An Article from Pastor Paul
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
As Mother’s Day approaches this Sunday May 9, I want to look at what it means to HONOR the mothers in our lives. Specifically; The Mothers Who Raised US, and The Mothers of Our Children. The above verse tells us to “honor our mother (and father)” what does that mean? Puritan Pastor Matthew Henry wrote that honor is “an inward esteem, outwardly expressed upon all occasions.” In other words, the esteem we have for the Mothers in our lives is not to be bottled up and kept a secret. It’s to be “outwardly expressed,” or demonstrated by our actions. Nicole Mahaney Whitacre in her blog said that honor means, “we cherish, esteem, and look up to the woman God has chosen to be our mom.”
The Mothers Who Raised Us
It’s interesting that after Exodus 20:12 tells us to “honor” our father and mother it goes on to say, “that your days may be long upon the land…” In the era that I grew up (1970’s and 1980’s) I think many parents had their own paraphrase of that verse that went something like, “I brought you into this world, and I can take out of it.” I can recall a number of times in my childhood that “verse” being applied to my life. One particular occasion my mother and I were living in a motel in Bisbee Arizona. I was probably six or seven years old at the time. A group of buddies were eyewitnesses to me getting “chewed out” by my mom. My so-called “friends” then proceeded to give me their advice on what they would do if they were in my shoes. One of them said, “I wouldn’t take that from no WOMAN!” (keep in mind we were all about seven years old). He then added, “If my mom disrespected me like that in front of all my friends, I would tell her to…” he then proceeded to spew out a number of profanities. Well later that same day my mother was yelling at me once again, and the “advice” of my friend kept ringing in my ears. So, against my better judgment I repeated ALL his words. Even though my mom was not a Bible believing woman, she quickly applied the second half of Exodus 20:12 to my life. Everything happened very fast at this point, but the next thing I knew I pinned on ground, my mother’s left hand was wrapped around my throat and her right hand was pouring Wisk detergent down my mouth. She was determined to not only wash my mouth out with soap, but to make sure it was a deep cleaning. To this day, two things remain true. One, I’ve never spoken to her like that since and second, I’ve never had “ring around collar.”
Without going into great detail let me just say that you could sum up the relationship I have with my mother as “strained.” Being bounced in and out of twenty foster homes for neglect and abuse, to say the least my childhood was dysfunctional. There have been a handful of times that I’ve been “disowned” by my mom both as a child and an adult. Perhaps the relationship you have with your mother can only be described as “strained” as well. If so, Mother’s Day becomes problematic. How do you “honor” someone who has hurt you? How do you show “esteem” to person who you feel has behaved dishonorably toward you? How do you demonstrate honor to someone who wants nothing to do with you? Biblically speaking I believe that those of us who are followers of Christ have been charged with the responsibility of “revering his mother and his father” (LEV 19:3, ESV). But how? What does that look like? Well to borrow a phrase from the US Armed Forces when it comes to showing honor to a Commander In Chief you do not admire, “You respect the Office, if not the man.” Good, bad or otherwise your mother is in a position that was chosen by God. He chose and appointed her to be your mother. The key to showing honor to a parent that you are estranged from, is realizing as a Christian that God has called you to “honor” them. By honoring them, you are also honoring God.
So how do I show my mother honor? There are a variety of ways. First and foremost, I show her honor by continually praying for her salvation, that she would come to know Jesus and be transformed by Him. Furthermore, trying to maintain a relationship with her despite our differences, or despite the times when she doesn’t want a relationship is a way of honoring her. To be honest, over the years my wife Amy has tremendously helped me to show honor to my mom. For example, years ago, my mother stopped talking to me. Knowing that my mother lives in extreme poverty, Amy suggested that we secretly send her money or gift cards to help her with her living expenses. Eventually, after years of anonymously sending these gifts, she finally discovered they were being sent by Amy and I. In time, this act of generosity re-opened the doors of communication between us. Likewise, it’s Amy who’s quick to remember my mom on Mother’s Day and other holidays, as well as continuing to help her with her living expenses. Honoring my mother has become a team project.
The Mothers of Our Children
Proverbs 31:30b says “A woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Unfortunately, the mothers of our children are seldom praised. Once a year on Mother’s Day we outwardly esteem them with a bouquet of flowers and a dinner. But much of the year those who appreciate them largely keep the praise that’s due to them a secret. To re-word the earlier quote from Matthew Henry, “what should be an outward expression, remains an inward esteem.” So, let’s take a moment and look at some of the traits Proverbs 31 praises that should be honored by us as well.
The first trait praised in Proverbs we could call “sacrifice.” Proverbs 31:10 says, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” The word translated “virtuous” is the Hebrew “chavil” which means “strength” it’s often rendered as a “woman of excellence.” The word itself is used of a “valiant warrior.” It’s describing a woman who’s strong enough to go against the world’s tide. Our modern culture can be very demeaning toward the role of “motherhood.” If a woman chooses to “go against the world’s flow,” and leave a successful career to raise a family she’s likely disrespected by friends, family and sometimes even by her own children. Roughly twenty-two years ago Amy, who has a Bachelor’s in Business, was a very successful sales manager. A career that came with accolades, awards, trips, commissions for hitting quotas and the overall respect of her colleagues. In 1999, Amy was strong enough to go against the world’s tide and she left the perks of the business world for a life of changing diapers, late night feedings, cleaning up spills, and homemaking. Men, Proverbs is saying that if you have found a woman of such virtue, God has blessed you with a strong and brave woman and her worth is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31 verses 13 through 18 go on to describe a woman who is industrious, creative and frugal. It’s a picture of a woman who takes all her business acumen, ingenuity and diligence, and now runs her home like a well-oiled machine. She’s the family planner, the party planner, the meal planner and the operations manager of your family. In our home Amy is literally the glue that holds us together, and the fuel that keeps us going. Without her, quite literally everything would fall apart. I venture to guess the same is true in your home as well. Truthfully, I can’t even figure out what I’m going to wear the next morning let alone run the household. I also venture to guess the same may be true in your family too.
Likewise, verses 19 through 27 of Proverbs 31 talk about how this “virtuous woman” in our life not only watches after the needs of her husband and children and not only keeps her household running, but she is also very generous. On top of all that she does for her family, she has a heart to help the needy. This is certainly the case in my home. Whether it’s taking care of my mother’s financial needs, giving to the food pantry, making meals for those who are sick or even feeding the homeless. Amy’s the one who inspires our household to care for the needs of others. Chances are it’s because of the “virtuous” woman in your home that your household is a blessing to others who are in need as well.
Finally, Proverbs 30-31a says “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands…” This verse implies that you give her the credit that she’s due. The picture is that if you have an exceptional employee, you pay them what they're worth, if not more. A study was done that if you paid your wife fair wages for all that she does to keep your home running, you couldn’t afford her. Some of the positions she does that normally you’d have to pay for if she wasn’t in your life include; House Cleaner, Day Care Provider, Financial Manager, Laundry Service, Personal Shopper and Home Chef. At a minimum it’s estimated that if your wife was paid adequately for each of her positions her annual salary would be $73,690. More than an annual salary, more than an award. She deserves “honor.” She has rightfully earned not only your “inward esteem” but that it would be shown “outwardly on all occasions” to quote Matthew Henry.
To all the moms out there we want you to know that we “cherish, esteem and look up to” the strong, virtuous woman that God has chosen to bless us with.