Honor your Father and Mother in Kabad Kingdom
Yesterday we established our desire to live in the Kabad Kingdom, a place where honoring, lifting up, magnifying and giving weighty worship to God and worthy respect to our fellow humans is our way of life. Today we want to begin to address the 'human side' of the Ten Commandments, beginning with “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12) We must begin by remembering that these Ten Commandments are calling us to live in such a way that we create or continue a distinct community. In his brilliant commentary on Deuteronomy, Patrick Miller paints a beautiful picture of how the construction of this distinct community might come about through the obeying of the fifth commandment:
When placed as a promised outcome of honoring father and mother, it (the promise 'so that you may live long in the land...') suggests that each generation honoring and caring for its older members creates and maintains a social climate that enhances the possibility of good and long life for each person in the society and for the society as a whole. To the extent that indifference to and neglect of the older generation becomes a societal pattern, the possibilities of a long and happy life are diminished for all. For those who are young become old and will themselves need care and respect to find “length of days." (Patrick Miller, Interpretation Commentary, Deuteronomy, 85)
This quote points us toward another couple of things that are very important. First, most commentators believe that this passage is most likely directed at adult children of aging parents. This, coupled with the rhythm of the generational passing of the torch implied in Miller's quote leads us to consider the words of Jesus, who says that we should, ‘do to others what you would have them do to you.’ (Matt. 7:12) So, as parents, we should treat our children as we would like them to treat us, because we all know the time is coming when those we raise will eventually be caring for us, as this is the inevitable cycle of our lives. This rhythm would/should create a certain kind of people, a particular kind of community, a community of honor and respect - a Kabad Kingdom!
So, what does this look like? What does life look like in the Kabad Kingdom? And why is it so important, to God and to us? Again, it is instructive to begin with the opposite of honoring - what does it mean to curse, the reduce, to minimize, to diminish? We begin with the Egyptians tasked with managing the Hebrew slaves. But the Egyptians didn't see the Israelites as slaves, or Hebrews, or even human. These Egyptian taskmaster only saw brick makers, and the only value to be found in a brick maker is how many bricks they can make. Reduction. Think this is just an Egyptian problem? When we fail to honor our parents and those closest to us, it is so easy to begin to devalue and diminish everything and everyone else around us. We begin to view people as resources to be used for our advantage, to be consumed and discarded. And it is especially easy to reduce, devalue and denigrate those in our lives who seemingly have little to offer us - those who don't seem to be making very many 'bricks.' And this isn't just true of how we treat our parents (or spouses or others close to us). When people visit our church, we check them out to determine their value to us - how much can they give, can they sing or play an instrument, are they going to cause us trouble? When people become either problems for us to solve or resources for us to use, we have failed to live into God’s vision - we have failed to be a Kabad Kingdom.
In Psalm 8 we receive good news and a powerful example of what God is looking for in Exodus 20:12. The Psalmist sings, his voice soaring to God’s throne, ‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.’(Ps. 8:3-5) Did you hear it, the good news? God honors us! God has crowned us with glory! Yahweh Elohim, the Creator of the whole universe, has deigned to honor us, has stooped to share with us His glory. God has elevated, magnified, breathed into us and blessed us, over and over again. No matter how often we fail Him, He never tears us down, diminishes us or treats us like brick makers. We have been loved and honored and gloried in and sung over by our Father, and in return, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother.’ HOW do we honor them? We can listen to their stories. We can treat them as we wish to be treated by our children. Or even better, we can treat them as God has treated US - mercifully, lovingly, with honor and glory. When we treat others as God has first treated us, this Kabad Kingdom we are dreaming of together, it really begins to shine!