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Have We Gotten Too Big For Our Britches?

  • Ina Manly Painter,
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"Honor your father and your mother,
that your days maybe long upon the land
which the Lord your God is giving you" (
Ex. 20:12 NKJ).
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise:
'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth' " (
Eph. 6:1, 2 NKJ).

"Young lady, you have gotten too big for your britches," my parents pointedly reproved. That meant I was acting dishonorably and needed correction. An immediate behavioral change was brought about — the old fashioned way, which was a far fetch from standing me in a corner!

Recently I overheard a Christian bookstore cashier, in a megaphone voice, speaking of her deceased father, "He was too strict. He would not listen and never allowed us children to question his decisions. We grew up hating him; my own children did too." At first I was embarrassed for her, then I realized how blatantly dishonoring she was. "There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness" (Pr. 30:11, 12 NKJ).

Someone asked, "what does honoring parents have to do with the Ten Commandments?" The answer is everything! God commands us to honor our father and mother. This commandment, like every commandment is far-reaching, applicable for every age, and demands more than external compliance. Specific directives are given which include what God requires and what He forbids. "The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superior, inferiors, or equals. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting or, doing any thing against, the honour and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations."1

I once thought the fifth commandment was limited to very young children honoring only their parents. I wondered if I would ever be exempt from honoring at any age; and was there anyone, anywhere that I was not required to honor? Both answers are "no!"

The Ten Commandments are not "cool" by today's standards. Well maybe they are when illumined on velveteen in psychedelic colors, or the like. To a great extent Christians are intolerant of the laws of the Old Testament and from the looks of things it would appear that most of society has disregarded the fifth commandment altogether.

The idea that the Old Testament is about law and the New Testament about grace has become a prevalent notion. However, the Scripture makes no discrepancy between law and grace. "Let us learn to maintain inviolable this sacred tie between the law and the Gospel, which many improperly attempt to break. For it [the law] contributes not a little to confirm the authority of the Gospel, when we learn, that it [the gospel] is nothing else than a fulfillment of the law; so that both, with one consent, declare God to be their Author."2

We have separated our love for God from His Commandments. We think our feelings about God are more important than His Word. It is a separation God does not make. "If you love Me you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15 NAS). We say to our children, "your love has no meaning unless you are willing to obey what you are told." Antinomianism — an anti-law position that dismisses God's law as being only for the Jews and irrelevant for Christians today. Many believe God's Old Testament truths are harsh and out-of-date, so off they go with their antennas extended, allowing only approved passages to by-pass their anti-law radar screens. Those acceptable Old Testament Scriptures are usually the account of creation, the commandments pertaining to stealing and killing, Psalms, Proverbs, verses relating to how a minister gets paid and sometimes, but not often, capital punishment. They proclaim the rest of God's Word to be good for all situations but still retain the freedom to apply their own wisdom well in advance of any Scriptural application. We have become a lawless society dishonoring everything that interferes with our unbounded freedom to live as we please.

At the heart of the Ten Commandments is our resistant, dishonor of the first commandment. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:1, 2 NKJ). In each commandment God addresses each of us personally and separately — "you, thou, ye." We shall "not give unto anyone or anything in Heaven or on earth that inward heart affiance, loving veneration, and dependence that is due only to the true God; thou shalt not transfer to another that which belongs alone unto Him."3

The Ten Commandments are a whole. They are together complete and foundational. "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). "So comprehensive is the Moral Law that its authority extends to all the moral actions of our lives. The rest of the Scriptures are but a commentary on the Ten Commandments…. rightly understood the precepts of the New Testament are but explications, amplifications, and applications of the Ten Commandments."4 Is this not astounding?

"We are no longer under law but under grace," many Christians boast, as they cast God's commandments behind them (Neh. 9:26). For instance, keeping the Sabbath day — the day of worship — holy is specifically required, but often denied. Romans 7:4 tells us we truly are free from the law, in that the law no longer condemns us; however, we are not freed from the law to live as we please. We were born under the law's death sentence right from the start. Our earned wages deserved death because of our sin and our sin natures (Rom. 6:23). Christ rescued us from the law's indictment, interposing His atoning blood. This took care of our law-breaking so we could be law-keeping. How is the righteous requirement of the law (Rom. 8:1-4) to be fulfilled in us if we are no longer to keep the law? Faith does not free us from the very law that Christ died to fulfill. And what standard do we use to tell us how to live? God's righteous law standard, the Old and New Testaments together, is the only standard to direct our lives. Anyone who teaches otherwise shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:19).

"Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths; I am the LORD your God" (Lev. 19:3). This includes "inward reverence and esteem, outward expressions of respect, obedience to the lawful commands of parents, care and endeavour to please and make them easy, and to avoid every thing that may offend and grieve them, and incur their displeasure. It is added, and keep My Sabbaths. If God provides by His law for the preserving of the honour of parents, parents must use their authority over their children for the preserving of the honour of God, particularly the honour of His sabbaths…."5 Does this lead us to consider the correlation between our dishonor of the Lord's day, and our children's dishonor of us?

Keeping the law does not provide our salvation, but it does give evidence of the salvation provided. "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments" (I John 2:3 NAS). We are saved by grace through faith alone and sanctified by grace through obedience. Obedience to what? Obedience to God's law — which is the foundation, our life and hope. The law is God's standard, a brilliant illumination of righteousness — always was; always will be. Arthur W. Pink said keeping God's law increases the family resemblance to our heavenly Father.

God's law-word instructs children to render obedience to their parents (Eph. 6:1, 2). This is not unmerciful servitude, but a pathway of blessing. There comes a time when children are no longer children, required to obey; however, there never comes a time when we outgrow the duty of honoring our parents, whether they are living or dead. We are to honor elders, employers, the God-ordained leaders, and all people in general. (1 Peter 2:17; Rom. 13:1-7). Children are to give honor to their parents, regardless of their parent's sins or situations. Joseph, Governor of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh the king, humbled himself before his father Jacob (Gen. 48:12). Isaac gave honor by digging again the wells of his father and calling them by the same names (Gen. 26:18). Isaac was obviously not a rebellious, evolutionary thinker insisting that his ideas were more progressive than his father Abraham. "You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:32 NAS).

The function of godly families is at the core of a Christian society. Just as Christ was anchored in a family, so are we. The family is that institution divinely appointed for our nurture and protection. God established merciful laws to govern and protect the family. He created an authority order, which carries sanctions of blessing, and yes, even cursing. Within the family we learn basic lessons from those who are accountable before God to watch for our souls. Christ perfectly honored and obeyed his earthly parents, leaving an example for all of us, which we should consciously seek after.

When there is a breakdown in godly training and loving discipline, the home, church and the state are all affected. "Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol" (Prov. 23:13-14 NAS)."The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother" (Prov. 29:15 NAS). "Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul" (Prov. 29:17 NAS).

Throughout our lives God brings us into subordinating situations, placing authority figures over us to whom we owe accountability and respect. "Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge" (Prov. 19:27 NAS).

Remember when our parents attached incentives to their commands? "Eat the food on your plate and you can go out and play; Make good grades and employers will be interested in hiring you." The fifth Commandment is the first commandment in the second table that has an attached promise, an added incentive.6 "'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Eph. 6:2, 3). What a bonus that is! Even a little child can understand this bull's eye blessing!

Children do not honor parents just because they are their parents. If we leave our children to their own sinful, self-indulgent desires they will turn out just like the neighbor's kids! We must set before them a godly example void of hypocrisies and double standards; diligently training them in God's truth; disciplining them with the rod of correction or we will never turn the tide of tyranthood.

A former neighbor's fourteen-year old daughter decided to show off her driving skills in the driveway of their two-story home. In her immaturity she confused the car's accelerator with the brake, collapsing a large portion of the garage and roof. The insurance estimate exceeded $35,000. Instead of honoring the law, the parents claimed the mother was driving the car. Is it safe to predict that the parent's lawlessness will impact their daughter's life in a manner far exceeding this meager amount?

God may spare us such atrocities; however, it would be good for us to reflect upon the examples of dishonor we constantly set before our children. Shouting at the driver on the road in front of us does not exemplify honor. Condemning the pastor on the way home from church is not an example of honor, either. "You therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal" (Rom. 2:21 NAS)?

The family that was once the center of American social life has drastically changed. It was more than Grandma's apple pie that brought our extended family together on Sundays. It was being with our aunts and uncles and their kids and those honored elders we loved and respected. In the summer we congregated on the front porch; in the winter, it was in the kitchen. We shared our lives and listened to advice. Non-Christian families focused upon themselves and their ancestry, disguising and tolerating each other's sins. The Christian families were concerned about doing what was right, prayerfully admonishing and supporting one another. When one of the teenagers was keeping bad company, they were openly corrected.

Family time is dwindling. Everyone is busy and has other things to do. Few families know each other intimately and know even less about their extended families. I was reminded of this recently while showing a property to a prospective buyer. The home was graced with family photos. "I think that's a picture of my first cousin," my customer said. "I have not seen him in over 30 years!" These two families did a lot of catching up at the closing table.

The perspective of family has changed — even the definition! A few generations ago, parents thought that taking their children to church on Sunday was pretty good. Praying before meals and at bedtime was commendable. Having all around "good" kids sowing a few "wild oats," now and then, was approvingly normal. A majority of families were intact with married parents, a male dad and a female mom, children and a dog named Sparkie, which then was just a dog. Obeying and honoring parents was not the issue, or so it seemed at the time. We became very comfortable with life and thought the simplicity of that time would go on forever.

We gave little notice to the evils of the day and saw little need to involve ourselves in the affairs of the secular world. Instead of possessing the land and restoring God's beautiful creation, we Christians turned over the responsibility of almost everything, including our children, to non-Christians. Oh, our heads were not completely buried in the sand. We worked six days a week, kept abreast of the times, read our Bibles to our children, and took them to church. We prayed, tithed, witnessed, and maintained a Christ- like focus in our hearts; however, our actions were not much different from the non-Christians in that we were lovingly tolerant of most everything. We had a form of godliness, a masked appearance but denied true godliness in practice, separating Biblical directives from day-to-day living (2 Tim. 3:5). Over time, like salt, we began to lose our effectiveness. Is it any wonder that the moral culture our ancestors enjoyed now sounds like a fairy tale? The horse has been out of the barn for a long time, and we are just now beginning to realize that Biblical morality has suffered from an avalanche of humanism, infesting every fiber of our society and world. Could it be that God has brought upon us a reproach and a perpetual shame (Jer. 23:29), rendering us ill effective in dispossessing our enemies (Deut. 11:22, 23)?

The family of today suffers from a fast-forward, disrespectful culture of anger and rebellion. The advancements of technology consume our time, burying us in an avalanche of adjustments and gimmicks, leaving little time for families to do much more than share the roof over their heads. Many families are fragmented. The divorce rate is at an all time high. Fathers find it easier to be irresponsible "wimps" than stalwart examples of manliness. Billboards advertise "Find your Daddy," with a subscript. Television shows stage dramatic revelations exposing the "real" father, as if he were a renowned traveler. Families find it convenient to isolate themselves from the covenant generations with a "me and mine" mentality. About the only semblance of family history many teenagers care about is their baby pictures, with little concern for where they grew up, their immediate family in particular or their ancestors in general.

Family roles are reversed. The wife is often the main provider, while the husband does something else. The children do not ask what they should do, they tell the parents what they are going to do, or tell them nothing at all. Children, who are without wisdom and women, who are easily deceived, rule over men (Isa. 3:13). Society is filled with angry oppressors, rebelling against authority, doing as they please. Manners and social skills have been replaced with functional illiteracy and depressed expressions. The green/blue hair, tattoos, piercings, guys showing their buttocks, and girls baring their breasts reflect the shame and depravity of a godless culture. All of this wars against the Christian home and the children who willingly obey and honor their parents.

The Information Age has ruled parental wisdom out of date. Parents are now behind the times. It used to be that the lessons we learned the hard way were passed down to the children so they would not make the same mistakes. This is not so today. Billy Bob and Ruby Sue consider making gross mistakes their right of freedom and what is worse is that we older adults agree with it! How many times do we hear ourselves say, "You can't tell them, they just have to learn on their own"? Wonder how many generations will go over the cliff before the wisdom of Proverbs is considered? "Cease listening to instruction, my son, And you will stray from the words of knowledge" (Prov. 19:27 NKJ).

To a great extent we parents are to blame for our children's disrespect since we sport our own dishonor of God's law. Did we think God would do away with the principle of sowing and reaping on our behalf? Where is our shame for lavishing the children with goodies and good times, rather than openly rebuking their behavior (Prov. 27:5)? We have been too preoccupied with possessing and enjoying the things of this world. Had we taught obedience and honor perhaps we would not be reaping insubordination and lawlessness.

Fathers have become content to provide basic family needs as if work alone, and an occasional policing, fulfills their God-given responsibilities. Mothers are busy orchestrating their professional and domestic duties, feeling enslaved by their families' demands, resentful that they are seldom able to eke out a few minutes for personal pleasure. Motherhood and fatherhood have become reproaches, extending little beyond the security blanket and diaper stage. From there these givers of life are often openly dishonored as a manipulating nuisance, while they struggle with their God-given instincts to train and nurture their young. And the children — well, they are scattered. They are either at school, soccer practice, on their cell phones or computers.

We have a society of young people who are lost because we have erred from the Scriptural pattern, and God has laid their cruel disrespect at our door. "He who assaults his father and drives his mother away is a shameful and disgraceful son" (Prov. 19:26 NAS). What a sad commentary when parents spend their years grieving over the very souls that were carved out of their own bodies. Oh, that we were as quick to train our children today as we are to squander our opportunities for a more convenient time tomorrow.

Our barbaric culture looms in dark corners. It is intoxicated with pornography, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, abortion, illegal drug use, theft, murder, and more. Executive thieves descend the corporate ladders, while little children are murdering and being murdered. Free-speech pornography, thanks to Bill Clinton and Janet Reno, is in our face, our businesses, our "neutral" schools, grocery stores, public libraries, Victoria's Secret, and our homes, flooding our computers and televisions. Pornography, like abortion and homosexuality, has become an American right of choice. Vulgar, smart-mouthed sit-coms and filthy movies entertain the family. Processed, aborted fetuses aid us in eliminating facial wrinkles and physical maladies. Euthanasia is a legitimate practice even among Christians, who justify killing their loved ones with smooth words and pre-signed legal documents. We have descended into corruptness accompanied by a blasting rhythm of musical squalor, calling good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20).

Our civilization has forsaken the God of the Scriptures, and as a result, the authority of the family is diminished and almost annihilated. About the only function families have left is birthing babies, and that too is changing. We have forsaken their training and instruction in the Lord (Eph. 6:4), gladly yielding our freedoms in exchange for the benevolent graces of the humanist government, the Marxist savior, who now demands our obedience and servitude (Rom. 6:16; Neh. 9.36, 37). God did not give the state the responsibility of educating our children. That was our idea. No wonder our children have so little foundation in anything and parents have so little control in everything. The same government that indoctrinates our children has now determined that Biblical discipline is child abuse. From the size of our infant's car seats to the amount of water contained in our toilets, the government regulates and controls the family, usurping the power of parental headship. Those who operate in opposition to governmental standards are subject to more and more intervention and punishment.

One of the greatest tragedies of our century is the prevalent disobedience among young children and the ungovernable defiant attitude of young adults. Our civilized society is reeling from the overwhelming rebellion against the fifth commandment.Young adults are applauded for ridiculing the older generation as if their condescending, freedom-of-speech derisions were interjections of truth. It seems the first act of young adulthood is the rejection of all wisdom. "My son, preserve [emphasis added] sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; …"(Prov. 3:21-23 NIV). "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight" (Isa. 5:21 NAS)! "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Prov. 26:12 NAS).

Children and young adults dishonoring their elders pave an avenue for parental self-pity, that awful debilitating, wound licking sin. It buries us in depression and fear, tempting us to indulge ourselves in worldly comforts to sweeten our bitter cup. When we are without honor we are set aside, marginalized so to speak. Our opinions are labeled unworthy of consideration. This inflicted pain should not be a part of our latter years. Our work is almost done and young people should render a reward of honor. " Listen to your father who begot you, Do not despise your mother when she is old"(Prov. 23:22 NKJ).

In spite of the conditions of our culture, there are numerous parents whose hearts are turned to the nurture and admonition of their children (Malachi). There are wise sons and daughters who heed their parent's instruction, (Prov. 13:1) pleasing both God and their families (I Sam. 2:26). It is encouraging to see parents and children together, waging Spiritual warfare against a free spirited, irresponsible society, where it seems a majority of young people either do as they please or covet opportunities where they can.

Christian schools and home-schools are making great headway in raising up an army of intelligent men and women who fear God and are obedient to His commandments. Christian teachers and students alike, in the public schools, are also waking up to the ungodliness of humanist indoctrination. Despite the conditions of our culture we are thankful that light is overcoming darkness, the Kingdom of God is advancing, and the victorious day is dawning.

And yes, we have gotten too big for our britches! We are a stiff-necked, prideful generation, going our own ways, refusing the grace of God's law in Christ. We have left off obeying the Ten Commandments, declaring our own ideas to be more fitting. We need to humble ourselves, pray and turn from our wicked ways that we may be part of advancing the Kingdom of righteousness, ministering to our children and grandchildren (2 Chron. 7:14). We must obey all of God's Word, reestablishing obedience and honor in the land, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9).


1. The Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs, p.19.

2. Calvin's Commentaries, Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. XVI p.278.

3. A.W. Pink, The Ten Commandments, p.19.

4. ibid., p.14,15.

5. Matthew Henry's Commentary, vol.1, p. 303

6. ibid., vol.2, p.1138.

  • Ina Manly Painter

Ina Manly Painter has a Master of Science Degree in Educational/Counseling Psychology. She and her husband, Harrison, live in Knoxville , TN , where they have been affiliated with Re/Max Preferred Properties as REALTORS, for many years. They have four children, Paige, and wife Christa, Laura, Jared, and Amanda and one grandson, Caleb. They can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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