Matthew 15:4-9 Honoring your parents
Translation & Sermon by
Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer
Church, Manhattan, KS,
23 Sep 2012
14:34 And after they crossed over,
they went on land into Gennesaret.
14:35 Then, once the men of that place recognized Him,
emissaries into all that surrounding country
brought to Him all those who were bad-off,
14:36 and they were calling Him aside in order to just touch
the fringe of His clothing,
and as many as touched were
15:1 Then the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem approached Jesus saying,
15:2 “For what reason do your disciples transgress the
tradition of the elders?
For they are not rinsing their
hands whenever they eat bread!”
15:3 But He, in answer, said to them,
“And as for you, for what reason do you transgress the law
of God through your tradition?
15:4 For God issued commands
‘Honor your father
and your mother,’
‘He who curses father or mother must end in death.’
15:5 but as for y’all, you say,
‘Whoever shall say to his father
might be obligated [to receive] from of me was a donation,”
15:6 thus he never
has to honor his father or his mother,’
invalidate the command of God on account of the tradition of yourselves!
15:7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied well concerning you,
15:8 ‘This people
is honoring me with their lips,
their heart keeps far away from me.
it is in vain that they are devoting themselves me
teaching commandments of men for doctrines.’”
week, we looked at the contrast between the sincere worship of the men of Genneseret on the one hand (which was accepted by
Jesus even though they didn’t have a perfect theological knowledge) and,
on the other hand, the legalism of the Pharisees (who were very
knowledgeable of the Bible and yet honored their man-made traditions over
- We saw
that by knowing what God’s word does and does not say, we can “Stand fast
in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” (M. Henry) and we can
extend grace to those with traditions different than ours.
- This is the context in which Jesus calls the
Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem
“Hypocrites” and points out that they were violating the 5th
Commandment “Honor your father and mother…”
- One of
the most common prayer requests I hear when I talk with middle-aged people
is their concerns about the care of their parents. As their parents get to
advanced age, their health fails and they are not able to take care of
themselves as well, so they need help, and choices need to be made: Do we
leave them alone with the risks? Do we put them in an institution? Do we
take them into our own homes? The elderly parents struggle with the
humiliation of becoming dependent on other people for things they didn’t
used to need help with, and often the middle-aged children struggle
because they weren’t prepared to take their parents into their homes and
care for them for years on end. I’d like to take the time to consider some
of these issues as we study this passage:
15:4 For God issued commands saying, ‘Honor your father
and your mother,’ and ‘He who curses father or mother must end in death,’
και την μητερα
first phrase is practically an exact quote from the Septuagint 10
Commandments of Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16,
and it is repeated verbatim in Matthew 19:19 with the review of the 10
commandments, and again in Ephesians 6:2.
- “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God
commanded thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long upon the land, which the Lord thy
God gives thee.” (Deuteronomy 5:16 Brenton)
command, like all the others, is an overarching principle with many
- A couple of years ago, Dr. Zachary took us through
a study of the 10 Commandments, and we studied the Westminster Catechism’s
exposition on what it means to honor parents. The Catechism does a good
job of explaining it.
me introduce another good source for explaining the teachings of the
Bible, and that is the writings of good Bible commentators. I have been
particularly impressed with Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew,
so I turned to see what he had to say about the 5th
Commandment in Exodus 20:12-17. I think he expounded well on the meaning
of this command: “‘Honour thy father and thy
decent respect to their persons, an inward esteem of them outwardly
expressed upon all occasions in our conduct towards them. Fear them,
give them reverence. The contrary to this is mocking at them and
to their lawful commands; so it is expounded: ‘Children, obey your
parents,’ come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they
bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this, as children, cheerfully,
and from a principle of love. Though you have said, ‘We will not,’ yet
afterwards repent and obey,
to their rebukes, instructions, and corrections; not only to the good
and gentle, but also to the froward, out of
conscience towards God.
of themselves with the advice, direction, and consent, of parents, not
alienating their property, but with their approbation.
- Endeavouring, in every
thing, to be the comfort of their parents, and to make their old age
easy to them, maintaining them if they stand in need of support…
By our Savior’s application of
this law, it appears that denying service or relief to parents is included in
cursing them… [B]y paying respect to them whom Providence has made the instruments of our
being, we give honor to him who is the Author of it.” ~Matthew Henry
second passage Jesus references is again almost an exact quote of the
Septuagint, this time from Ex. 21:17 “He that reviles his father or his mother
shall surely die.” (Brenton)
is also stated in Lev. 20:9 “Every man who shall speak evil of his father
or of his mother, let him die the death; has he
spoken evil of his father or his mother? he
shall be guilty.” (Brenton)
this one should be troubling if you think about it. Does this mean that
the police should kill every child who says something bad about their
can begin by looking at the meaning of the word in the original Bible languages:
- the Greek word here is a compound of the word
for “bad” (kakos) and the word for “speaking”
(logwn). So a literal rendering would be
“speaks ill of.”
Greek word is a translation of the original text of Exodus in Hebrew,
the verb qll, which literally means “to make
English Bibles translate it: CursesKJV,NIV/revilesESV/speaks
evil of NAS
can continue seeking the meaning of this by looking at every place that
this Greek word is used in the Bible (The following OT passages
are the Brenton English translation of the
Greek Septuagint where the word occurs, and the NT passages are the NASB
- Exodus 21:17 He that reviles his father or his mother
shall surely die.
- Exodus 22:28
Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor
speak ill of the ruler of thy people.
- 1 Samuel 3:13 And I have told him that I will be avenged on
his house perpetually for the iniquities of his sons, because his sons spoke
evil against God, and he did not admonish them.
- Proverbs 20:20 The lamp of him that
reviles father or mother shall be put out, and his eyeballs shall
- Mark 7:10 "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER,
IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH';
- Mark 9:39 But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him,
for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able
soon afterward to speak evil of Me.
- Acts 19:9 But when some were
becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way
before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples,
reasoning daily in the school
- The concept of simply saying something bad
as well as the concept of ridiculing, as well as the concept of
uttering a curse could fit any one of these contexts.
we can compare this principle with what the rest of Scripture
to the Bible, only God (who has all power over the issues of life
and death and who is the ultimate judge) and the State (which has
the power of the sword – Rom. 13) can deliver a death sentence as a
punishment, so this statement cannot be speaking to families or
individuals or churches, except as a warning of the judgment of God
or the judgment of the State on a matter over which God or the State has
we are not the ones who are ordained to carry out judgments in
the case of personal offenses against God, the passage can only be
talking about what the State should do.
also cannot be talking about putting children to death for careless
talk, since God never gave the State jurisdiction over everyone’s
conclude therefore that this is addressing situations where a child is
in serious, unrepentant rebellion against parents, has made
public defamatory statements that he refuses to apologize for, and is in
such an advanced state of rebellion against all forms of order in
society that he threatens civil order and must be put to death to
protect the people around him. The state would have jurisdiction to put
someone to death in a case like that.
is, however, a sense in which even a careless snide remark aimed at your
parents could lead to death, and that is in God’s jurisdiction.
- Anyone who has dishonored his parents even a
little bit by saying something disrespectful about them or toward them
(and that means every one of us!) has broken the 5th
commandment and thus sinned against God.
Jesus said in Matt. 5:22 that calling your brother Racca/Fool
was enough to send you to the fires of hell, then aggravating the
offense by saying it to your own parents is not going to go over well
before the judgment seat of God.
- As such, every one of us is guilty of the
punishment that God has decreed for breaking His commandments, and that
is death. (Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul that sin[s], it shall die.” KJV, cf.
Gen. 2:17, Rom. 6:23)
- This is why Jesus came. He said, “Father, I know
that you will be making Paula Wilson the mother of Amos Wilson and that
you want Amos to honor his mother in order to accept your providence in
his life, but I also know that Amos is going to gripe about what his
mom told him to do and that you will find that offensive that he does
not like the ordering of his life which you so graciously give him. I
also know that the only just way to make up for that is for Amos to die
for his sin. Let me therefore offer myself in his place. I like Amos. I
want him to be close to me forever, so I want to be killed according to
your judicial punishment for his sin in order that his sin may be paid
for, so he can live and be close to me forever. Let’s also send our Spirit
to move his heart with sorrow over the way he will dishonor his mom and
convict him that he deserves your punishment of eternal death so that
he will beg me to be his savior and want to be close to me
forever.” And that, dear friends, is the good news of Jesus, if you’ll
the case, we must agree that this second quote from the law in Matthew
15:4 underscores the fact that the 5th commandment is nothing
to trifle with, since its violation could be punished so severely by
death. (J. Calvin)
man in rebellion to God, does not want to live under the freedom of the
simplicity of God’s commands. Apart from God, humans make up complex and
contradictory systems of rules. This is what Jesus points out to contrast
the rabbinical code with God’s commands:
15:5 but as for y’all, you say, ‘Whoever
shall say to his father or mother, “Whatever you might be obligated [to
receive] from of me was a donation,”
δε λεγετε ος αν
ειπη τω πατρι η
τη μητρι δωρον
ο εαν εξ εμου
15:6 thus he never has to honor his father or his
mother,’ and you invalidate the command of God on account of the tradition of
[και] ου μη
αυτου η την
μητερα αυτου και
θεου δια την
the text says that there’s something that a parent “might be obligated”
about, related to their child, and the text says that the religious
leaders were teaching the younger generation to call that thing a “gift”
and be excused from honoring their parents. That’s all that the Greek text
- But that’s a bit sketchy, so most translations
provide words to explain the cultural background:
- adding the concept that this would be something by
which the parent would “be profited by”KJV
– or “receive profitNKJ/helpNIV/gainESV”
from the child.
NASB adds that it is something that the child “has” that would “help”
most translations elaborate that this thing can not merely be considered
a “gift” in the generic sense, but specifically a gift “given/devoted
- and thus it provides an exemption from honoring
the parents by giving that help/ profit/ gain to the parents.
other words, “My parents have a need that I can help with – perhaps they
need money to pay the rent, or they need a ride to the hospital, or they
need their lawn mowed, but I have declared that the time/money/resources
that they have every right to ask me to help with, has instead been
dedicated to God, so I don’t have to give it to my parents, I’ve already
given it away to God. And if my parents complain that I’m not taking care
of them like I should, the religious leaders will back me up.
gospel of Mark (7:11) has a parallel account which uses the Hebrew word “Corban” instead of the Greek word “Dwron”
which Matthew uses. Matthew later uses the word “Corban”
(27:6) to denote offerings placed in the temple.
Hebrew word “Corban” is the word used in
Leviticus and Numbers to describe the offerings brought by people to the
temple to offer to the Lord.
many cases, the Corban was a live animal, and
the worshipper would lay his hand on the Corban
animal and confess their sins over it and kill it as a substitute for his
own death before the Lord as justice for his sins and the sins of his
Corban offering was the way that man approached
his Maker, and was never intended to be a way for man to despise the
commands of his Maker.
Century Bible commentator John Gill was an expert in Jewish law and
customs. He commented on a quote by the ancient rabbi Maimonides Hilchai that “vows supercede
commandments” “insomuch, that if a man vows a vow, and [if, in order for
it to be fulfilled], a command must be made void, his vow must stand, and
the command be abrogated.”
also cited a Jewish writing which describes a situation in Beth Horon where a man excluded his father by the Corban vow from receiving any profit from him, but the
man had a son who wanted his grandpa to come to the wedding feast when he
got married. Well, that put the father in a bind because he was paying for
the wedding feast, but he had vowed not to use his income to help his
parents, so he couldn’t invite his parents to the wedding! But this guy
was a good legalist, so he came up with a legal loophole. He gave his
savings for the wedding feast to a friend and asked his friend
to host the wedding. He told his friend that the money was to cover the
food costs for everybody except for his parents, and asked his
friend to kick in a few dollars to cover the parents’ food, so that
everybody, including the parents and grandparents could enjoy the wedding.
That way the father was able to keep his Corban
vow and still have his parents in on the wedding ceremony. This is for
real! (Lb. c. 5. sect. 6.) You see how squirrely man-made legislation can
- In fact, these hypocrites believed that they were
honoring God by doing this, and they assured themselves that they would
receive the blessing God promised to those who honor their parents – that
they would “live long upon the land” – for instead dedicating their stuff
to God in such a way as to prevent them from helping their parents.
of course, was part of a corrupt system:
Century commentator Marvin Vincent, who was an expert on Mediterranean
culture at the time of Christ wrote that this
was all just a word-game to avoid responsibility. A son could merely
pronounce the word “Corban” or “gift” over
things he owned, and then he could continue to keep them in his
possession and use them for himself, but now he was authorized by these
religious teachers to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, Mom and Dad, I dedicated that
to God so I can’t give it to you.”
- “Sometimes unfilial sons paid graft to the rabbinical legalists
for such dodges.” ~A.T.R.
- “[S]cribes… were so keen to get their loot that in the
meantime children neglected their parents.” ~J. Calvin
may remember from European history how fabulously wealthy and powerful
the churches got after the Middle Ages.
According to Dr. Adam Clark, it was largely because of a superstitious
practice by landowners to bequeath their land to the church instead of to
their children when they died. Their wills commonly read, “For my salvation,
and for the salvation of my predecessors, and for the salvation of my successsors, and for the salvation of my wife… I
give and bequeath to God and his Church, etc.” But of course God never
said that anybody is saved by donating stuff to the church. That was a
trick of unscrupulous priests to make up ecclesiastical rules for selfish
ends. It resulted in fathers depriving their children of legitimate means
of income and in distorting the economy of their whole nation.
no amount of legal subterfuge or human affirmation can take away the fact
that a child who won’t help his parents with a legitimate request is
breaking God’s command #5.
says that by their workaround they “Ekurwsate / made of none effectKJV/
made voidESV/ invalidatedNAS
/nullify”NIV the command to
“honor your father and your mother” – as well as nullifying the command
that a son who speaks in such a way as to bring deprivation and harm to
his parents should be punished.
the mere fiat of a human judgment they imagine that they can cancel out
one of the 10 Commandments written by the finger of God! What arrogance!
what does God say? Prov. 21:3 “To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD
more than sacrifice.” (NASB) If
making a donation to charity violates the justice and righteousness of
honoring your parents, God would prefer you not make that financial
sacrifice but that you instead take care of your parents’ needs!
and sisters, let us not be big Pharisees who are
looking for loopholes to squirm out of obeying our great God!
15:7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied well concerning you,
15:8 ‘This people is honoring me
with their lips, yet their heart keeps far away from me.
λαος ‘ουτος τοις
τιμα η δε
15:9 And it is in vain that they
are devoting themselves to me while teaching commandments of men for
quote follows the Septuagint of Isaiah 29:13 with only a few minor
Greek manuscripts on which the KJV is based start earlier in
the Isaiah quote than the Greek manuscripts that the more modern
English translations are based on, so the KJV includes the part of the
quote where God says, “They draw near to me with their mouth,” which is a
parallel statement to, “they honor me with their lips” – and means the
same thing: lip service, polite niceties, keeping up appearances, but it’s
problem that Jesus saw among those Jewish leaders who didn’t believe in
Him was the same as the problem among the faithless Jewish leaders of
Isaiah’s day: Their heart was not in their religion.
didn’t believe that God could decide for them what was right and wrong,
and therefore they didn’t believe that they needed God to save them,
when it came right down to it, they didn’t believe in God, but they kept
acting religious in order to convince the people around them that they
were good people.
verse emphasizes that all the trouble they are going to in their ceremonies
is in vain. “Their worship does not attain the end for which is was
appointed; it will never please God nor profit themselves… prayers and
sermons and Sabbaths and sacraments… beat the air in vain… if the heart be
not with God in them.” ~Matthew Henry
the Bible, Job was commended for keeping “far away” from evil (Job 1:1,
1:8, 2:3, 11:14, 22:23, 28:28 LXX), and also, there is nothing wrong with
praise from the lips of people who love and obey Jesus (Hebrews 13:15),
but there is nothing good about keeping “far away from” God.
what Adam and Eve did the first time they disobeyed God – they tried to
hide from Him. It is a sign of rebellion and a lack of faith in
God’s goodness and salvation to avoid getting close to God. And it won’t
work, because God will always find us out. He can sense pretended
Prophet Jeremiah also complained about people like this: “Why has the way
of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery
at ease? …You are near to their lips But far from
their mind.” (Jer 12:1-2 NASB)
complained that “…they do the lustful desires expressed by their
mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.” (Ezekiel 33:31b NASB)
the Apostle Paul wrote that when hearts are hard like this, they are
“excluded from the life of God” Eph. 4:18
God wants is our heart, not just our words or ceremonies: Prov. 23:26 “My
son, give me thine
heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”
Greek word (sebeomai) translated
“worship” in all the English Bibles is actually not the usual Greek word
for worship (proskunew). It is more standardly used in the N.T. to indicate a “proselyte.”
By this choice of words, Jesus says that acts of religious devotion
performed by erstwhile Humanists are vain and are not even real worship.
Are there any ways that we
justify violations of the commands of God on the basis of human judgments?
my age figure that we don’t have to do anything for our parents because
they’re already taken care of by Social Security and their own retirement
funds. But nowhere does God ever say that the elderly are supposed to take
care of themselves or be taken care of by the civil government. What God
tells us over and over is that families are to take care of their own. “He
who does not provide for his own… household is worse than an infidel”
wrote the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 5:8.
of you kids are too young to be worrying about financially
supporting your parents, but you are still able to be a big help to your
parents by doing household chores. Excusing yourself from taking out the
trash or holding the baby when Mom or Dad asks you to, and justifying it
by saying that you have homework or are in the middle of a project is the
same sin as what Jesus is talking about here. Children, don’t be little
Pharisees who make excuses for not honoring and helping your parents.
course this can happen in relation to any of God’s commandments –
we can use our culture and traditions and clever theologies to explain
away anything God demands of us that rubs us the wrong way. In
the exposition of Matthew 5, we already hit on many of the other ways we
rationalize disobedience to God’s commands.
- God said “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam.
15:22-23), and Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Anyone
who doesn’t intend to keep His commandments can light all the incense they
want, kneel and recite prayers all they want, and sing worship songs until
they’re blue in the face, but it isn’t going to do any good because God is
not going to accept these acts of devotion from someone who will not
submit to God’s authority but instead does what other people tell
him to do or does whatever he wants to do.
who majors on “teaching commandments/precepts/rules” that come from men
is teaching that human beings have the divine authority to decide
right from wrong and to decide what the purpose of their lives are
without submission to what the Bible says. Those who teach the
commandments of men for doctrine have rejected the authority and
sovereignty of God, and are not of the true faith. This is what is wrong
with many of the so-called liberal churches - and all of the cults.
- Many historic churches and cults have also erred by
presenting God as impersonal. They speak of a transcendent
God outside of us, but their devotion is all external and outward
show. This is an indication of a false religion in an impersonal
God who does not build personal relationships with us. It is the
religions which believe in impersonal gods (like Buddhism) or very
distant gods (like Islam) that can be reduced to ceremonies.
true Christianity believes in a very personal and very nearby
God who cannot be manipulated by ceremonies. He
is turned on by love, sincerity, truth, interpersonal communication, and
trust. These qualities characterize persons who are interacting closely
with each other, and these things (love, sincerity, truth-speaking, and
trust) should characterize our worship of this personal God revealed to
us in Jesus Christ and His word. (John 4:24).