“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.”
“Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.”
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
And [Jesus] said to [the scribes and Pharisees], “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
1. Keeping in mind the context of the Ten Commandments passage (God was setting Israel apart as His own special people and establishing them as a nation.), why would it have been important for Israelites to honor their parents? In a practical sense, how would honoring one’s parents have promoted law and order and contributed to the stability of this tribal and patriarchal society? In a spiritual sense, how would honoring one’s parents have been a reminder and picture of honoring God as Father? How might the honoring of their parents have been a witness to the pagan nations surrounding Israel?
2. What does the second half (“that your days…”) of Exodus 20:12 mean? Which land is this verse referring to? Why would Israel’s “days be long” in this land if they honored their parents (hint: consider your answers from question 1).
3. Examine the Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 21 passages. How do these passages describe the types of disobedience that are punishable by death? (15, 17, 20) How do these passages demonstrate the seriousness with which God views honoring one’s parents? Do you notice that these are some of the “thou shalt nots” of honoring parents compared with Exodus 20:12’s “thou shalt”? How do these passages point to the seriousness of, and eternal consequences for, dishonoring God the Father?
4. Compare the Ephesians and Colossians passages with Exodus 20:12. Is there a difference between “honoring” and “obeying” one’s parents? Do adult children still have to obey their parents? What about considering their wisdom and experience if parents strongly advise for or against something? Compare the reason Exodus 20:12 gives for honoring parents (“that…”) with the reasons Ephesians and Colossians give for obeying parents (“for…”). How do these reasons demonstrate that obedience to God is both for our good and for His glory?
5. The Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ephesians, Colossians, and Mark passages generally assume that both the parents and the child are God’s people/believers (OT- Israel, NT- church/believers). It should be easier for believing children to honor believing parents since the mindset of all should be to honor God, but what about honoring and obeying parents who are not believers? What about parents who are abusive or instruct a child to do something sinful? How could a believing child honoring and obeying unbelieving parents be a witness to them?
6. What lesson is Jesus trying to get across to the Pharisees in the Mark passage? (13) How does He use the fifth Commandment as an illustration of this point? Though it’s not the main point of this passage, what can you infer about Jesus’ thoughts about honoring one’s parents?
7. What do the Luke and Matthew passages say about the believer’s relationship with her parents? The Mark passage makes clear that Jesus wants us to honor our parents, but the Luke and Matthew passages say that believers will “hate” and be “against” their parents. Is this a contradiction, or are these passages addressing two different issues? How can Matthew 10:37 help us understand Luke 14:26? How do the Luke and Matthew passages emphasize the preeminence and priority of Christ in our lives and our affections?
8. Can you think of any Bible characters who were good examples of honoring their parents? How?
Write your parents (or someone who is like a parent to you) a “letter of honor” this week, thanking them for the ways that they have blessed, encouraged, raised, and provided for you.
Or, think of another way to proactively honor your parents in a way that would be especially helpful or meaningful to them.
Christmas craziness is upon us, but the good news is that means a few precious days of rest are right around the corner for most of us. Consequently, my blogging schedule is going to be a little different for the next few weeks, and I have a few other “light housekeeping” items to address as well…
Next week’s (19th-23rd) content will be mostly favorite Christmas-themed articles from years gone by. For those of you who are participating in The Ten, no guarantees, but I’m going to do my absolute best to get a new lesson up on Wednesday (21st). After next week, I’ll be taking at least two weeks (possibly three) off, though a few pre-scheduled articles may pop up here and there during that time.
For the most part, I have not been able to get to e-mails and social media private messages since around Thanksgiving. I sincerely apologize that many of you have been waiting so long for a response. I haven’t forgotten about you and, while there have been two or three messages I’ve deleted because they didn’t fit my comment parameters, if your message was in compliance with those parameters, I still have it and will get to it just as soon as I can.
We have a lot of folks down here in south Louisiana who are still suffering from the devastating 1000 year flood we had back in August. Many will not be back in their own homes for Christmas. A few flood victims are still living in tents on their property with no electricity, running water, or sewage because they don’t have the money to repair their homes. Many churches are also in the process of rebuilding. I know it’s last minute, but if you or your church would like to send a Christmas offering to help, or would like to put a team of folks together to come down and work, please let me know. I personally know some trustworthy, godly people who are coordinating relief efforts that I could put you in touch with.
Finally, if this blog has been a blessing to you and you’d like to bless my family back, click on the “Financial Support” tab at the top of this page. As always, please make sure you’re meeting your own family’s needs, and giving to your own church, first.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
It happened in 2011, and it’s happening again this year in good old 2016. Christmas Day falls on a Sunday- and the spiritual lumps of coal are being lobbed all over the internet: If you’re a Christian who’s even thinking about taking the day off from church attendance or your church has decided to cancel services that day…well, you’ve firmly ensconced yourself on God’s “naughty” list.
So I’m innocently cruising around on social media, podcasts, and the blogosphere recently when what to my wondering eyes should appear, aspersions galore from those I hold dear. Seriously, scads of doctrinally sound Christians I love and respect have said things like, “Church attendance on Christmas will separate the wheat from the chaff,” and, “If your church is canceling services (or even modifying the regular Sunday schedule) on Christmas, it’s time to find a new church.”
Did I read that right? Are theologically-grounded Christians really questioning people’s salvation and the spiritual health of churches based solely on a once-every-five-to-eleven-years Christmas Day worship service?
I honestly don’t think I’m biblically out of bounds when I say that’s absurd and judgmental and it needs to stop. Like, yesterday.
Yes, probably a lot of the churches who are canceling services on Christmas are theologically wonky, but that’s because, statistically speaking, the majority of churches out there, period, are theologically wonky. Too many people are post hoc ergo propter hoc–ing this situation. Just because there are bad churches that are canceling services doesn’t mean every church that cancels services is a bad church. What about the rural church of 20 members (that hasn’t had a visitor since the last century) who have all informed the pastor they’ll be out of town for Christmas? Is he supposed to show up and preach to an empty room? What about churches who have moved their services to Christmas Eve so members can spend time with family on Christmas without missing weekly worship? Is there a passage of Scripture I’m not familiar with that prohibits a church from doing this every once in a blue moon?
Yes, there are doctrinally unsound churches out there, but they’re doctrinally unsound because they consistently teach unsound doctrine as measured by applicable Scripture, not because they cancel a worship service or shift their normal schedule around for Christmas- an issue nowhere mentioned in Scripture.
As for judging people’s salvation (or love for Christ, love for the church, commitment, spiritual maturity, etc.) based on whether or not they attend church on Christmas- if you’re going to question a Christian’s salvation for skipping church that day, are you ready to pronounce a pagan saved if he shows up for services on Christmas Sunday?
Of course not. Because that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
The people who are using Christmas Day church attendance as a spiritual barometer would be the first to tell you – and rightly so – that going to church won’t save you. Neither will missing one service (or a dozen) “unsave” you. Salvation is determined only by whether or not you’ve repented of your sin and placed your faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to redeem you. And sanctification (spiritual growth) is a lifelong process – a trajectory – of becoming more and more Christlike through the years. Church attendance on Christmas isn’t a make or break for your salvation or sanctification.
Earlier this week in The Ten, we studied the fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” We discovered that, while God’s intention for the Israelites was simply to abstain from working at their jobs, housework, and commerce in order to rest and worship Him, the Pharisees later came along and added all kinds of micro-managing rules defining “work.” So by the time Jesus came on the scene, things like picking (“harvesting,” according to the Pharisees) and eating grain as you walked along, and performing miracles of healing were considered “work”- thus breaking the Sabbath. But these were man-made laws, not God’s law. It was oppressive and robbed people of the joy of worship God intended His people to bask in each week. “The Sabbath was made for man,” Jesus said, “Not man for the Sabbath.”
I can’t help but wonder if these “Real Christians will be at church on Christmas Day,” pronouncements aren’t similar. God has made no law for Christians that we must be at church on Christmas Day – or any other particular day – or we’re sinning. And, as for the churches who once every several years cancel services or shift their Sunday service to Christmas Eve, God has made no law that churches must meet on Sunday every single week or they’re in sin. What God has said for New Testament Christians is:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
“Not neglecting to meet together.” Reminiscent of the paucity of Old Testament explanations of what constituted Sabbath work, God doesn’t give a definition of this phrase or quantify it with a specific number of allowable and acceptable missed Sundays per year. It is left to the conscience of each individual Christian and the agreement of each local body of believers (but I can scarcely believe that a person who is at church every week unless Providentially hindered and opts to skip the Christmas service is “neglecting” to meet with the body by any stretch of the word). But when we by-pass issues of individual conscience and church agreement, make a law where no law exists in Scripture, and judge people’s relationships with God based on our own man-made law, are we not doing exactly what the Pharisees did?
What’s of far more concern than where your body is on Sunday, December 25, is where your heart is the other 364 days of the year. Do you love the body of Christ? Are you committed to serving the Lord and your brothers and sisters all year long at the church you’re a member of? Do you faithfully attend worship each week? Then deciding to spend Christmas Sunday at home with your family (especially if you’ve already attended the Christmas Eve service the night before) is not an indication that you’re backsliding or somehow “less” of a Christian than those decrying your absence.
But what if you answered “no” to those questions? What if you skip church as many or more Sundays as you attend because you just don’t feel like going, or you signed your kid up for a soccer team that plays on Sundays, or there’s a ball game on TV, or you’d rather go shopping, or you go out of town on pleasure trips a lot of weekends? What if your general attitude toward church is, “Meh, I’ll go when I feel like it and have nothing better to do.”?
That is much more problematic than skipping church the years Christmas falls on a Sunday. That’s an indicator that you need to examine your heart to discover whether or not you’re in the faith. To love Christ is to love His bride, the church. People who are genuinely regenerated love the church. As a general rule, they want to be at church worshiping, serving, learning, growing, and fellowshipping with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Why, between 2011 and 2016 haven’t I seen and heard these same folks who are judging Christians about Christmas church attendance speaking out equally as boldly, and in the same numbers, about people being sporadic in their attendance and uncommitted to the body the remaining Sundays of those years? As Christians, we celebrate Christ’s incarnation every Sunday, not just when Christmas falls on a Sunday. Are those other Sundays somehow less important?
One day, out of the thousands that comprise your life span, is inconsequential. The Bible does not say that simply staying home from church on Sunday, December 25, is a sin. What’s important is pursuing Christ, hungering for holiness, and loving and serving the church every day, not just when Christmas Sunday rolls around.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
(And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27- This verse is included in Mark’s account of the grain story.)
9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
1. Examine the two Exodus passages. What was the purpose of the Sabbath for humans? (15) What did God mean by “labor” and “work”? (9-10, 14-15) What was the penalty for breaking the Sabbath? (14-15) What two things was the Sabbath to remind Israel of? (11,17; 13) How would remembering these two things lead the people to worship and honor God? Which word do verses 8, 11, and 14 use to characterize the Sabbath day itself? How would having a holy day of rest and worship, a reminder of God as Creator and that Israel was specially set apart by God, be a witness to the one true God to the pagan nations surrounding Israel?
2. Study the Matthew and Luke passages. Jesus was frequently called on the carpet by the Pharisees for “working” on the Sabbath. Most of the Old Testament verses regarding the Sabbath don’t specify what constitutes “work,” but a few do. The Pharisees had made many additional and burdensome rules about what constituted “work”- you could only walk a certain number of steps, you couldn’t drag a chair across a dirt floor (it would create a furrow, and that was plowing), etc. Considering the verses linked above and the Exodus passages, was Jesus really “working” on the Sabbath in the Matthew and Luke passages? Whose rules was Jesus breaking- man’s or God’s? What did Jesus say it was lawful to do on the Sabbath? (Matt. 12:12)
3. Review the purposes of the Sabbath in question 1. What did Jesus mean when He said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? (Mark 2:27) How might this idea relate to overextending yourself with church activities? How busy are your Sundays?
4. In the Matthew and Luke passages, Jesus gives two examples of how the Pharisees care for their animals on the Sabbath. What are those examples? What message was He trying to get across to them? Would you say the Pharisees cared more for rule-keeping or people? How might Jesus’ “breaking” of the Sabbath in such a public way have been a threat to the Pharisees power and position?
5. What does the Colossians passage tell us about the Old Testament feasts and the Sabbath? (17) If Christ is the fulfillment of these foreshadowings, must Christians still observe the Jewish Sabbath?
6. Which day of the week was the Old Testament Sabbath? (Ex. 31:15) Why? (Ex. 20:11) Which day of the week do Christians worship on? Why? Compare and contrast the Sabbath pointing to God as Creator and Christians’ Sunday worship pointing to Christ as Savior.
7. What components should characterize Christian worship, according to the Acts and Hebrews passages? What can we glean from God’s Old Testament instructions about the Sabbath about things like rest, worship, and holiness that still apply to our Christian worship today?
What does “not neglecting to meet together” mean? Why does God say it is important that we regularly meet together? What is the heart attitude of a “non-neglector”?
a) I love my church family, worship, serving, and being taught God’s word. Why would I want to miss all that?
b) I like church. I’ll go if nothing more important pops up. I’m there about half the time.
c) Church is OK. I go when I wake up on time and feel like it. That’s about once a month or so.
d) You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, so I don’t really need it. Maybe on Christmas and Easter, but that’s about it.
Which of these most closely matches your heart attitude about attending church? Is your attitude about faithful church attendance pleasing to God?
If you were to keep a calendar of your church attendance, what would it look like? Are you at church each week unless Providentially hindered (emergencies, illness, etc.)?