The Family’s True Success
Dr. Jim Denison
Anna Jarvis initiated the idea of Mother’s Day in 1905, to honor the memory of her deceased mother. Nine years later, President Woodrow Wilson made this day a national observance. By Ms. Jarvis’s death, 43 countries around the world had joined the observance. We typically use carnations, because they were Anna Jarvis’s mother’s favorite flower.
There’s something in the human condition that wants to honor our mothers.
We fathers recognize this fact, and kid about it. We know that more collect calls are placed on Father’s Day than any other day of the year. People say, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” but no one says that about fathers. When’s the last time you saw someone at a football game hold up a sign which said, “Hi Dad!?”
But we fathers are grateful for Mother’s Day. And we should be—more than we know. I have come to believe that Mother’s Day was God’s idea before it was Anna Jarvis’s, that this is not just a holiday but a holy day. That God intends to do crucial work with our souls today—work which can transform our families, our marriages, our community, and our nation.
This morning God will show us the gifts we are to give our mothers, and mothers their children. And we’ll learn why they are so important, so vital, so essential—long after the presents we give today are gone.
Gifts for every home
First, God’s word tells you what to give your mother. Cards, flowers, and candy are our most popular gifts. And consumers plan to spend 36% more on them this year than last year. But all our gifts will be gone in a week.
What gifts truly matter?
“Children”—this text is addressed to all of us who have parents, whatever our age or theirs. So long as you have a living parent, you must hear and heed this command. And after they are gone, you must do it to honor their memory and extend their legacy.
“Obey your parents”—”obey” means to hear their counsel and advice, and then do it. Its synonyms in the Greek include “follow,” “be subject to,” “surrender to.” The command is a picture of complete obedience.
Know that Paul’s words are in the continuous imperative tense, a command to be repeated constantly. “Keep on obeying your parents.” Whether you want to or not, whether you agree with them or not. Obedience is our first gift to our mothers.
Honor is the second. “Honor your father and mother” is a direct quote of the fifth commandment.
To “honor” means to love, respect, reverence. Find ways to make her know how important and valuable she is to you.
This is also in the continuous imperative: continually honor her. This, too, is God’s direct command to every child of a parent, no matter our age or theirs.
Now God’s word tells parents what to give our children: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (v. 4).
In Paul’s day, the responsibility for spiritual training rested exclusively with the father. The mother often was not literate or trained in Scripture. Today this responsibility is given to both fathers and mothers. And both must heed it carefully.
“Exasperate” means to discourage or provoke. Said positively, this command is, “Parents, encourage your children.” How? “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” How do we do this?
Model the Christian life for them. No child will think more of his Heavenly Father than he does of his earthly parents. We cannot lead our children farther than we are willing to travel. Show them Christ consistently by your words and actions. Be the same person when you talk on the phone as when you hang up; the same person in the car driving to church as you are at church. Show them Jesus.
Teach the Christian life to them. Tragically, gone is the day in most homes when parents pray with their children daily and teach God’s word to them. It’s never too late to begin. And it’s never been more urgent. Make time every day to pray together. Keep a prayer book so you can watch God answer your prayers. Spend time studying the Bible together every day. Worship God together with your faith family every week. You would not think of going a day without feeding your children physically. Take the same responsibility for feeding them spiritually.
Your church has your school age children 1% of their time, their school 16% of their time. You have them 83% of their time. And the first responsibility for their souls.
For most of us, keeping these commands is easy. We trust and love our mother. We appreciate her wisdom and reverence her. As parents, our children are willing to follow our leadership and appreciative of our spiritual guidance.
For some of us, however, these commands are hard. Mother’s Day is not an easy day for all of us. Some of you were abandoned by your mother, physically or emotionally. Some of you had very difficult family circumstances. Some of you are in hard environments this morning. Some of you are dealing with rebellious children today. How do you keep these commands?
For obedience to your parents, there is this crucial qualification: “obey your parents in the Lord.” Submit to your parents’ authority and wishes, unless they want you to disobey God. Unless you must violate his word or will to do so. Unless there is clear biblical teaching to the contrary, you and I are to do what our parents tell us to do.
For honoring your parents, there is this crucial fact: God’s word calls us to honor the position, even if we cannot honor the person. To respect our parents because they are our parents. This is a choice we make, not a gift they must earn. Even if we cannot honor something they have done, we can honor the position they hold in our lives.