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Honour your mother: the practical from the biblical

Honour your mother: the practical from the biblical

I cope okay with events that are on the same date each year: Christmas, Boxing Day, Australia Day, Anzac Day. Even my wedding anniversary. But there are some annual events with the unfortunate characteristic of an inherently unstable date. Overlooking such events, I feel, is a smidge more excusable as they are harder to lodge in my brain.

Same for you? In that case… FYI: Mother's Day is fast approaching.

Mother's Day matters threefold for me—I have a mother, my wife is a mother, and my daughter is also now a mother. So, better late than never, I thought I'd turn my mind to the Bible to see what it says about how I should relate to my mother.

As it turns out, it has a pretty simple message: honour her. And what does that mean? Not “buy her some flowers (or a book) once a year”, but honour, respect and revere her every day.

It’s an important enough commandment that it made it into the top ten:

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Remember, this command is not set aside in the New Testament. Both Jesus (in, for example, Matthew 19:18-20) and the apostle Paul (in Ephesians 6:1-3) endorse its ongoing significance and applicability.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-3, Paul actually encourages us to treat all older women as if they were our mothers. See the assumption? How we treat our mums ought to be a model of how well we treat other older women. If you would be embarrassed to speak to an older woman at church in the same way you spoke to your mum last week, there is something terribly wrong.

In Leviticus 19:2, God says to Israel “be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”, and notice in the very next verse he says “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father” (v.3). 

In Ezekiel, when God is confronting Jerusalem about her sins, he mentions this awful sin:

Father and mother are treated with contempt in you. (Ezekiel 22:7)

So it’s a very important issue to God (indeed, abuse of your mother or father was a death penalty offence under the Law—see Exodus 21:15, 17). The idea that there are people who don’t “bless” their mothers is regarded as astonishing in Proverbs 30:11. 

So as we come up to Mother’s Day 2021, I want to encourage you to change your primary question from:

What will I buy for my mum?

to

Am I honouring my mum, and how can I do that better?

Don’t get me wrong: you should probably still give your mum a card and a gift on Mother’s Day. But how will you honour her, revere her, bless her?

I want to suggest that on top of your list should be praying for her and thanking God for her, and telling her (more than once) that you do that. (I don’t think I ever feel more honoured than when someone tells me they pray for me and thank God for me.)

Next, don’t roll your eyes at her, literally or metaphorically. Eye-rolling is a modern day expression of contempt and disrespect. If you catch yourself doing it, pluck your eyes out (Matthew 18:9!) or better still, repent. Instead, care for her and show her respect as she gets older, even when she frustrates and annoys you by saying the sort of things mothers tend to say. There’s no caveat on the command; it doesn’t say “honour your mother if she says and does what you appreciate”.

Call her. I’m preaching to myself here, and I suspect it is a more necessary tip for us blokes. Nothing communicates “I care for you and honour you” better than a regular phone call or visit. Proverbs 23:22 says “do not despise your mother when she is old”, where “despise” has a sense of treating her as insignificant to you. God is right, isn’t he? Mothers should never feel like they are insignificant to their children.

Share the Lord Jesus with her. Honour her enough to care about her status before God. That’s not easy, I know. But start by praying for opportunities and asking God to be merciful to her in the way that he has been merciful to you. And open up regular communication that facilitates opportunities (see the previous point about phone calls!).

But of course, all of this assumes a reasonably functional relationship with your mother. I acknowledge, sadly, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the relationship is so broken—perhaps even by death—that there is no real relationship to speak of. Psalm 27:10 provides some comfort if that is your situation:

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.

Relationships with parents may struggle from the impacts of sin, but we are never alone: the Lord is always a home for us.

But for those of us blessed with a not-quite-so-complicated relationship with our mother, let’s use Mother’s Day as an annual reminder of that important obligation to honour her.

Of course, that could include a Matthias Media book or two… 😊

Ian Carmichael

Ian has been with Matthias Media from its beginning (1988). In late 2020 he stepped down from the CEO role, and now works as an honourary consultant and editor for Matthias Media. Ian and his wife, Stephanie, have two adult children, one (gorgeous) grandchild, and are part of Chatswood Presbyterian church in Sydney.