by Chris Ritter
When God made covenant with the children of Israel, he instituted what might be understood as generational commandments. These are obligations that one generation has to another. In Deuteronomy 11, God says he wants his blessings upon Israel to endure. But the only way for that to happen would be for each generational link in the chain of faith to transmit God’s ways of living:
19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
There was no local church or synagogue instituted in the Law of Moses. The home was where the faith was transmitted. If we could did contact tracing on faith the same way we do for COVID-19, I think we would find that the family is still the primary place where faith is transmitted.
God is a gracious God and he builds grace into all his covenants. It is often the case that multiple generations overlap with one another. This means grandparents have opportunity, as well, to pour the faith into their grandchildren. Grandparents, you are God’s back-up system to make doubly sure the faith gets transmitted. When we are young, we are often so absorbed by life that we miss the big picture. By the time we are grandparents, we have gained a longer perspective and help our children shape that next generation. If you are an older adult today, you are still very much a part of God’s plan for future generations.
Be bold to share your faith with your grandkids and great grandkids. This is what my grandparents did for me. I am so old that I went to half-day Kindergarten. My mom was a school teacher, so my grandma and grandpa had me that half day. They lived right over the hill from us and I remember lessons on prayer, making egg noodles, and gardening. Those lessons stick with you. Grandparents are God’s back-up system to make to sure the torch of faith gets handed down.
But generational commandments do not just run forward to our children and grandchildren. They also run backwards to our parents and grandparents. Teaching and instruction were to run forward to the rising generations. Respect and honor were to run backwards to the preceding generations. The chain of faith would be strengthen from both ends.
“Honor 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
God wanted His people to live long and prosperously in the land, so he commanded that honor be given to fathers and mothers. Paul notes in Ephesus that this is the only one of the ten commandments that has a promise attached to it. Honor your father and mother “that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
The Bible was written in a very patriarchal society. I think it is remarkable that respect for mothers was intentionally included in the Ten Commandments. If you are blessed enough to have both a mother and a father, you know that you get something different from each of them. We should honor our father’s role in our lives. We should also honor our mother’s role in our lives.
The command to honor your mother is very specific. It could have said to honor mothers or motherhood more generally. It did not. Those things are implied, but the specific command is to honor the particular woman that brought you into this world and raised you. Just like it is easier to love your neighbors in the abstract rather than Fred next door who cuts his lawn at 6 am, it is easier to love mothers than your mother. God does not let us off that easy. He says to honor that imperfect person with whom you have such a long history. Honor that woman with whom your personality sometimes seem to clash. Honor that woman that knows how to push your buttons. Honor YOUR mother.
How might we do that? Let’s talk about it:
Listen to Her
I was walking into a big box store this week and I overheard a mother instructing her young son to stay close to her in the parking lot. The boy had other ideas. She kept asking, “You are listening?” That question got louder every time it was asked. Mother’s wouldn’t have to yell if we listened. Yelling is motivational speaking for people with selective listening.
Proverbs 1:8 says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” When mothers tell us to do something they have our best interests in mind. The wise learn through instruction. Fools only learn through pain. I saw a sign once that read, “If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it like your mother said to in the first place.”
But listening to our mothers should continue all through our lives. When you read John’s Gospel, you get the distinct impression that Jesus did not intend to turn water into wine as his first miracle. Mary coaxed him into it. Jesus seemed to understand that part of being obedient to his Father was honoring the requests of your mother.
Paul said, “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20). Conversely, one of the signs of societal degradation is a disregard for parental authority: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:2).
We do out outgrow our responsibility to listen to our mothers:
Listen to your father who begot you,Proverbs 23:22
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
I challenge you to read through Proverbs 31 and note how this wife and mother is honored by her family. They wrote an old to her that has endured over the centuries. Her character is praised, along with her reliability, and industry. The good she brings to the family is remembered. She is called an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. She is revered for the ways she anticipates the needs of her household… how she feeds and clothes her family. Her practical wisdom is praised. Her husband and children celebrate her publicly in the city gates.
Being a mother is the most difficult and demanding task in the entire world. The least we can do is offer a constant stream of appreciation and encouragement. Tell your mother “thank you” often. In fact, stop reading and thank her right now.
Make her Proud
Nothing makes a mother feel more successful than to have raised children that can stand on their own and be a blessing to others. The best reward you can give to your mom is to become the best version of yourself.
24 The father of a righteous child has great joy;Proverbs 23:24, 25
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
25 May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!
One mother used to send her kids out the door with, “Go out there are be somebody.” Mothers are always fretting whether they did enough or did a decent job raising you. It is such a blessing to them when they see you take responsibility, make good decisions, and honor the Lord with your life.
Care for Her
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he has the presence of mind to speak to and care for his mother. John, in his Gospel, humbly refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved the most. He would never forget this last interaction with Jesus before his death:
26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.John 19:26, 27
Our parents bail us out so much when we are young. There is no real way to pay them back. But it should be our desire to turn the tables as quickly as possible. We should want to do for them instead of them continuing to do for us.
There was no one with a more powerful and exalted throne in Israel than King Solomon. His mother, Bathsheba, had a long and checkered path to her eventual role as queen mother. Solomon’s throne is described in the Bible as carved of ivory and covered with gold. There were six steps leading up to the throne and two golden lions flanking each step. But when Bathsheba came to the throne room, the king climbed down to bow down to her.
When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand.1 Kings 2:19
Solomon was wise enough to realize that he would not be where he was without the work of his mother. Abraham Lincoln said, “All I am or ever hope to be I owe to my mother.” It is important to remember our mothers’ sacrifices, labors, and tears. They should share in the good things because we put them through so many difficult things.
Pray for Her
The prayers of a mother are particularly powerful. I ran across the story of Peter Richley. I need to tell you this is a true story because you are not going to believe it. If you Google it, you will find various versions that will lead you to the documentation in original sources. Peter Richley was from England and he was always fascinated by the sea and was captured by a desire to travel. This was the 1820’s and sea travel was perilous. His mother, Sarah, did not want at all to be separated from her beloved son, but he was a grown man who made his own decisions. He sailed off to Australia and was aboard several ships as a sailor.
In October 1829 he boarded the Australian schooner Mermaid from Sydney headed to Collier Bay on the Western side of the continent. On the fourth day at sea, the ship got into trouble in the extremely dangerous Torres Straight between Australia and New Guinea. A storm battered the ship against some coral reefs and broke the ship apart. All 21 men aboard had to abandon ship, but they all survived. The men spent three days and three nights on the rock that broke the ship apart until a ship called the Swiftsure spotted them and took them aboard. After five days, however, the Swiftsure encountered a turbulent sea current and sank. Everyone, again, was forced to abandon ship. After a short time, a schooner called the Governor Ready passed by and rescued the crews. But this was more people that the ship was designed to carry. After just a few hours, a fire broke out on board due to some negligence of men trying to stay warm. All three crews had to abandon ship and get into lifeboats. After a short time, an Australia cutter called the Comet happened by. This boat had been thrown off course by a storm and that is the only reason it happened across the lifeboats. When the sailors on board the Comet heard what these men had been through they were reluctant to let them on board because they thought they were cursed. But they came aboard anyway.
After five days, The Comet was shipwrecked. There were not enough lifeboats for all the men, so they had to cling to wreckage and hold things together. They remained like this 18 days until a steamer called the Jupiter operated by the postal service came across the men… all alive. After a brief time, however, the Jupiter hit the rocks and was wrecked. But, fortunately, there was nearby a passenger ship called The City of Leeds. And it took all the men onboard.
The City of Leeds ship had left England and was headed to Australia. The doctor on board came to Peter Richley and asked a favor of him. There was a passenger on board who was gravely ill. She was an older woman travelling alone and trying to get to see her son. She had a little portrait of him when he was a boy. He had a high forehead and dark hair. The doctor asked Peter if he would be willing to go to the woman and pretend to be her son. She had been praying to see him and this might bring her peace in her final hours. The doctor said, “Her son’s name is Peter.”
“That’s funny,” Peter replied. “That is my name, too.”
He went in to the infirmary to find his own mother there who had been praying to see her son again. She made a full recovery and the two lived out their lives in Australia. But see the awesome power of a mother’s prayer.
How many shipwrecks has your mother prayed you through? There is an old hymn called “Mother’s Prayers Have Followed Me.” It is our sweet duty to return the favor and pray for our mothers.
Advance Her Legacy
My friend, Joe, recently buried his mother. Through his tears, he offered a eulogy at her funeral that I will always remember. He said his mother was not able to leave much for them, but it is more important what she left in them. Our mother’s leave a rich deposit in our lives. Our job is to keep that alive and growing.
Paul wrote to Timothy:
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”2 Timothy 1:5
A ministry colleague of mine wrote: “No mother is perfect, but consider the good things your mother instilled in you. Maybe it was an example of faith or compassion for others. Even if your mother didn’t give you an example of faith, maybe she taught you how to be thrifty, how to make the best chocolate cake you’ve ever had, or how to write thank you notes so others feel appreciated. Bless the world with those gifts. Honor her investment in you by cultivating the skills, and talents that she began to grow in you.”
Whether your mom is alive or has passed on, we each can work to advance their legacy in the world. In fact, we are that legacy. More important than an earthly legacy is an eternal one. When moms get to Heaven, they will want to know that their children will be with them there. Maybe the best way to advance a Christian mother’s legacy is to embrace her faith. In St. Augustine’s Confessions, he writes autobiographically about all the philosophies and lifestyles he sampled before the Holy Spirit called him back to the simple faith of his mother, Monica. Maybe the best gift to give your mother is to make yourself a gift to her God. This will give her the peace of mind to know she will be with you for all eternity.