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Giving the Fifth Commandment to Our Children

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi share biblical reasons and practical ways to help our children learn respect and obedience.

Audio Transcript

Heidi: Welcome. This podcast episode was recorded before the pandemic started. We hope you all are well.

Heidi: Hello, everyone, welcome to our podcast today. We’re so glad to be with you. We’re sitting out at the farm in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee. Heidi Howerton is here with my wonderful and amazing friend and co-host, Jani Ortlund.

We welcome you back today.

Quick Review

Many of you listened to our last episode. We’re on the Fifth Commandment—about honoring our parents—and Heidi and I are wondering if that was hard for you to hear if it brought up some hard memories with your own parents.

We want to remind you that we encouraged you to look to Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says,”…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it as God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Heidi and I’ve been praying for you, we do hope that you’ve been able to wrestle with the Lord a little bit. Perhaps you’ve even found a counselor and set up an appointment to talk some of these hard things through. But we want you to know that on He Restores My Soul, we want to give you the Word straight. If the Bible says it, we want to try to interpret it for our own lives. And we don’t want to gloss over something just because it might be hard, or might bring up bad memories. So thank you for praying for Heidi and me as we study and prepare for this. We want this to be a blessing to you, and we want God to use it to restore your souls.

Our Goal for Today

Now in our last episode, we talked about how we must model the fifth commandment ourselves. Today we’re going to talk about how to give it to our kids and how to require it of them. We have to be moms who help our children understand how respect for authority is that thread that governs our society and ultimately preserves our freedom here. Our kids need to see that respect is from God. In fact, God takes this so seriously, that those who disobeyed this commandment were to be stoned to death. Oh my goodness, why? Because their very freedom as a nation was at stake.

The Youth of Today

I don’t know about you, Heidi, maybe it’s just because I’m in my 70s and I’ve seen it for years, but sometimes I feel that it’s impossible to turn the tide of disrespectful youth.

Heidi: Jani, I love this quote that I found as we were preparing for this. It says,

“One man complained, ‘Youths today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people and talk nonsense when they should work. Young people do not stand up any longer when adults enter the room. They contradict their parents, talk too much in company, guzzle their food, lay their legs on the table, and tyrannized their elders.”

Jani, do you know who this man was? We would think it would be a modern century person who said this!

Jani: Was it Ray?

Heidi: It was Socrates Jani, the philosopher who lived 400 years before Christ! His words describe what young people are still like today because they describe what young people are always like, isn’t that amazing? 400 years before Christ, and we could use the same words to talk about our own struggles today.

That really is, Heidi, thank you. Kind of relieves some of the burden that we feel that our kids are the only ones that don’t understand respect.

Heidi: There’s nothing new under the sun.

Jani: That’s right.

Require Respect

So we want to call you to remember, today, as we think about the Fifth Commandment—Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you—we want to remind you that children are our investment in the future. We must teach them a lifestyle of respect, not only by obeying this commandment ourselves, but by requiring that they obey it.

Why is it so hard to do this?

Why is this so hard for us, especially as moms? I think, at least in my own life, it’s so hard because required A child to obey takes so much energy, both physical and mental energy requiring respect is hard work, but it’s worth it.

I don’t know about you, Heidi, or our listeners, but my children disobeyed for two reasons (and I think this might be common among our listeners). Either it’s because we let them, or the pain they have experienced from disobedience in the past is not enough of a deterrent to keep them from disobeying again.

Heidi: I might add a third reason to that, Jani, and I think it’s just our human bent to sin. Sometimes as I’m going through discipline with my kids, I hear the father remind me Heidi, he’s only four. Like, “Would you almost expect anything else?” And yet it is important for us in turn to teach them what the Lord says and to try to teach them to respect.

Jani: Yes, that’s good, Heidi.

Heidi: And it helps me give them more grace. They’re just four. They’re just five. They’re just learning.

Jani: Yeah, yeah. And that’s what we want to teach them: that respect is not a matter of preference. It’s a mandate from God Himself. And God has given young mothers the chief position to teach that to their little kids. If you let your child disobey you, you are disobeying your heavenly Father.

Honoring your parents in the early years is largely manifested through obedience. We see this in Ephesians 6:1-3. They say this, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Again, that’s from Ephesians chapter six.

Notice the phrase, “Children obey your parents in the Lord.” Children are not required to obey their parents in things morally wrong or against scriptural teaching. They are to obey their parents in those things consistent with Christ and His Word.

Let’s think for just a minute about why children are to obey their parents. Why would God put this in the Bible? Why would he require that of our kids?

Well, first of all, because God has appointed parents to perform “God-like” functions as his special agents. Think of how you love your children: you provide for them, you care for them, you protect them. This is God’s plan for passing down the faith to families to each new generation. You see, when young children disobey their parents, they’re rebelling against God. Second Timothy chapter three teaches us that disobedience to parents indicates a corrupt and out of control an anti God’s Spirit. Oh, God is calling us to help our children obey us.

Another reason is because with very few exceptions, no one cares more about a child than his parent.

Children obeying their parents pleases the Lord, that’s a third reason why (Colossians 3:20).

Or a fourth reason, Jesus sent us an example to follow in Luke chapter two. You might remember the story where he’s 12 years old, and he’s in the temple and his parents are upset, they can’t find him and they come and they find him, and they kind of get after him. And here he was the Son of God, 12 years old, but the Bible says he followed them and he submitted to them.

Ephesians 6:1, which I just read, teaches us that it is the right thing to do we want to train our children in what’s right.

And then finally, in Deuteronomy 5:16 it tells us that children obeying their parents is for the children’s best interest. Kids that obey their parents are safer, happier. You know, I think when you teach your child to stop something when you say no, you are preventing him from running out in the street when you see the car coming. Or going near that wolf that he thinks is a dog in your on your farm land or whatever it is.

Heidi: A coyote!

Jani: But there are important biblical reasons why we don’t want to gloss over there that it’s not just that God is saying, “Now you be a mean ogre,” and you know, ”Shake your finger at those kids and make them obey!” There are good reasons. absorb those into your heart, as you ask the Lord how best to teach your kids to obey you.

Now, let me give you five or six ways about helping our kids obey us. We refer to this in an earlier podcast, and I think our website might have “9 Principles” up there somewhere, Heidi, about helping our kids obey us, but let me just review a few of the primary ones.

First of all, how can you best help your child to honor you? Well, make obedience a part of your own life! It must be just as much ”be what I am,” as it is, “do what I say.” Obedience is for all of God’s children. I as a parent, I’m under authority to God’s authority, and it’s my privilege to be there. So let your children see you obeying God cheerfully.

Another way you can help your child to honor us to define your own priorities. What are you willing to go to the mat for? What’s really important to you in your family? Spend your energies there, not over the little things. I remember Lita Fisher was an older mom figure to me and one of our children was four years old and still sucking his thumb. And I was so embarrassed, and I kept indicating to the child, “Take your thumb out of your mouth, c’mon.“ And Lita just took me aside, patted me on the arm and said, “Listen, Jani, do not worry about anything he won’t be doing when he’s 16.”

Heidi: I love that.

Jani: And it was helpful. Was it a priority for me to nag this little guy to stop sucking his thumb? No, it shouldn’t have been. I was just embarrassed. It was my own pride. So define your priorities. What’s really important to you?

A third way you can help your child to honor you is to follow through on your instructions until they have been obeyed. Say “Yes!” whenever you can. I love, Heidi, you we were recording at my house a while back weren’t we?

Yes a couple of weeks ago, but what story are you thinking of?

We had just finished, the kids had been so good upstairs playing and they came down, and were getting a snack and they asked if they could have two.

So they each got a cookie, and they said, “Oh, could we, could we have two mommy, please?“ And what did you say?

Well, I thought of what you always say—say “Yes” whenever you can—and they’re looking at me with wide eyes fast two cookies, and I just thought, “Okay! Two cookies!” And what was even funnier in that moment. Jani, is that when you offered them cookies, you didn’t know that I had promise that we would take them out to a bakery afterwards to get cookies. But I just thought, you know, I had to stand there a moment and I said, “You know what? What are two small cookies and then one really yummy bakery cookie? Is that gonna hurt them? Is it gonna ruin the rest of our day? No.” And so I thought this is a fun opportunity to just say, “Yes, let’s eat three wonderful cookies today and enjoy it.”

Oh, that’s good, Heidi.

You’ve set a good example. You have a funny story about Krista, too, would you share that really fast?

Oh, okay. Um, I tried to follow my own advice (say “Yes” whenever I can) but then the second part of that is “When I say no to mean it,” and not have them keep coming back and begging and begging. I must not have followed it too well in the early years, because one time when Krista—she must have been 3—I heard her singing a little song as she was playing, and I heard my name in it, and so I went in and listened and this is what she was singing: “When you beg and beg my mommy, she always will say yes.” And I thought, “Oh, dear, something’s going on here.“

I had to rethink what my “No” meant, in the ears of my children. You see, I wanted my kids to be able to hear a firm “No” and be able to survive the frustration of enduring that “No,” because by doing that he’s inevitably strengthened and able to tell himself ”No” in the future. So I had to kind of rethink this. But I do believe you can best help your child to honor you by following through on your instructions. Say yes, whenever you can. Ask yourself, “Why not? Why can’t I say yes? If I can, I’m going to say yes.” But if you say no, mean it so that they hear it the first time, and they don’t keep coming back and begging and begging like my kids were learning to do. We want our kids to learn self-control and endurance. And to be better able to tell himself no when he’s an adult.

Fourthly, we need to teach our kids to respect people and property. In his words and actions, your child must show that people and things are not targets of his scorn or his wrath.

Heidi: One of the ways that we’ve done this, Jani, is that as we pass by policemen or firemen, if we’re in a parade or on our way to church, and there’s a policeman there, I’ve always tried to stop my kids and say, “Look him in the eye and say, ‘Thank you‘ so much for serving us,” because I want my children to grow up knowing that they are good people and safe people, and they serve us and we’re so grateful for the sacrifice that they make. To teach our kids to respect authority, I think, is a good thing, like you said.

Jani: I never did that with my kids. I just think that’s a wonderful point. Even the security guards and policemen at church

Heidi: Yeah, and I always think how much they sacrifice. They really give up their time to take care of us.

Jani: Yes, yes.

A fifth principle that Heidi and I have thought through and use is this: when you must discipline your child, make the pain of the discipline outweigh the pleasure of disobedience, or it will be meaningless to your kids. Sometimes we’ll, we’ll see a parent send a child to his room, and he has to be there for a half hour, but he can do whatever he wants there—he can play there, he can mess up his room, whatever he wants—and really, that will not deter him from whatever he was doing beforehand. The pain just wasn’t enough to stop him.


…This is my favorite Ortlund principle!

Heidi, we need it for each other. We always give ourselves rewards after we’ve gone through a long day of recording don’t we?

Give many rewards. Children should learn that good and pleasure go together as surely as sin and pain. Reward cheerful obedience, reward good manners, reward kindness and respect and hard work; all those qualities that you longed to see developed in your child.

I love how this commandment ends with a promise: “…that your days may be long in the land.” Now this does not simply mean that anyone who obeys this commandment will live to old age, we know that. But this is a Hebrew phrase “for the fullness of God’s blessing.” It means your life will be more abundant, it will be less hassled, it’ll be less painful if you learn to honor those in authority over you.

Heidi: I really like how Proverbs 3:1-2. It says, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.“

Jani: Oh, I love that, Heidi.

God’s loving intentions are shown here. This commandment is to everyone’s advantage. Honoring our parents is for the sake of the kids. Do you want to live in a land where there’s order and peace and courtesy and calm? Then see to it that you honor your parents and that the children in your life honor you. This will bring such blessing everywhere.

Now let’s talk for just a minute, as we close out this Fifth Commandment, how we as adults can live this and how we can give it. I hope that you’re committing to memory these first five commandments. Make sure and keep reviewing them. Don’t ask your children to memorize something that you’re not willing to learn! And review Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes that I might see wondrous things out of your law.” Pray that as you study these commandments.

And then this week Heidi and I are asking you to hide Deuteronomy 32:46,47 deep down in your heart. Heidi we’ve got some ideas for how they can live this out, but I don’t think it would be really helpful for us to just speak them. Refer them to our our website would you?

Heidi: Yes, if you want to look up any of these ideas or go back and visit them if you think, ”I really want to do this with my kids,“ come to our website at herestoresmysoul.org where you’ll be able to find past episodes and things we’ve talked about doing with our kids. You can also buy Jani’s book called His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy and that has all of the details of these episodes. in there as well.

Jani: Yes, so you could find more to do with your children. We do want to give you a couple ideas with your children as you seek to live this out yourself.

Remember the big red heart, we’ve encouraged you all to make. We hope that you’ve been doing that. And to teach your child the Fifth Commandment, you’re going to need your small mirror which is taped in the center of that big red heart, reminding your kids that that mirror, like the Law, reflects back to us our own sin. A mirror shows you were you’re dirty, but the mirror never cleans you. You can’t take that mirror off of the heart and try to wash your face to get it clean. The Law only shows us where we’re sinning, where we’re falling short of God’s commandments.

And in today’s episode, we want to share a simple way you can talk about the cross from the commandments. First of all, review the first four commandments. See if you can say them to each other. Discuss in what ways you and your child, if appropriate, have broken them or not been able to keep them.

Ask your kids, “Is it possible for anyone in the whole wide world to keep the laws God has given us?“ If they don’t know the answer turned to Romans 3 and read verses 10 through 12. And then ask them, “Why do you think God would give us laws that we can’t keep? Is he kind of mad at us.” Now, this is a perfect time to talk with your child about sin, about God’s holiness, and about the perfect law-keeper, Jesus Christ. There are many verses you can share together. Go to our website and you’ll see them listed. Some of them are Romans 3:21-24, or 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. There are deep spiritual truths here, but they can be grasped even by a young child. Ask God to help you show your child that no one has ever kept the law, but Jesus.

And when Jesus died for us, he took upon himself the punishment of my disobedience, of Heidi’s disobedience, of your disobedience, of your child’s disobedience. He took onto himself the punishment that we deserve. When we look to Jesus as our Savior, God looks at us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and counts us as perfect as he does his precious Son!

What Heidi and I want you to do next is take an index card and cut a small cross out of it, and tape it just at the top of cross over your mirror, lift the cross up and look into the mirror with your child, reviewing how the laws like a mirror, showing us how we disobey God’s commandments, but it is totally unable to cleanse us and to take our sin away. Now, put the cross back over the mirror and say, “Jesus came and he kept these laws perfectly for you and for me. He lived the life that God wants me to live. He lived the life that God wants you to live. And then that perfect Son of God died on the cross, the very death I deserve. Now, when I honor and love Jesus, God looks at me through Jesus and gives me Jesus’s perfect record.” Put the cross back over the mirror. Ask your child if he would like to be made right with God. You could even use the word “reconciled” and talk about what that means. If he does, ask him to pray with you telling God what’s on his heart and giving his life to God because of Christ’s redeeming love. I hope you’ll take time to walk through this with your child.

Then, talk about the first four commandments, how they help us relate to God, and now talk about how this helps us to relate to our moms and dads. Discuss what “honor” means with your child. Look it up in the dictionary if your child can read. Look up the word respect. Make sure your child understands that you have to obey this command as well. Discuss different authority figures, such as teachers police-men or -women, statesmen, church leaders. What is God telling us to do in these verses?

Then in light of this commandment decide on one new focus of behavior you will each work on this week. You might decide to obey the speed limit, or make a special sacrifice for a parent or greet the next policeman that you see doing traffic duty at your church on Sunday morning. Your child might work on this by obeying the first time or talking respectfully about different adults in his life. The list is endless. Note one of these on an index card and tape it near the fifth commandment. Check and see how you’re doing throughout the week. And may God bless you as you seek to obey the fifth commandment and give it to your children.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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About The Podcast

He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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