Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

Fear Your Mother

What the world generally knows as Mother’s Day is a tradition that has come down to us through many twists and turns through the centuries. We won’t go into that here. As we know it now, this day is a tradition that honors our mothers for all that they have done for us, for loving us in spite of ourselves (i.e., not destroying us), for nurturing us through every difficulty, and for just being “mom.” How do you really say “thank you” in an adequate way? We cannot. Cards, candy, and a nice lunch can hardly express what we wish we could say. We take solace in the fact that they understand because they, too, had mothers.

What, then, is with the title, “Fear Your Mother”? We aren't supposed to be afraid of them, are we? Well, yes and no. The biblical injunction is to “honor your father and mother” (Deut 5:16; Exo 20:12). This command was given with a promise: “that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.” See also Ephesians 6:1-2. Failure to honor father and mother is a grave error.

“Honor your father and mother” is the fifth of the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:12). The placement within the decalogue is not accidental, for this is the “hinge command” that affects both the previous four commands and the latter five commands. In the home is where children first learn about God and how to respect and revere Him, and the home is where they first learn about respect for others. If children do not first learn about God’s authority and preeminence in the home, then from whom will they learn it and what will they learn about it? If they do not learn how to respect others first in the home, where will they learn it and what will they learn? Honoring father and mother is foundational for how we respect God and others.  

Leviticus 19:3 puts it this way: “Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father…” Reverence is the same as fear. This is the same root word used with reference to God: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” (Prov 1:7); “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10); “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl 12:13-14).

“Fear” can mean that one is literally afraid with trembling, and there is a sense in which that ought to be the case. Children who disobey their parents should be afraid, not just because parents will punish, but because punishment f0r rebellion will ultimately come from God. The Law seemed pretty harsh on this point for those old enough to know better: “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death ... He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Exo 21:15, 17). See also Proverbs 20:20, Leviticus 20:9, and Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Acting dishonorably toward father and mother is “shameful and disgraceful” (Prov. 19:26). “There is a kind of man who curses his father and does not bless his mother” (Prov. 3:11). “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it” (Prov. 30:17). Afraid yet?

We continue: “Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother,” and all the people shall say, “Amen.” (Deut 27:16). This curse is put right along the side of idolatry, stealing, perverting justice, adultery, beastiality, and incest. That's a pretty bad list, and we rightly cringe. Yet there are those who will recoil at the idea of some of these heinous sins while speaking badly of their parents or willfully disobeying them. Being disobedient to parents is an open sign of rebellion against God Himself (see 2 Tim. 31-5; Rom. 1:28-32). So we should have reason to fear mother. Truly, “a foolish man despises his mother” and “a foolish son is a grief to his mother” (Prov 15:20; 10:1).

“Fear” also contains that sense of respect that leads one to listen and obey. “My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (Prov. 6:20). Even as they grow older, “do not despise your mother when she is old” (Prov 23:22). Let her rejoice in her children (Prov 23:25). Let the children rise up and bless their mother (Prov 31:28). Listen to her. Honor her. Fear her. Not just one day a year, but until she departs this life.

Remember the teachings of Jesus in Mark 7:1-15. There is no honor in failing to give due respect to our parents. Respecting them is a sign of how much we respect God.