Friday, December 18, 2015

Sermons without a pulpit: Number 1. Honour

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a series, Sermons without a pulpit (it's really hard to get a pulpit online). Here I want to tackle different issues from a biblical perspective, hopefully shedding some misconceptions and bringing more depth and understanding to the scriptures.

Lets talk about honour, more specifically about honouring one's parents. This is a much used but very often not properly understood text. There are two crucial texts that need to be examined if we are to understand honouring your parents from a biblical perspective. The first is from Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." This is then restated in Deuteronomy 5:16.  The second text is from the New Testament, Ephesians 6:1-2 "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise

Now a quick but important digression about context, the first two scriptures are from the Old testament ,more specifically from the Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, they are a set of commandments which the Bible describes as being given to Moses on two stone tablets by God at Mount Sinai. The Commandments form the basis of what is known as the Mosaic (after Moses) laws. These laws form the core of the Jewish religion, to follow these laws which were given by God is to follow God. 

Now the contexts for the New Testament references are letters written by the apostle Paul to various early Christian congregations. Keep in mind the Jesus and the first apostles including Paul were all Jewish. 

So context is laid out, the scriptures are in front of us, now what does it mean to honour your parents? In order to really come to grips with this we need to have a quick under the bonnet at the original languages that the Bible was written in . For the OT this is of course Hebrew and for the New Testament it is Greek. 
The Hebrew word translated honour is kabad or kabed: (pronounced kawbad) it means to be heavy, weighty, or burdensome. This word never carries the meaning of obey in any place that it is used in the Old Testament. So to honour your parents here actually means to give greater weight to their teachings and advice, it does not mean that you have to obey everything that they say. it does mean that as long as they live, you bring honour and respect to them by seeking their opinion and advice. Now interestingly in the New Testament the Greek word for honour timaō means to honour, show respect, give recognition, So it too has the same sense as the Old Testament understanding.

             However I can hear the astute reader saying "Wait hold up you are quoting Eph 6, where it states "Children, obey your parents in the Lord", and in both English and Greek that is what it means obey. The key to this verse is the greek word  téknon ("a child living in willing dependence")  this is what is translated here as our English word child.  There are other words that Paul could have used if he wanted to this verse to carry the meaning that we should always obey our parents but Teknon is a specific age and it means a young person before the age of adulthood. For people of the first century to whom Paul was writing, this age was in the early teens.   

Ok so now it is time to wrap it all up. How do we honour our parents?  When we are little and in their full time care we do need to obey their instructions, however as we become an adult we no longer have to obey but we do for the remainder of our parents lives have to give greater weight to their opinions and advice we are not locked into obeying them but always we should respect them. Now this will undoubtedly raise some questions especially in relation to abusive parents. This is a question that I want to address in the second part of this series. 
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