I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been studying through the book of Proverbs over the past months, and I am nearing the end of my study. But I ran across a particular proverb in chapter 28 that really caught my attention. Looking at the 24th verse, it reads:
Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, “That is no transgression,” is a companion to a man who destroys.
My first reaction to this verse was “Who in the world would rob their parents?” Yet, I am witnessing this tragedy within my own immediate family. So, I know it’s real and exists. When I speak to my family, I am met with reasoning like this: I don’t understand what the problem is. She’s our mother. Parents are supposed to provide for their children. They’re supposed to help us out so that we can get on our feet and get to where we want to be in life. If I’m helping her out, how is she helping me out? She’s supposed to be the parent.
Now, you may be falling out of your seat right now (I know I was when I heard this for myself), but you may not. And the truth is: a lot of people my age and younger do not see a problem with taking advantage of their parents being their parents. I sit in that generational gap between Generation X and Generation Y (or better known as the Millennials); however, I wholeheartedly claim to be a member of Generation X. But in college, I saw plenty of people who felt it was their parents’ duty and responsibility to give them everything, even as adults, and these same students felt no sense of responsibility or even a desire to “pay back” their parents who were making sacrifices for them to be educated. And I don’t want to speak as a person who has grown up perfectly or anything.
My mother took out a loan for me to go to college, a huge loan, and I did my best not to waste my college education. I made sure that graduate school came out of my own pocket, but there were still times when my mom needed financial help that I really didn’t want to do anything. I felt that she had made poor decisions in her life, and those decisions were not really my problem. I was on the road to making better decisions, and I didn’t need her sidetracking me with her problems. But I’m glad that the Lord convicted me, and I did offer her financial help when I was able. Even when I was getting married, I told my husband that my mom took a loan out for me to go to school and that my intention was to pay her back, plus payback my own loans. Thankfully, he agreed, and that was our plan. Even as a stay-at-home mom, that is still our plan. And we also continue to care for his mother too. Clearly it’s harder with one income, but we are budgeting and making sure that honor both of our mothers.
Coming back to the verse though, I know that a lot of young people operate with the mindset that they will inherit things from their parents when they die, so what’s the big deal with having it now? I think it’s that giant sense of “entitlement” that this current generation has, entitlement to have the newest fashionable trends, the most tech-savvy gadgets, and to have what you want at the expense of your parents. Looking at a few commentaries on this verse, Matthew Henry wrote, “Here is the wickedness of those who think it no sin to rob their parents, by wheedling them or threatening them, or by wasting what they have, and running into debt.” John Gill said,
…he thinks he ought to have it; and if they are not willing to give it him, it is with him no sin to rob them of it; and this he says within himself, to quiet his conscience when he has done it; or to others who may charge him with it: but whatever such a man thinks, sins against parents are greater than against others; as parricide is a greater sin than any other kind of murder, so robbing of parents is greater than any other kind of theft…
And this was sobering to me because we often do try to quiet our consciences as young adults (and I’m sure all people at all ages can attest to this) when we have to deal with our parents. We may not be robbing them or threatening them, but we may be failing to love them properly. We may be too rash in dealing with them or too harsh in how we think about them or their present situation. We may blame them for things or refuse to help in other situations. Or we may just get frustrated with them and refrain from doing anything else. I know that getting frustrated is that one area of weakness for me particularly, but I know I’m not alone.
Honor – to regard with great respect; to fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement)
Over the past few month, I have had this deep impression in my mind to make sure that I’m really honoring my mother (I’m guessing it’s the effects of studying through Proverbs). I know that she and I don’t see eye to eye on most things. I know that we have completely different ways of handling things. I know that we have both made individual decisions in our lives, both bad and good, and we have had to bear with the consequences of those decisions. But nevertheless, obedience to God’s word is not predicated upon the easiness of walking it out or the actions of the other person. Regardless of everything, I know I am supposed to be honoring my mother and making sure that she is taken care of. And it’s not always easy, and it gets really messy sometimes because you have to confront other family in process, but it is the right thing to do.
I don’t want to be a friend to the person who destroys. I don’t even want to be in the same ballpark as that crazy woman who tears down her own house with her bare hands (Proverbs 14:1). I don’t want to be named among the hypocrites Jesus addressed in Matthew 15:1-9 who refused to take care of their parents by saying that they had better, more God-honoring, things to do. My desire is for purity in my heart, because if I am robbing my mother or have anger and frustration towards her all the time, than I have a heart issue. And time has proven that we have absolutely no ability to cleanse our actual hearts and minds.
If I want my heart to change, or if you are reading this and desire for your heart to change, we both have to seek God for that change of heart and mind. Truth is, we are naturally wicked and evil (Ephesians 2:1-10), and one way this is clearly demonstrated is in how we treat our parents and our attitudes towards them. One of the most beautiful aspects of believing in Jesus Christ and His gospel is that we are promised a new heart and a new mind, hearts and minds that love the Lord and desire to obey His word (Ezekiel 36:26-27 -see below). So even as the “traditions” of our culture and society say that you are entitled to focus on yourself, even at the expense of your parents, and do what makes you happy in this life, we can have a heart that will consider the Word of God and desire to please God in all that we do and in how we treat our parents.
My prayer is that God continues His perfect work in my own heart with my parental frustrations and that He will work in your heart to also be careful to obey His commands. If you realize that you have absolutely no desire to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, then I pray that God will enlighten your heart and mind to Him and give you a desire to please Him, love Him, and live in the fear of Him continually. And finally, my prayer is that we are all diligent in honoring the parents that our Lord has sovereignly purposed to blessed us with in this life.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.