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TEXT: Mark 7:9-13; I Timothy 5:3-8
SUBJECT: Family Life #9: Aging Parents
This afternoon brings us to sermon ten in our monthly look at family life. The topic: Caring for Aging Parents.
I hope everyone listens, of course, but especially if your parents are in their sixties or beyond. You have important decisions to make. Don't wait till your forced to make them. Think about them now; pray about them now; and may the love and wisdom of God be with you.
THE LORD WANTS YOU TO CARE FOR YOUR AGING PARENTS
I knew a man who, back in the 1930's, was engaged to a beautiful and talented young woman. But just the wedding, his father died and his invalid mother was left to his care. My friend broke the engagement, his girl married someone else, and he spent the next thirty years caring for his mother. He still loved the young lady and spoke wistfully of "what might have been". But he didn't regret the decision. It was the right thing to do.
That was a different time, of course. I wonder if a young man would make that choice today? And if he did, would he respected--or laughed at?
The "times" say "Forget your old parents". Let the government take care of them; let the rest home take care of them; let anyone take care of them...as long as it's not me.
Is this how God looks at it? Does He see your aging parents as "disposable goods"? No He doesn't. Our two passages make that clear.
The first looks at God's People under the Old Covenant. Their Law commanded children to "Honor your father and mother", upon the pain of death, "He who curses father or mother, let him die the death".
That "honor"--our Lord said--includes caring for them when they're old or sick or otherwise unable to care for themselves.
This took a lot of time, effort, and money. The Pharisees, who were heartless men, didn't want to do it. Yet the Law was so clear, it was hard to get out of it and still come off looking good. But "Where there's a will [to disobey God], there's a way". They came up with "Corban". That means "devoted or "dedicated to the Lord". The money they would have spent on their parents was "sacred money" and could only be spent on the Lord. But, of course, when their parents died, they rescinded the vow and pocketed the money.
By doing that--our Lord said--they "nullified the Word of God".
What Word? This one: God wants you to care for your aging parents.
The other passage looks at life in the Early Church, at God's People under the New Covenant.
Here, Paul tells the church to care for its old and needy widows. But only as a last resort! The primary obligation wasn't with the church (or the state, we might add), but with family.
What if a man didn't want to do this? Paul said "He has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever". If a Pagan takes care of his old mother, how much more must a disciple of Christ take care of his?
And so: The Lord wants you to care for your aging parents.
THIS CARE IS NOT BASED ON THEIR WORTHINESS
To have parents like mine makes it easy to care for them. But most of you don't have parents like mine. Some of you were brought up very badly and bear the scars even to this day.
Does the Lord want you to care for your parents? The parents who neglected you? The parents who mistreated you?
The Old Covenant made that very clear. "Honor your father and mother" allowed for no exceptions. Noah committed a gross sin, but the son who laughed at him paid for it dearly! Many signs of respect were given to the aged:
"You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:32).
"He who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death" (Exodus 21:17).
"The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it" (Proverbs 30:17).
Verses like these are not so easy to find in the New Testament, but it's code of conduct isn't lower than the Old Testament, is it? It seems to me quite a bit higher.
I did find one verse, Ephesians 6:2, which quotes the Fifth Commandment and applies it to the Church. It's still in effect. And definitely not drained of its content!
This means: God wants you to care for your aging parents whether they were good to you or not.
THIS CARE IS MULTI-FACETED
You're to care for your parents where they need it. Some have physical needs; others have financial needs; some have legal needs; and so on. You're to help them in these areas of need.
Not everyone needs these things. But everyone needs to feel wanted. Many older people don't. You can help them here. Ask for their advice; visit them more often; have them over; show some interest in them.
Everyone has spiritual needs. Pray for your parents. If they're saved, have fellowship with them. If they're not saved, evangelize them with respect. If they won't listen, don't force the Gospel on them, "adorn the Gospel" with your love and humility.
Identify your parents' needs and try to meet them.
THE CARE MAY BE HARD BUT IT WILL BRING GREAT BLESSING.
The Bible often attaches a blessing to obedience--Psalm 126:6 is a good example; I Corinthians 15:58 is another.
A blessing will come. Taking care of your parents will do you good. It will do them good. It will do your kids a world of good! It will bless God too as people "See your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven".
And who knows, maybe the words of our Lord will come to pass, "Give and it shall be given to you". Maybe when you are the "aging parent", God will call your service to mind and repay you for it.
TO NOT CARE FOR YOUR PARENTS IS A FRIGHTFUL SIN AND MAY BRING DOWN TERRIBLE JUDGMENTS.
"He who digs a pit will fall into it; he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him" (Proverbs 26:27).
Just think about what your neglect is doing. It is teaching your children to neglect their parents. You may pay dearly for that lesson.
But even if you don't, there is a God in heaven who will execute justice for the "widow". He feels for the helpless and punishes those who don't!
Let me close with some applications:
First, to older parents: If you want your children to take care of you, make it easy on them. Pride, selfishness, pickiness, and a complaining spirit are not like wine. They don't get better with age! A little humility here; a little thankfulness there will go a long way to making your children more helpful.
"The gray head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).
Now, to younger parents: Think of your parenting as investments in your future. Love your children in such a way now that one day, they'll want to take care of you.
To the adult children: God wants you to take care of your aging parents. If He calls you to do it, He'll give the grace to do it well. Think of it not as a burden to be borne, but as an opportunity to do good.
To grandchildren: Get involved with your grandparents. They are living books! Your young friends are too, of course--but they're mostly comic books! Your grandparents can tell you something about life, something worth knowing. This is true, even if they're unsaved. But especially if they believe. For they've
"Grown in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"
To everyone: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34).
God bless you older men and women! And younger people, may God make you a blessing to them. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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