May 10, 2020
We often hear that being a child today is more difficult than when we were kids. We didn’t have to face the same pressures and temptations and challenges they face today. Well, if that’s true, and I believe it is, then it is also true that being a parent today is harder than it’s ever been. I probably don’t have to say that, given the stay-at-home order, home schooling our children, no play dates, no organized sports, no parks, etc. Now, being a parent has always been difficult – trying to keep up with the generation behind us – trying to appreciate their music and dress – which is always just a little different than ours. I thought it was tough for my parents to deal with Disco and the Bee Gees – we have to keep up with everything from pop to rap to heavy metal. Contemporary Christian music for my parents to monitor was Keith Green, the Imperials and Petra – for us it was Five Iron Frenzy, Godie Hook or Plank Eye. For you it’s Need to Breathe, Switchfoot, Skillet and Superchick.
Yes, being a child or youth today is difficult – as is being a parent. And one of the things we know is we’re supposed to be involved in the lives of our children. But how are we to be involved, and to what extent? Being a helicopter parent is a real thing. We all agree, parents somehow have the ability, if involved, to make a difference in the lives of children. One of the things we hear about is absentee parents and the negative impact. Yes, of course. But, if parental involvement is needed, what kind should there be? By the way, while doing research, I found this assessment to determine if you are, in fact, ready to be a parent:
Mess Test Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Now rub your hands in the wet flowerbed from outside and rub on the walls inside. Cover the stains with crayons. Repeat. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.
Toy Test Obtain a 55-gallon drum of Legos (if Legos are unavailable, you may substitute roofing tacks or broken bottles). Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream as this could wake a child at night.
Dressing Test Obtain one large, unhappy, living octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure all arms stay inside.
Feeding Test Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a stout cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal (Fruit Loops or Cheerios) into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor.
Night Test Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8 – 12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 8:00 p.m. begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 p.m. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 p.m.. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you’ve ever heard. Make up about a dozen more and sing these until 4:00 a.m. Set alarm for 5:00 a.m. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
Physical Test (Women) Obtain a large beanbag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Now remove 10% of the beans.
Physical Test (Men) Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store.
Grocery Store Test Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the grocery store. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.
I do believe it’s tougher to be a child, and a parent, than ever before. But, are there some timeless principles in the Word of God that would speak to parents, grandparents, future parents – and children? Principles that transcend time and culture – that are as applicable today as they were yesterday, and will be tomorrow? I believe there are. Further, I believe being a parent today deserves special notice. Special appreciation and encouragement. So, this being Mother’s Day, I thought we’d take a break from our study in I Peter. After all, the next text is addressed to Elders – so I thought we’d save that for next week.
You see, the truth is, we live in a society that does not much value the role of a mother. In fact, if we were honest, we’d have to say that kind of thinking has even infiltrated the church. That those who choose to be “just a mother” have something wrong with them. They’re not quite ambitious enough; they haven’t reached their full potential; they’re something less than, well you know, those who are able to do something outside the home.
I want to do something about that today, I want to value you, as mothers. You may be a college graduate or college professor. That’s wonderful. You may be a great salesperson or a great manager. That’s fantastic. You may be the best employee in the world – or you may actually run your own business. Marvelous. Truly, that’s great. You may bring world peace and solve global warming in your spare time. Great. But if you are a mother this morning, you have the most challenging, and the most rewarding position you will ever hold. I believe that. And I want to honor you for that.
As I thought about what to share today, I thought about the fact that often we speak to mothers on Mother’s Day, and I suppose that’s appropriate. But, I was in a church once where the pastor preached a pretty strong message, challenging mothers to be “better moms.” Afterward, I heard a mother say to him, “Well, I didn’t really expect to get beat up on Mother’s Day.” I don’t want to beat you up this morning – I want to build you up. So I’ll beat up on your families instead.
So, this is what I want to do. Most of us love our mothers, right? And most of us want to honor them. And – most of us love our wives and want to cherish them for who and what they are to us and our children. But let’s be honest – sometimes, we forget. I want to challenge us today to remember.
So, for the next few minutes, I want to talk to children and I want to talk to husbands. That’ll get pretty much everybody. Moms, you can read a book or take notes just in case someone forgets. Not that children or husbands are forgetful. In Proverbs 31, at the end of the wonderful description of what we call the virtuous woman, we read these words:
28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.
There is one thing I will say to you mothers today. A godly woman, the virtuous woman, when all is said and done, is the one who fears the Lord. She’s not superwoman. She is not necessarily the one who can take Johnny to soccer, Sally to ballet, prepare Chateau Briand for dinner, keep the house tidy and neat with all the laundry done, all while managing a Fortune 500 company on the side. No, rather, she is the one who puts God first in her heart. As my wife often says, at the end of the day, it’s you and Jesus. And consequently, all the things she does for her family – for her husband, for her children – spring from a heart that fears the Lord. That follows Him. If you want to be a good mother, and good wife – work first on your relationship with Jesus Christ.
And as a result, the virtuous woman will see a response from her children, and her husband. And I want to talk to us about those responses. I want to remind us of those responses.
We read that her children rise up and bless her. What does it mean to bless your mother? Well, the word bless means literally “to bend the knee,” and speaks of bestowing praise or honor upon someone or something. Often we think of blessing God, or Him blessing us. But we can also bless other people. What are some ways you rise up and bless your mother today?
First, you can honor her for who she is and what she had been in your life. Ephesians 6:2 says it very simply, “Honor your father and mother.” Now, let me clarify something. Some of you have had the kind of relationship with your moms that would cause you to say, “I could never do that – I could never honor her. I might respect her position as the one who bore me, but I could never honor her.” You need to hear me, we’re not talking about perfection here. There has never been a perfect mother – never, from the beginning of time. Eve raised cain before she ever had her first son – that is, Eve fell before she raised Cain, so she wasn’t perfect. Even the blessed Virgin Mary, as the mother of Jesus, wasn’t perfect – can you imagine what that was like – an imperfect mother raising a perfect son? She actually came to get Jesus once to take Him home because she thought He was crazy. She wasn’t perfect.
Some of you have had great mothers, like me. Some of you have had less than stellar mothers – but let’s be honest – despite what we see in pop psychology today, most of our mothers have had some positive influence in our lives – despite their frailties, despite their imperfections. And we are to honor, we are to bless them for that. Let me read something else to you. It’s called “The Images of Mother” and it goes like this:
At 4 YEARS OF AGE ~ My Mommy can do anything!
8 YEARS OF AGE ~ My Mom knows a lot! A whole lot!
12 YEARS OF AGE ~ My Mother doesn’t really know quite everything.
14 YEARS OF AGE ~ Naturally, Mother doesn’t know that, either.
16 YEARS OF AGE ~ Mother? She’s hopelessly old-fashioned.
18 YEARS OF AGE ~ That old woman? She’s way out of date!
25 YEARS OF AGE ~ Well, she might know a little bit about it.
35 YEARS OF AGE ~ Before we decide, let’s get Mom’s opinion.
45 YEARS OF AGE ~ Wonder what Mom would have thought about it?
65 YEARS OF AGE ~ Wish I could talk it over with Mom.
It takes some people a lifetime to recognize the role their mothers have played in their lives. Don’t wait till your 65. Don’t wait till it’s too late. Recognize her value and express your gratitude now. Honor your mother.
A second way we can bless our mothers is to praise them. As I said earlier, inherent in the word “bless” is the idea of praise. Now, when we’re talking about praise here, obviously, it’s a little different than the praise we give to God – there, and there alone, our praise is coupled with worship.
But, to praise another person is to extol his or her virtues – to recognize and make known their excellent qualities. Let me ask you a question. When is the last time you expressed your appreciation for your mother, for your wife – the last time you praised her for her excellent qualities? I didn’t say perfect, I said excellent. We’re quick to talk about failures – we’re quick, especially in a society that wants to find someone else to blame for all our problems, to assign blame to Mom and Dad. Pay a psychiatrist enough, and he’ll even help you discover some hidden secret you never knew about that has scarred you for life – something your mom or dad did that made you the mess you are today.
Now, I’m not saying there isn’t sometimes something to repressed memories, but we’re far too quick to blame, to tear down, to highlight faults. And we’re very slow to share praises. But, can I encourage us to look for the things that are praiseworthy, and dwell on them. And share them, vocalize them. To build one another up in a society that loves to tear down – especially in a society that doesn’t value the most important role a woman can have, and belittles it, as just a mother. Your mother, your wife, can put up with a lot of belittling if she feels blessed by her children and husband. Watch any sitcom today – most of the humor is sarcasm – especially between family members – husbands, wives, parents, children. Don’t do that. Look for ways to build each other.
A third way we can bless our mothers, and this goes for fathers too, is to obey them. Now, I’m primarily talking to children still under their parents’ roofs – those who haven’t done the leaving and cleaving thing yet. Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Colossians 3:20 says further, “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.”
The word obey means just what it says – it literally means to carry out a set of orders. In other words, Mom says to do something, and you do it. We live in a world where disobedience to parents is the norm. Again, it is the subject of a lot of sitcoms and movies. There have been so many supposedly good movies I’ve watched with my kids where what the main character – a child – needed was a good spanking. Parents are portrayed as idiots. Paul warned us that this would happen in the last days – that difficult times would come. And while listing the things that make the end times difficult, things like men being lovers of self, lovers of money, arrogant, revilers, unholy, malicious, gossips, haters of good, brutal – he also says they will be disobedient to parents. Can you believe that made the list? You see, disobeying your parents is serious stuff.
Now notice, Paul said children are to obey in all things. Obedience is to be complete – not just when you feel like it, not when you want to, and even when you think it’s unfair. You obey in all things – obedience is complete. And Paul even answers the “why” question for us. Remember that – your parents tell you to do something, you say why, and every once in awhile they say what? Because I said so.
Well, here’s the answer to the why question. Because obedience to the Lord is right – it is consistent with the law of God as seen in the fifth commandment, and it therefore pleases the Lord. By the way – have you ever noticed there is no expiration date to the fifth commandment? Why should you obey your parents? Because it’s the right thing to do, and it pleases God when His children do what’s right.
You can bless your mother by honoring her, by praising her, by obeying her. And finally, let me tell you a fourth way you can honor her. And this is for most of us who have grown up and have done the leaving and cleaving thing, and we have older parents. The truth is found in I Timothy 5. Paul is writing to the pastor of the church in Ephesus, Timothy, and giving him some instructions about church order – things to be done in the church.
But, when we get to chapter five, he begins talking about older men, and older women. In fact, he starts talking about widows in verse 3. And in verse 4, he says this, “but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God.”
What does that mean? Let me make it real clear. In Paul’s day, it was common for women to outlive their husbands for many years. Many times, these widows became destitute. Paul is instructing the church to take care of Christians widows – to put them on the list of widows and make sure their needs are met. However, he says in the verse we just read, if the widow has Christian children or grandchildren, it is their responsibility to take care of her. And it is in this context, by the way, that verse 8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
How can he make such a strong statement? Because James 1:27 says religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, taking care of orphans and widows. That’s true religion, that’s true faith. And taking care of our own mothers later in life is a test of true Christianity. And so, may I honor those of you who have taken care of elderly mothers. And may I encourage all of us to make some return to our parents when they need it. You see, it’s not about getting an inheritance – it’s about trying, in some small way, to pay them back.
Lastly today, I want to turn our attention to husbands just for a moment. When a wife and a mother fears the Lord and is in the process of becoming the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, we read her husband will praise her.
As I said already, to praise someone is to recognize and make known her excellent qualities. Notice the example in Proverbs 31: This husband says to his wife, “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” To praise her is to build her up in this most important role. Now, there are two times we should be careful to praise our wives.
First, is when she’s not around. Men are known for talking about their wives at work – it’s just what men do – around the water cooler, in very disparaging and disrespectful ways. But look back at the end of the passage in Proverbs 31. The last verse says, “And let her works praise her in the gates.” The city gates was the water cooler of the day – where the men gathered to conduct business, to run the government, to discuss current events, to catch up on the latest news. Women didn’t sit in the city gates. So when it says, let her works praise her in the gates, it doesn’t mean she was talking about herself – it means the husband was extolling her praises to those around. As far as the Christian man is concerned, when he talks about his wife to others, he sings her praises – he doesn’t magnify her faults.
So first, the husband is to sing her praises when she is not around, and lastly, he is to praise her when she is around. That is, to her face – when she is the one being spoken to. We need to be careful to look our wives in the eyes and say, this is what I appreciate about you. This is what I praise you for. I thank God He has given you to me for these reasons. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, men, our wives need encouragement, just like we do. Praise her – so others hear it, and so she hears it.
We are to bless her, we are to honor her, we are to cherish and nurture her, we are to praise her. It’s the greatest gift you can give to your mother, to your wife on this Mother’s Day.