How to Honor Your Parents

Above: Mr. & Mrs. Ludie Hoffman Jr. (my dad & mom)

Honoring Our Parents as Adults...

“LISTEN to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother just because she has grown old,” counseled the wise man of long ago. (Proverbs 23:22) ‘I would never do that!’ you may say. Instead of despising our mothers—or our fathers—most of us feel a deep love for them. We recognize that we owe them a great deal. First of all, our parents gave us life. While God is the Source of life, without our parents we simply would not exist. Nothing we can give our parents is as precious as life itself. Then, just think of the self-sacrifice, anxious care, expense, and loving attention involved in helping a child along the path from infancy to adulthood. How reasonable it is, therefore, that God’s Word counsels: “Honor your father and your mother . . . that it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth”!       Ephesians 6:2, 3.

Recognizing Emotional Needs

The apostle Paul wrote to Christians: “Let [children or grandchildren] learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.” (1 Timothy 5:4) Grown children offer this “due compensation” by showing appreciation for the years of love, work, and care that their parents and grandparents spent on them. One way children can do this is by recognizing that like everyone else, older ones need love and reassurance—often desperately so. Like all of us, they need to feel valued. They need to feel that their lives are worthwhile.

So we can honor our parents and grandparents by letting them know that we love them. (1 Corinthians 16:14) If our parents are not living with us, we should remember that hearing from us can mean a great deal to them. A cheerful letter, a phone call, or a visit can greatly contribute to their joy. Miyo, who lives in Japan, wrote when she was 82 years of age: “My daughter [whose husband is a traveling minister] tells me: ‘Mother, please “travel” with us.’ She sends me their scheduled route and telephone number for each week. I can open my map and say: ‘Ah. Now they are here!’ I always thank God for the blessing of having such a child.”

Assisting With Material Needs

Might honoring one’s parents also involve caring for their material needs? Yes. It often does. In Jesus’ day the Jewish religious leaders upheld the tradition that if a person declared that his money or property was “a gift dedicated to God,” he was freed from the responsibility to use it to care for his parents. (Matthew 15:3-6) How callous! In effect, those religious leaders were encouraging people not to honor their parents but to treat them with contempt by selfishly denying their needs. Never do we want to do that!—Deuteronomy 27:16.

In many lands today, government-supported social programs provide for some of the material needs of the elderly, such as food, clothing, and shelter. In addition to that, the elderly themselves may have been able to make some provision for their old age. But if these provisions run out or prove inadequate, children honor their parents by doing what they can to meet parental needs. In fact, caring for aged parents is an evidence of godly devotion, that is, one’s devotion to God, the Originator of the family arrangement.

Love and Self-Sacrifice

Many adult children have responded to the needs of their infirm parents with love and self-sacrifice. Some have taken their parents into their own homes or have moved to be near them. Others have moved in with their parents. Frequently, such arrangements have proved to be a blessing to both parents and children.

Sometimes, though, such moves do not turn out well. Why? Perhaps because decisions are made too hastily or are based solely on emotion. “The shrewd one considers his steps,” the Bible wisely cautions. (Proverbs 14:15) For example, suppose that your elderly mother is having difficulty living alone and you think she might benefit by moving in with you. In shrewdly considering your steps, you might consider the following: What are her actual needs? Are there private or state-sponsored support services that offer an acceptable alternative solution? Does she want to move? If she does, in what ways will her life be affected? Will she have to leave friends behind? How might this affect her emotionally? Have you talked these things over with her? How might such a move affect you, your mate, your own children? If your mother needs care, who will provide it? Can the responsibility be shared? Have you discussed the matter with all those directly involved?

Since the responsibility for care rests with all children in a family, it may be wise to hold a family conference so that all may share in making decisions. Talking to the elders in the Christian congregation or to friends who have faced a similar situation may also be helpful. “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” warns the Bible, “but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.”—Proverbs 15:22.