saying, “I honor everything you’ve ever done, but there are a few things I’m grateful for, and I want to articulate that appreciate to you. And maybe that cracks the door open so we can get into the other stuff later, I don’t know. But I at least want to see if there’s an opportunity for this to get moving in the right direction.”


And you can be thankful that God is a Father. All right, the Bible says that God is our Father. So if nothing else, you could be thankful that if your earthly father fails you, you have a Heavenly Father who doesn’t.


This dawned on me when I was a new father with Ashley and she was a little girl. And we were laying in bed, and you know, she’s under the covers, I’m sitting on the bed reading the kid’s Bible and praying with her. And she looked to me—she had this little kid epiphany. She said, “I have two daddies. One in heaven, one on earth, and they both love me.”


Praise God. But even if you only got a Father in heaven who’s there for you and loves you, at least you have a Heavenly Father. Imagine the people that don’t even know God as Father and don’t have any father whatsoever or any perfect picture of what a father should be like or a parent should be like. There’s lot to be thankful for.


Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:1–2 to treat older women like mothers and older men like fathers, so in the church family, there are those who function like spiritual fathers and mothers. You can go to them and ask questions, join their Community Group, seek counsel from them, and see how they live their life, love their spouse, and raise their kids.


This whole concept of fatherhood and motherhood has both a biological and a spiritual dimension, those that we are genetically descended from and those that we’re spiritual influenced by. Lots to be thankful for. Anybody said, “But I don’t have a mother who really imparts a lot of wisdom and encouragement, but in the family of God, I do know an older woman or an older man who loves the Lord, and they are, for me, in that position, of like a spiritual father and mother, and I praise God for that,” amen?



How do we honor father and mother? Now, how many of you would agree that the teen years sometimes are the most complicated? Some of you don’t have teenagers yet. How many of you do and you would say, “Yeah, this honor issue is a big issue for teenagers. I’ve been looking forward to this sermon. I made sure that my kids made it. We’re going to be here for all the services today because my kids are not getting the big idea.” OK, we live under the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, this was actually punishable by death, OK?


So all you teenage kids, put your phone down, pay attention, all right? We’re going to read a little Bible together, OK? This should scare you, teenagers. You should sleep with one eye open, OK? Here we go. Deuteronomy 21:18–19, 21, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son.” Some of you say, “Well, this is an old book. It no longer applies to us.” Oh, yes it does. Anyone ever seen a stubborn and rebellious son? Any of you not seen a son who was stubborn and rebellious? OK, “Who will not obey the voice of his father.” Dad has told the kid in various inflections, tones, volumes. “Or the voice of his mother.”


So, Mom and Dad are singing the same song. “And, though they discipline him”—there’s consequences—“will not listen to them, then his father and mother shall take hold of him, then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.”


Some of you teenagers are like, “Oh, so if I rebel against my parents, I get stoned?” It’s not like that. It’s not what you’re thinking, right? Being stoned is what’s causing you to rebel against your parents. Then there’ll be another kind of stoning as a result of you’re being stoned. You’ll be stoned in a different way, OK? There’s debate on this. Some think it’s throwing rocks at the kid until he dies. Others think it’s putting the kid in a pit and dropping a huge boulder on his head. How many parents are like, “I’ve got a verse. We’re done. We’re going home now. We’ve got all we needed. That’s all we needed. We nailed it. Thanks, Pastor Mark.”


Are we going to do that today? No. Teenage children—we feel like it sometimes. How many of you are like, “If I had a hole in my yard and a boulder, there are certain days that kid would not have to worry about going to school”? Now, I want you to see that we live under this covenant of grace and this long-suffering, merciful patience. Let me just say this: parents didn’t often do this. This was not common, but how many of us really see rebellion against mother and father as this severe?



See, because here’s the deal: we live in a day when we’re told children are not sinners, they’re basically good, you need to not raise them, you need to let them grow to become whoever they will become. Let me tell you this: it’s easy to grow weeds; it’s hard to grow fruit. It’s easy to grow weeds; it’s hard to tend a garden. The parenting philosophy that says, “We’ll just let them become who they will become,” well, they have a sin nature. If you want to cultivate a harvest of righteousness in your child, it means they need a new nature, instruction, discipline, repentance, correction. Any parent that does not instruct and correct their child, the Bible says, hates them. It’s not loving. Their life won’t go long. Their life won’t go well.


What does this look like for various life stages? Well, how do we honor father and mother? Let me say it this way. You are a child for a little while, but you’re someone’s child forever. OK, you’re a child for a little while, but you’re someone’s child forever. And when the Bible says, “Obey your mother and father,” it’s talking about those who are little children. If you’re forty-five, your seventy-year-old mom cannot tell you, you know, what color to paint your house. You’d say, “Mom,” she’d say, “Obey.” That’s over, all right? That ship has sailed, you know? I’m not your little child anymore.


What happens is, most of the time we think, “Honor your father and mother,” it’s just for little kids, but actually, you’re someone’s child for your whole life. Like, I still have a mom and a dad. I’m still their child. Like, I got an e-mail from my dad last week, “Hey Marky, how you doing?” He still calls me Marky. Like, you can’t call me Pastor Marky, but he’s my dad, he can call me Marky. And he’s checking in on me, “How you doing? How are the kids? How can I pray for you?”


I’m still his child, but I’m not his little boy, so I need to honor him, but I don’t need to obey him. I need to consider his instruction, but not in the same way that I did when I was four. So, there are various stages. So, what does it look like for a child to honor their father and mother? Well, I can tell you what it looks like: it’s primarily obedience. You’re a four-year-old kid, your mom says, “Clean your room. Take a nap. Eat your vegetables.” Guess what you need to do? What your mom said.


For a young child, it’s primarily obedience. This means you don’t tolerate screaming, yelling, kicking, hitting. Some kids have behavior issues and you’re saying, “OK, we’re working on that.” I understand it, good, praise God, but you’re not saying, “Well, that’s their personality.”


I saw this at a grocery store a while back. I mean, I was in a grocery store, and it was, like, the first time in a long time to be honest with you. But I was in a grocery store and I hear a kid. It sounds like someone is butchering a child for the meat department, right? Like the kid, “Waaaah!” just freaking out. So I’m like, “What the heck is going on?” so I go to that side of the grocery store. There is a child, small child, a boy, laying on the floor having an absolute nervous fit, screaming tantrum, breakdown, OK? And the mother says, “Just tell me what you want. I’ll give you whatever you want if you’ll stop.” And I thought, “Do you have any idea what kind of child you’re raising, Mrs. Bin Laden? Do you have any idea who he will grow to become?”


See, this is what we do: we negotiate with our children, which means they’re in charge and it’s a hostage situation. Oh, the tone changed. “Oh, it was funny until he said that truthful part,” OK.


Adolescents, what about for adolescents, those that are pre-teen and teenagers? It really looks like, primarily, respect. Part of the adolescent phase is that you’re going to have your own ideas and you’re going to disagree with your parents, but you still need to respect them. You’re not a child, but you’re not an adult, so you get more freedom than you did when you were little, but not as much as you will when you’re thirty. This respect means the way you talk about your parents when they’re not present, how you talk to your parents when they are present. You’re not yelling, “I hate you. You’re stupid. I’m sick of you,” slamming the door, threatening, turning your back, escalating. That’s not honoring. That’s not honoring.


Now, in those moments, a parent’s going to get very frustrated, and what you’re going to be tempted to do is to act like you’re their big brother or their big sister. You need to stay their mother or father. You can’t get emotionally sucked—“Well, you think I’m stupid. You’re stupid too. You have my genetic input so you’re as stupid as—” you know, like, all of a sudden—how many of you have had those crazy arguments as teenagers with your parents. You said something ridiculous; they said something ridiculous. You got emotional; they got emotional, You were acting in a way that was illogical; they act in way that was illogical. And at the end, you’re like, “I don’t even know what we’re talking about. And we’re both insane.” OK?


Parents cannot get down to that child level. They need to stay at the level—“I love you. I’m your parent. God gave me a responsibility for you.” And sometimes then the kids, they don’t want you to—“Don’t hug me. Don’t pray for me. Don’t touch me,” right? And you’re following them around the house, “I do love you. I’m going to talk to you. I’m going to watch my tone. I’m going to pray for you. You’re going to get a hug. We’re going to talk to Jesus about this,” right? “There’s a reason your door doesn’t have a lock in your room. I’m still coming,” right?


It’s pursuing the child like God pursues us. How many of you have done that to God the Father? And he’s still going to follow you around, kiss you on the head, love you, and deal with it. That’s how we parent in the adolescent season, and we wait for those moments where there’s open opportunity to speak wisdom into the life of the child, or to pray for them, and to pray over them.


Well, how about when a child becomes an adult? To honor your father and mother as an adult transitions from obedience, to respect, which includes seeking wise counsel, and teenagers running stuff by their folks and not just making all their decisions apart from them. But as an adult, what honor looks like is primarily caring for your parents.


See, in the Bible times, they didn’t have social security, retirement, and all of the governmental safety net that we do, so as you got old, your kids needed to look after you. And the assumption was they fed you, housed you, clothed you, bathed you, looked after you, tended to you when you were little and couldn’t care for yourself. As they get older, you will return the favor. This word in Exodus 20:12 is primarily for older children with elderly parents. It’s not primarily for younger parents with small children.


And see, today, we feel like the government’s role is take care of our parents, and the Bible says that it’s our role to care for our parents, particularly the parents that have cared for us. You say, “Well, does that mean Social Security, or retirement, or nursing homes, or hospice care is sinful?” I’m not saying that, but I’m saying that the children need to own it as a responsibility to love and care for their parents in their old age.


That’s one of the ways we, preserve a generational legacy and we break this broken culture, where everybody moves away, and the children are assumed to rebel against their parents, and once the kids are grown, mom and dad get a divorce because they no longer have any reason to be together, we just put grandma or grandpa in some home, we let the government take care of it, we never visit them, everybody just lives rebellious, autonomous lives, and then we all just self medicate, we go to the therapist, we talk about our hurt, and we wonder why it’s not working. Because nobody honors their mother and father, and it leads to isolation, separation, and devastation.


I’ll give you an example on this last point from the Lord Jesus. John 19:26–27, the Lord Jesus is hanging on the cross, suffering and dying in our place for our sins as our Savior. He looks down. Who’s at the foot of his cross? His mother, Mary. Standing next to him or near him is John, I would say, his best friend, a guy who’s like a kid brother to him. Jesus looks at his mother, looks at his friend, and what does he tell John? “Take care of my mom. Take care of my mom.” He’s honoring his mother. Jesus loved his mother, Jesus honored his mother, but Jesus was never a mama’s boy.


A lot of men need to learn how to thread that needle. You know the difference between a man who honors his mother and a guy who’s a mama’s boy? Jesus loved his mother, Jesus honored his mother, Jesus looked after his mother, Jesus cared for his mother, but Jesus was not a mama’s boy. That’s why Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5, I think it’s verses 3 and 4, “If any man does not provide for the needs of his family, he’s denied the faith and he’s worse than an unbeliever.” If you’re an able-bodied, working, grown, godly man and your mom is starving, suffering, and struggling, that’s your responsibility. Don’t just vote for a candidate who will take care of your mom. Another one—it’s a lot for one verse, huh?



How could fathers and mothers parent honorably? A couple things I need you to know.



Your child is your blessing. Some of you say, “Not today.” OK, well, you’re working on your blessing and maybe it’ll blossom in the future. I think it’s Psalm 127:3 that says that, “Children are a blessing.” They don’t always feel like a blessing, but they are a blessing. To parent honorably and to cultivate in the children honor in return starts with thinking biblically that children are a blessing.


In our culture, they’re a burden, right? Recent magazine cover, “The Child-Free Life.” It should have said, “The Blessing-Free Life.” I was talking to Gideon, my seven-year-old son, recently. A foolish father left his wife and children to run off with a younger woman. You know, just another guy who isn’t thinking like a patriarch and wanting to meet his grandkids and great-grandkids, but wants to run off with someone their age.


We were talking about this, and Gideon, at seven, he had the most precious insight. He said, “Dad, why would anyone leave their blessing?” I said, “Buddy Gideon, sin is foolishness. It doesn’t make any sense.” I kissed him on the forehead. I said, “Gideon, you’re my blessing, and I’m never going to leave you. I don’t know why men leave their blessing.” The “want to” precedes the “how to.” Seeing your children as a blessing will help you raise them to be a blessing. Seeing them as a burden will cause you to raise them as if they were a burden.


Prophetically, I just feel called to tell you this. The Father considers you a blessing, OK? God’s a Father; you’re his blessing. You’re his blessing. Some of you say, “I don’t act like his blessing. I don’t feel like his blessing.” You are his blessing, and if you’ll accept the fact that you are his blessing, you will start to live in a way that blesses him. This is where it doesn’t start with your performance; it starts with his affection.



Number two, your child is your responsibility. Job 1:5, Job thinks, “Maybe my kids have sinned. I’ll offer a sacrifice and confess their sins for the Lord.” You say, “Wait a minute, what is he doing?” Taking responsibility for his children. Your children are not the school’s responsibility. Your children are not the church’s responsibility. Your children are not the police’s responsibility. Your children are not the rehab center’s responsibility.


You say, “Well, can I not use any of those things?” You can, but you are primarily responsible for the well-being of your children. Your goal is not to raise a child who is moral but a worshiper, not just a kid who does the right things but a kid who has a new heart, not just a kid who is outwardly compliant but inwardly loves Jesus.


This is incredibly important because, for the sake of their own comfort and convenience, parents tend to just want a moral child to reduce the conflict and chaos so that they can have a better, easier life. That’s not the goal. The children are your responsibility, so you’re the first evangelist—got to tell them about Jesus. You’re the first pastor—you got to raise them in the Lord. You’re the one who is responsible for their overall care and well-being. They will live where you put them. They will eat what you feed them. They will worship where you take them. They will read what you hand them. They will find other families to follow and model themselves after depending upon who you surround yourself with.


Your sons are going to grow up and be like you, men, and your daughters are going to marry men like you. And this is all your responsibility. And they have no theology, so you have to teach them. And they’re very vulnerable to sin and predators, so you need to protect them, watch whose house they go to, and make sure they’re not just doing random overnights.


Make sure when the dating years come that you’re not just saying things like, “Well, I’ve loaded my shotgun,” because I know that when men say that, they’re trying to pretend that they have taken the position of leadership. You don’t need to load your shotgun; you need to love your daughter, you need to know your daughter, you need to pray with your daughter, you need to walk with your daughter, you need to invest in your daughter. Because the main thing is not to blow his head off, but to keep her heart. They’re your responsibility. They’re your responsibility.


And government and institutions cannot do what a Spirit-filled parent can. And we know that there’s a real problem in the world when government and institutions are trying to separate children from their parents so that their identity and their sexuality is separated from their family. It’s demonic.



Number three, your child is your follower. You’re the leader. You’re the leader. Your children—part of their honoring of you is the following of you. This is where, in Joshua 24:15, Joshua says, “As for me and my family, we will”—what? “We will serve the Lord.” And you’re like, “Did they all take a vote?” No, Mom and Dad voted, and they looked at the kids, “We will serve the Lord. We will serve the Lord.” You make a decision and your children need to follow you. They are your followers.


Now, what happened in the 1970s and ’80s, there was a guy named Benjamin Spock. You would have thought he was smart with a name like that, but don’t let it fool you. He was a psychologist who came up with this concept of basically family democracy, that it’s not God, parents, children—there’s the org chart. It was actually, not necessarily even God, just parents and children. The result was that it came to treating your children as peers. “What do they think? What do they want? We all need to have consensus, you know, and the kids are alongside Mom and Dad.” That’s not biblical. In fact, that’s what you do if you hate your children.


So, out of this peer-based parenting comes this whole, the thing you need to do as a parent is be buddies with your teenage kid. Now, as they grow older, you need to shift from, you know, giving them directives to building the friendship, for sure, but the children do not vote and negate mom. The result is we then have women who grow up and have the cougar phenomena, and they’re acting like they’re the same age as their daughter, interested in the same boys. And we have perverted fathers who grow up looking at images of young girls that are the same age as their daughter. It’s a social experiment that has failed because it’s not rooted in the wisdom of God. And this influenced a whole generation of parenting. And then you add into it the counter-culture rebellion of the ’60s and ’70s and it explains the world we have today. And it’s not working because it’s not godly.


Well, where do we look? As parents, we look to God as Father. We don’t look just to our own mothers and fathers. We look beyond that. We ask, “What kind of Father is God, how does he pursue me, how does he instruct me, how does he correct me, and how does he train me?” And we take our cues from the perfect Father. It keeps us informed and educated as a parent, and it keeps us humble.


We’ve always got something to work on, which means even for you parents, one of the ways you can open the door of honoring from your children is to, after the sermon, speak with them, be they young or old, and say, “Here’s how I’ve sinned against you and failed you. I’m convicted of that. I ask your forgiveness of that. I could have done this better. I should have done this different.” How about those of you who are children? Who do we look to? Children are always looking for peers or somebody just a little older than them to learn from.



What’s amazing to me—and we’ll close with Jesus—God became not just a man. We always say, “God became a man.” True or false, God became a man? True, but first, God became a really little man. We call him a baby. Before that, in his mother’s womb. How many of you are shocked that God would come as a baby? How many of you, if you were God, you’d start thirties, forties. You would definitely not start anywhere approaching junior high. You would not enter the earth, right? God didn’t just become a man, God became a child, a baby, an unborn baby, and then a born baby.


So here’s the deal: Jesus isn’t just for grown people. Jesus is for all people, and whether you’re a child, an adolescent, or an adult, whatever stage of life you’re in, you can look to the Lord Jesus and say, “He’s been there. I do not have a High Priest who’s unable to sympathize with me.” He’s been there. Jesus had to obey his parents. Now, unlike our children, he never sinned, and he had sinful parents, OK? So, I know it’s hard as a sinner to have sinful parents. Imagine being sinless with sinful parents.


Here’s where it explains it in the Bible: Luke 2:40, 50–52, “The child [Jesus] grew,” right? So, went through the stages of life and development. “And became strong”—healthy, vibrant—“filled with wisdom.” You’re going to hear a lot of language in Luke about the Holy Spirit working in and through Jesus. God became a person, walked on the earth as a human being, one of us. How did he resist sin? How did he submit to his parents? How did he honor his father and mother? By the indwelling presence and power of the person of the Holy Spirit.


This is where, to be a good child of God and our parents, to honor our Heavenly Father and our earthly parents, it’s going to take a new nature like Jesus, filled by the same power as Jesus, to follow in the example of Jesus, who died for our sin though he had no sin. He lived this perfect life as an obedient child. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Father, not my will but your will be done.” The Lord Jesus is the perfect, sinless, Spirit-filled child, and he gives us his perfect obedience, he dies for our sin, and he gives us a new nature and a new power to follow in his example.


And all of this here is at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry where it talks about him being “filled with wisdom”—there’s the Holy Spirit—“And the favor of God was upon him”—there’s the Holy Spirit. It’s possible for little children and young children to know the Lord, to be filled with the Spirit, to honor their father and mother, and to grow in wisdom. We don’t need to accept folly, rebellion, and anarchy. It’s not necessary. “And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” How many of you children are frustrated because your parents don’t understand you? Jesus’ parents didn’t understand him. He just got done teaching at the temple.


All right, so all of a sudden, teenage Jesus is a seminary prof, and he’s trying to teach his parents. They’re like, “We don’t understand. Let’s go home, you’ve got to cut the grass.” “Cut the grass? I’m the Messiah! I’m teaching at the seminary!” “We’ve got a chore chart. Your brother does the dishes and you cut the grass. Time to go cut the grass.” “I don’t cut the grass. I’ve got to atone for the sin of the world.” “You can do that after you cut the grass!” His parents don’t understand him, but he still submits to them. Your parents don’t need to understand you for you to obey them. Jesus’ parents didn’t understand him.


And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was”—what? Say it, teenagers. Say it, junior high kids. Say it! What’s the word? This word, right here. Hey, hey, put your phone down. Look at this. Another screen up here! I’ve got another screen. Look at this one. What’s it say? Hey, say it louder. Your parents want to hear it. “Submissive!” Yay! How many parents are like, “Good word, good word, good word, good word!” “Submissive to them. And his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”


Jesus was a blessing to his mom. Oh, that you children would be a blessing to your mom, to your dad. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” Do you want that? Do you want that for yourself? Do you want that for your children? Yeah, that’s what I want. I want to grow in wisdom. I want to grow in strength, health, vitality, and favor with God and people. That’s what I want.


Then, two things. Be filled of the Holy Spirit, listen to your parents so that it may go well with you, because God loves you and his commands are good for you, and he wants a future for you. God’s heart is a Father’s heart, amen?


If you’re not a Christian, this is where you turn from sin, you trust in Jesus, you realize that God is a Father, you’re a rebellious, horrible kid, and that God should dig a hole, put you in it, and drop a rock on your head. And instead, God came as Jesus Christ, and he lived this perfect life as this obedient child that you have not lived, and he died to pay the death that you should pay so that you could be freed, loved, and forgiven. Jesus rises from death to give you the Holy Spirit, to put his power in you so that you can become more like him. If you’ve not done that, this is where you give yourself to Jesus and you become a son or a daughter of God the Father, and you honor your Heavenly Father first.


Some of you need to go apologize to your parents or thank your parents. Some of you need to get with your parents and sort things out with your parents. Some of you just need to forgive your parents.

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Mark Driscoll

It's all about Jesus! Read More