Mark Thompson

It wasn't too many years ago that someone asked Eleanor Roosevelt whose responsibility it was to take care of the elderly. She replied that the responsibility lay with the government. This principle is not found in the Scriptures. It doesn't take a scholar to pick up the Bible and read through the book of Proverbs. Indeed, Solomon's book is rich with advice concerning the relationships people have with each other. When talking about responsibilities between the parents and children, it is undoubtedly a two-way street. For now, though, we will focus on the child and his responsibility toward his parents. This topic is not addressed to the five to ten year-olds, but to anyone from teenagers to sixty year-olds who have living parents.

There comes a time in life when we are no longer subject to our parents, and we answer only to the Lord. (And occasionally to our spouse!) But our responsibility never ends. Way back on Mt. Horeb God commanded us to honor our father and mother (Ex. 20: 12), and Paul tells us that this is the first commandment with a promise (Eph. 6;2).

A nine year old child can honor his parents by being obedient to them, and this is good because it gives the Lord pleasure (Col. 3:20). But I believe that a wise adult of forty can be of even more honor to his parents. The wise man told us that a son's glory is his father's (Prov. 17:6). "A wise son makes his father glad, but a foolish son despises his mother (Prov. 15:20).

Many times parents do not act as they should, and bitterness and resentment can quietly build and smolder against them because of it. Certainly fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath (Eph. 6:4), but just because one's parents may have acted am a fool at times does not release us of our obligation to them. It's just like the woman who realizes after some time that her husband is an alcoholic and a stinking drunk. Her husband's short-comings do not release her from her responsibility to him. Our parent's short-comings do not release us from them. Indeed, the Lord will require answers from them. But He will require answers from us as well.

Fortunately, parents of the above variety are few. Most parents treat children with the love and respect they deserve, but it serves to illustrate a point. If we are under obligation to the most vile of parents, certainly we are under obligation to the most righteous.

It's such a shame when our parents get old and "in the way'" that we try to overlook them. Or we take them into our homes, but grudgingly. Solomon said. "A gray head is a crown of glory'" (Prov. 16:31). Our parents, in their old age, are still of great value.

We can benefit from their wisdom and their experience. Certainly when Jehovah said, "Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth", He referred to the ulcers we can avoid by bypassing the "College of Hard Knocks", and hearing the counsel of our parents wisdom.

It's not the job of the government to take care of our elderly parents, but rather it is our job. We should all strive to please our parents with our wisdom and appreciation. "The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you" (Prov. 23:24-25). "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).

Let's briefly look at Jesus. After our Lord had grown, we find no more mention of his earthly father, Joseph. For some reason he is no longer in the picture, possibly because of death. During Jesus last days, He certainly had a great deal on His mind. The night prior to His death He had no sleep. Later was beaten and mocked and finally crucified. He was physically exhausted. He was grieving what would happen to Jerusalem for putting Him to death, frustrated by the lack of love from the Jews, and deserted by His friends. He was emotionally exhausted. He bore the guilt and weight of all sins from all men from all times, and the Father turned away from Him. He was spiritually exhausted and alienated from God temporarily.

You say to yourself, "This is all true, but what does it have to do with anything?" The point is that even though Jesus was at the end of His rope, and about to breathe His last, He looked down from the cross and saw His widowed (?) mother and knew there was no one to take care of her, and He told John that she was now his responsibility (Jn. 19:2(3-27). Even at the last, Jesus cared for His mother. The apostle Paul told us Christ's attitude is to be in us (Phil. 2;5).

There are parents, who when they get old and come to live with you, that think they run the show and you'd better pay them the proper respect, or else! This attitude is wrong. Your house is your house. But don't let them live with you and then pretend that they are not there. "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and do not forsake your mother's teaching" (Prov. 1:8-9).

Next time you begin to feel sorry for yourself because your "old man" is such a "burden", and you don't want to take your geriatric mother over to someone's house because she'll say something senile and you'll have to make apologies for her, just you think back on the time you were four years old and she took you to someone's house and you broke a piece of their china and she had to make apologies for you!

Think back on the time you borrowed the car, drove it further than you were supposed to, resulting in a burned up engine, and a new car loan, and you didn't get clobbered like you should have.

Or when they bought you your own car and you totaled it in an accident, and instead of telling you how stupid you were they said, "Are you OK? That's the important thing!"

Or when you needed the extra cash for the down payment on your very first house, and even though things were tight, they managed to get it for you.

We should strive to be the best we can be, and to serve the Lord with all our might. This will do your parents proud. It isn't easy to have a baby and raise it. It takes a lot of work and time. And for all that work and time you and I are all our parents have to show for it. Look after your parents in their old age with gladness, and you will please both them and God. And when you get too old to take care of yourself, with your children brought up in the Lord, you will always have a meal in your stomach, a roof over your head, a place to lay your head at night, and all your loved ones around you.