FamilyLife Today®

What Does It Mean to Honor Your Parents?

with Dennis Rainey | April 7, 2016
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Dennis Rainey recalls a few stories people have shared about the transformation that took place when they stepped out in faith to honor their parents.
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  • Do you love your parents? Do they know that? Dennis Rainey, author of "The Forgotten Commandment," recalls a few stories people have shared about the transformation that took place when they stepped out in faith to honor their parents. Dennis explains what it means to honor someone, and talks about some of the special gifts each one of us can give our parents: compassion, understanding, and forgiveness.

Dennis Rainey recalls a few stories people have shared about the transformation that took place when they stepped out in faith to honor their parents.

What Does It Mean to Honor Your Parents?

With Dennis Rainey
April 07, 2016
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Bob: You know the fifth of the Ten Commandments; right?—the commandment about honoring father and mother. What should that look like for a child?  What should that look like for an adult child?  Here’s Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: What does it mean to honor your father?  Well, the Hebrew word means weight / heavy. It means to lay it on them—not flattery—but pile it on / put the praise, put the value, put the respect, the prestige, the worth, the value.

Plato made the statement: “What is honored in the land will be cultivated there.”  Do we honor our parents today?  What do we honor today?—Oscars, Emmys, records, touchdown passes, Super Bowls, Pulitzer Prizes / literature, Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe, some of you can create some awards here to elevate honor for fathers and mothers.



Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. When was the last time your mom or your dad felt truly honored by you?  We’re going to spend some time talking about that today. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We were doing a little reminiscing. I was talking about the first time I heard you share on the subject of honoring your parents—right before I came here to work at FamilyLife—as I was listening to a cassette tape; and—

Dennis: Some of our listeners have no idea what that is.

Bob: I was about to explain: “This is how we used to listen to things when—before you were born”; alright?  But—[Laughter]

Dennis: Maybe, you’ll see one at a garage sale sometime. [Laughter]


Bob: —but I was also thinking about the very first week we were on the air with FamilyLife Today because one of the first messages that we shared was this message on honoring your parents.

And the reason I remember that is because, as we were recording the first week of FamilyLife Today, we said: “We’re going to air this message from Dennis on honoring your parents. People are going to wonder: ‘How am I going to write a tribute?  I need some help knowing how to write a tribute to my parents.’”  And we’re going to hear more about that today in this message as you share it.

There is nothing in the Bible about writing a tribute—

Dennis: There isn’t.

Bob: —but there is something in the Bible about honoring your parents.

Dennis: And as you are about to hear in this message, I’m about to describe what it means to honor another person, especially your parent. The word in the Hebrew language meant to lay it on them—to lay the weight on them / to heap the praise on them.

I just found, Bob—that taking words that are said, and reducing them to writing, and putting them on paper, and putting a mat around it and a frame around it, and glass on it, and then, reading it to your parents or your parent is a powerful way to lay it on them.



Don’t allow the words to be spoken the first time at their funeral. Say it now while they are alive / when they can hear them. It doesn’t need to be flattery. It needs to be truthful, but we’re not talking about honoring something that was evil or harmful to you. But I think we need to revisit this fifth commandment because I think it is a forgotten commandment.

Bob: We’ll hear an example of a tribute that you wrote for your dad as we listen to Part Two of a message you shared recently about honoring your parents.

[Previously Recorded Message] 

Dennis: Over 20 years ago, I wrote a book called The Forgotten Commandment. It was, first of all, called The Tribute.



It was about honoring your parents and writing a tribute to your parents.

I would get notes back from radio listeners, saying: “I got your book. It made me so angry that I threw your book across the room, and it landed like a teepee. So, that book was crying out to me for days as I went back and forth through the room. I’d look over at it and disgustedly say something to the book,” until that person picked it up, and decided to go ahead, and move toward honoring her father. In the process, forgave him and wrote a tribute. She wrote to say, “Thank you.” 

Why don’t we honor our parents?  Because our hearts are far from God’s heart, because we’re angry, we’re disappointed, we’re punishing them. Oscar Wilde said this: “Children begin by loving their parents. After a time, they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”


Ours is an embittered culture. We’re afraid—if we do forgive them, that we’ll have to love them, we’ll have to care for them,  or we’ll get hurt again. We’re afraid of being manipulated. We’re afraid that somehow they may think we’re honoring evil that they perpetrated. There are some evil parents—make no mistake—but I believe you can honor the office and even portions of what the person did right and not honor the evil.

What is this command called “Honor your father and your mother”?—what does it mean to honor your father?  Well, the Hebrew word means weight / heavy. It means to lay it on them—not flattery—but pile it on / put the praise, put the value, put the respect, the prestige, the worth, the value.


Plato made the statement: “What is honored in the land will be cultivated there.”  Do we honor our parents today?  What do we honor today?—Oscars, Emmys, records, touchdown passes, Super Bowls, Pulitzer Prizes / literature, Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe, some of you can create some awards here to elevate honor for fathers and mothers.

My dad’s death came early. Years later, I wrote a tribute about him. I’ll not read all of it, but I want to read enough so that you can see that I determined that I was not going to be standing beside my mom’s casket with not having said it / because I’d not said this to my father.



I wrote this after his death, but it was cleansing to my soul. It’s called “A Tribute to Hook Rainey”:

“Dad’s home!” I used to yell as the backdoor slammed shut. Our small two-story frame house would shudder when the backdoor slammed shut. The sound of that slamming door was especially loud when one man came through that threshold—my dad. I can recall, as a little boy playing in my room, and hearing that door send a series of quakes that rippled through the walls and rattling the windows. It was my dad’s signature, and a signal that a day’s work was completed, and that a real man was now home.

I would yell, “Dad’s home!”  And I’d dash through the house into the kitchen to greet him with a well-deserved hug. I would, then, follow him like a little puppy to the washroom, where he washed his calloused, grimy hands like a real man. Everything about him signaled he was a real man—from the gritty, Lava soap to the Vitalis hair tonic to Old Spice aftershave. [Laughter]


 My dad was a unique blend of no-nonsense and discipline with a subtle sense of humor. He was a quiet, private man—a man of few words, who didn’t seem to have many words to get the job done. His countenance commanded respect.

This you ought to know about my dad—when he was a boy, he was deserted by his father. And his eight brothers and sisters—he helped raise his brothers and sisters. He took care of his mom who lived to be over a hundred.

I don’t know where my dad learned how to be a man. He would be, today, a victim. But somehow, he communicated to me, as a boy, as he went out in the yard and played catch with me. And his nickname, Hook, came, not because he had a hook on his hand, but because he had a wicked curve ball.


I go on in my tribute—I say:

As an impressionable, young boy, my radar caught more of his life than he ever knew. He was the model and hero I needed during some perilous teenage years. And you know what?  He still is. He taught me the importance of hard work and completing a task. I learned about lasting commitment from him. I never feared my parents would divorce. My dad was absolutely committed to my mom. I felt secure and protected; but most importantly, he taught me about character.

He did what was right even when no one was looking. I never heard him talk about cheating on taxes. He paid them but didn’t grumble. His integrity was impeccable. I never heard him lie, and his eyes always demanded the same truth in return. The mental snapshot of his character still fuels and energizes my life today.



“Dad’s home!”—I can still hear the door slam and the house quake. This morning, as I write this, Dad truly is home in heaven. I look forward to seeing him again someday and saying, “Thanks,” for the legacy he gave me; and mostly, for being my dad”—but right now, you’ll have to pardon me—I miss him.

Are your parents still living?  Well, I’d like to suggest a few gifts that you can give your parents—but specifically, your father—first of all, the gift of compassion / the gift of compassion. Colossians 3:12 says, “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  The Scripture commands us to take our fathers out of the courtroom—



—to drop the charges and to catch them doing something right. Begin to see them as people with needs and begin to see them as people who need you to step into their lives, as an adult, and now assume your adult responsibility as the Scriptures have said, “To honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you.”  Give them the gift of compassion.

Secondly, give them the gift of understanding. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “By wisdom, a house is built; by understanding it is established; and by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Understanding comes from this Book—from viewing life through God’s perspective—that’s what wisdom is. Wisdom is godly skill in everyday living.



Godly skill in everyday living means we’ve got to allow our parents to be human—to be who they were / flawed people, who have their own chinks and dinks in their armor, who didn’t do it all right all the time.

I know one father, who had to turn to his adult children and say to them: “Will you let me out of the penalty box?!  I feel like I’m at a hockey game. Let me out of the penalty box!”  Is your dad in the penalty box?  Understand the homes that they came from. What kind of father did he have / did she have?  Begin to view them through God’s eyes.

After I wrote my tribute—Barbara watched me go through the process—she realized that she needed to write a tribute to her dad and her mom. She said, “I’m not sure how I can do that.”



She came from a Scandinavian family that was Norwegian—very quiet / very private—not a lot of hugs, especially from a father. It took her two years to pencil out, writing notes on pieces of paper as God reminded her; but finally, she gathered her mom and dad together. I kind of corralled the kids in a spot of the living room. She sat them down and had this magnificently framed document that she read them—sobbing her way through it. After she did that, her relationship with her parents slowly began to change. And I’m not sure if the change was in her, or the change in them, or both of them.

But somehow, honoring your parents says to them: “I’m an adult. I’m assuming adult responsibility.



“I’m stepping out of childhood into something that is a peer in you. I will honor you. I will esteem you. I will value you.”  Give them the gift of understanding.

Third gift: Give them the gift of forgiveness / the gift of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32—it’s at the heart of the gospel; isn’t it?—forgiveness. Isn’t our gospel a part of God’s heart?  It is His heart—redeeming us. There are some relationships in this room with parents that need God’s redemption. Amen? 

Audience: Amen.

Dennis: Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  How did God forgive us?  Well, Romans 5 tells us: “…when we were enemies of God.”



Our hearts weren’t toward Him, but He pursued us.

Can we go after some people and love them, who may not be loving us in the way we always desire that they love us?  Can we seek to be reconciled with what seems to be irreconcilable circumstances?  I had a woman come to me, a number of years ago, who read the book—didn’t like it because she realized she needed to write a tribute to her parents. As she wrote the tribute, she realized that she had to move through this process of compassion/understanding to move to forgiveness.

And she finally got it to say, “Forgiveness means you give up the right to punish the other person.”



You release the punishment—you don’t hold onto it any longer. You let God take care of the evil that was done. You release the disappointment / the hurt and forgive. And she nailed it. She read the tribute; and she said, “I thought—as I was going through the process of writing a tribute—that I was letting my parents out of jail / only to find out that I was the one who was in jail.” 

I’ll tell you—our God is a disruptive, shrewd God. He really is. To put the fifth commandment right in there, where He did—unmistakably, a priority in human relationships—and to force us to do business with Him because to get to honor you’ve got to go through forgiveness.



You can’t honor somebody that you are embittered toward.

Another woman told a story of how, when she was a little girl, her father was so abusive to her. As a teenage girl, she knew where her father kept his pistol.

Ney: I can remember he had a gun in a drawer in his bedroom. I can remember going in there and pulling that drawer out. And behind some of his shirts there was this gun. I picked it up and I held it. I thought: “I’d like to just kill you. Then, our lives would be better.”  But there was murder in my heart for him.

I gave my life to Christ when I was an adoption case worker in New Orleans. Through a series of events, a couple of years later—joined the staff of Campus Crusade®. Then, I began to think about my father. I thought:



“You know, I’ve been waiting all these years for him to shape up, and stop drinking, and be nice; and then, I would love him.”  But it was as though God said to me:“I love you, Ney, just like you are. I love your father just like he is. My love toward him is patient, and kind, and good.” 

I remember, tears streaming down my face, and to realize that, even though I was in Christian work, I didn’t have God’s love for my own father. And that was the beginning of God’s work in my heart. My father never asked me to forgive him, but God asked that of me. So, I had already forgiven him; but I realized, as I looked back over my life, there were things that I had done that, certainly, hadn’t been helpful to our relationship. And in the interest of pursuing peace, I wanted to remove all the barriers because there had been a time when I was sitting and looking, thinking about, “What if I should go to my father’s funeral, and I should look out and see that casket—



—“would I have any regrets?” One of the regrets I would have had was I hadn’t asked him to forgive me for those things that I did.

I remember thinking about—that I wanted to write them a letter and tell them how I valued them. I wanted to write things that they contributed to my life. So, I kept a legal pad by my bed for about a week. I just wrote things down that I could appreciate. I heard later that, when they got that five-page letter, they sat down on the bed, and they cried.

Many years later, when I got the word that my father had, indeed, died, and we went to the funeral, I can remember—sitting there, and looking out at that casket, and thinking, “I’m so glad, as I sit here, I don’t have any regrets. 



“I’m so glad that, when I didn’t feel like it, I chose, with my will, to forgive him.” 

You know, I think we need to ask ourselves the question, “Is my God bigger than my hurt, or am I going to let my hurt be bigger than my God?”  And someone has said, “To forgive is to set the prisoner free, only to discover that the prisoner was you.”  There was something about forgiving my father that set me free. There are a lot of things that are inexcusable, but there’s not anything that’s unforgivable.


Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to the second part of a message on honoring your parents.



You’ve mentioned there have been people who have read your book, The Forgotten Commandment, and have tossed it across the room.

Dennis: Well, you know, here is the thing about the book—it’s going to have—I don’t know, maybe, 20 different tributes in there that other people have written. I know a lot of listeners are thinking: “I could never do that!  I can’t think of a positive memory.”  Well, you know what?  There are some lodged in there. Maybe, the Holy Spirit can dislodge some as you spend some time reading and reflecting on what other people said about their parents—just to be reminded afresh.

Yes; they weren’t perfect. Yes; they made mistakes, but they were your parents. And God said, “Honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”  It is the first commandment with a promise.

Bob: Well, it’s a commandment that all of us would do well to stop and just ask the question: “How can I keep this commandment today?  



“How can I honor God by honoring my father and my mother?”  I’d encourage our listeners, Dennis, to get a copy of your book, The Forgotten Commandment. You can order a copy from us, online, at; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” 

Early this week, I mentioned the fact that we are hoping this spring / this summer many of our listeners will consider hosting an Art of Marriage® special event—a video event that you can host in your church or in your community—or host an Art of Marriage small group and take five or six other couples through the small group material.

This week and next week, if you will order The Art of Marriage video event kit or the small group series kit, we have a marriage ministry pack of additional resources we’d like to send to you. Find out more about the marriage ministry pack when you go to and click on information about The Art of Marriage, or you can call 1-800-358-6329.



That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” 

And it was back on this day in 1974 that Jimmy and Nancy Mullis from Georgia looked each other in the eye and said, “I do.”  Jimmy and Nancy are celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary today. We wanted to say, “Congratulations!”  We are the Proud Sponsor of Anniversaries. FamilyLife exists to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family so that you will have many more anniversaries to come. And we want to thank those of you who partner with us in making this ministry happen. “Thanks,” to those of you who support us financially.

If you’re able to help with a donation today, we’d like to send you a copy of Barbara Rainey’s brand-new book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife.



The book is yours when you go online to make a donation at; or when you call to make a donation at 1-800-FL-TODAY; or when you mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.

Tomorrow, we’re going to continue to explore the gifts we can be giving our parents, including the gift of honor. Hope you can tune in tomorrow for that.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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Episodes in this Series

Honor Your Father And Mother 3
Gifts Worthy of a Parent
with Dennis Rainey April 8, 2016
Dennis Rainey talks about two of the most valuable gifts our parents are longing to receive from us: forgiveness and honor.
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Honor Your Father And Mother 1
Why Honor Parents?
with Dennis Rainey April 6, 2016
The Scriptures tell us to honor our father and mother, but why? Dennis Rainey tells why keeping the fifth commandment to honor our parents is so important.
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