Author’s Note: Several weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking about what the book of Proverbs teaches us about honoring our parents. You can download the audio or video from the message here. As a result of preparing this message to teach to another group, I shared three practical ways that we can honor our parents. I share these with you below.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice. – Proverbs 23:24-25
Throughout Scripture, it is clear that we are to honor our parents. We can see both through the promises that God makes and in the discipline He dispenses, that He takes this command seriously. We can also see that God never offers an expiration date for this command. In fact, Proverbs 23:22 indicates that even when our parents are old, we should be seeking ways to honor, and not despise them. However, what does it mean to honor our parents as an adult? According to Proverbs 23:24-25 one expectation of a child is that they would bring their parents joy. In other words, one way that we can honor our parents is by giving them a reason to rejoice because of us.
What does that look like practically? Here are three ways that we can honor our parents by bringing them joy:
1) Speak well of your parents.
One of the simplest ways to bring parents joy is simply to speak well of them. Now, I’m not talking about empty flattery – Scripture has a lot to say against that. However, it is important that we show our parents esteem with our words. We need to acknowledge out loud our appreciation for them or the things that they do. Not only to them, but to others as well.
I teach college students, and it’s always encouraging when they say nice things to me about my class or my teaching style or even the silly jokes I tell. However, it’s even more encouraging to me when they speak well of me to another student or another professor – because I know that they are saying those things – not because they want to flatter me, but because they actually mean it. And I’m sure some of you have experienced something similar if you have kids. It’s one thing when your kids tell you that you’re the best; it’s a whole new level of encouragement when they say it to their friends.
What’s true for parents of young children, is true for parents of all ages. Your parents will be encouraged to know that you speak highly of them – even when they are not around. And I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t only for your biological parents, but if you’re married, for your spouse’s parents too. We need to be demonstrating an attitude of deference to them and in doing so, bring them joy.
2) Do things that make your parents happy.
The second way that we can bring gladness to our parents is by doing things that make them happy. These don’t have to be elaborate gestures. For example, for some that may mean going on a walk with them once a week or having them over for family dinner. Or it may be mean that your little one colors them a picture or you send them photos. These are little acts, but if they are things that make your parents happy, it’s a way to honor and respect them.
3) Take care of the parents God has given you.
I’ll be honest, I struggled with including this one because we tend to equate “taking care” of someone with financial support. However, that’s not always the case. What we tend to disregard as children, and we sometimes neglect to remember as adults, is that not only are our parents our parents, they are also humans. Which means they have struggles and issues, cares and concerns just like every human being does. And we need to be mindful of that. Where we can, we need to serve them in those areas where they have needs, just like we would want our children to do the same for us.
My husband is a great example of this. After my dad passed away, my mom moved near us. While my mom doesn’t need our financial support, there are times where it’s helpful to have an extra hand. So whether it’s going to pick out a Christmas tree or fixing a computer, my husband not only does these things, but he volunteers for them. He realizes that while my mom could do these things on her own, she would appreciate the support. And so he seeks to give it to her – not because she needs it, but because in doing so, he is showing her both respect and love. And just like my husband demonstrates, the parents that God has given you may not be the parents that bore you. It may be grandparents that helped raise you. It may be your in-laws who are now also your mom and dad. That doesn’t exclude you from taking care of your biological parents – it actually expands the opportunities that you have to show honor to those that fill that role.
We often struggle with honoring our parents because there are many times that we disagree with them. However, I think it’s important to realize that you can bring someone joy without agreeing with them all the time. Just ask my students. They are often times that we disagree on things, but when I give them an extra credit opportunity or move a test date back – trust me – they are experiencing exceptional amounts of joy. You and your parents may have stark differences of opinion when it comes to how to raise your kids, what to eat for dinner, and a thousand other things, and some of the things you disagree upon may be things that are clear in God’s Word and you are justified in holding to His standard on those things. However, you can still bring your parents joy. You can disagree on the things that you need to disagree on – and yet look for the words that you can say, the things that you can do, or that ways that you can take care of them, that will bring them joy.
In other words, you can still honor them. Even when you disagree, you can still bring them joy.
It’s fair to say that honoring our parents isn’t going to look the same for everybody, nor is it going to come with the same level of ease. Like me, some may have great parents; others, unfortunately do not. Some may not be in regular contact with their parents due to issues of safety and protection. Honoring our parents doesn’t mean that we don’t allow the civil authorities to do their job and abide by the regulations that they’ve established. However, in whatever situation we are in, God expects us to treat our parents in such a way that in doing so, we honor Him. Ultimately, we want the treatment of our earthly parents to cause both them, and our Heavenly Father to rejoice.