Honor Your mother and father… Always?
Young W. Yi | APRIL 26, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
When I was younger, I came across a pair of verses in the Bible that changed the way I perceived the instructions provided by my parents. Proverbs 1:8-9 says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and don’t reject your mother’s teaching, for they will be a garland of favor on your head and pendants around your neck.”
Though my parents never actually used these verses to push my younger sister and me to obey them, I chose to submit to these words. I did so because if the Bible was true, then I’d be a fool to disregard this wise teaching.
However, there were times that some of the advice and instructions given by my parents would be difficult to follow and adhere to — especially when it came to my future and career.
As I’ve been working in ministry with Asian American college students, so many share this similar experience of feeling the burden of their parents’ dreams for their lives. With that, a couple of questions follow ever-so closely: 1) “If I don’t pursue becoming an *insert potential lucrative career here* because my parents want me to, am I dishonoring my parents?” and 2) “Do I have to follow what they want for my life?”
There are several ways to process, understand, and approach this question, but I’ll name a few that have helped me and others discern through situations as stated above.
1. Ask the “why?” question
More often than not, parents have good intentions for their children and their futures. Unfortunately, because of sin, our parents are not perfect authority figures. It is impossible for all of our parents’ instructions to come from a flawless place both in content and intent – and it’s our job to discern through that.
When our parents drive us to pursue a career or make a pretty significant life decision that we may not immediately agree with, we need to ask them why they are convinced this is the right decision.
Not only do we have to ask them why, but we need to ask ourselves why we may be in disagreement with them. The prophet Jeremiah is spot on when he says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Are we upset because we aren’t getting our way? If that’s the case, then we may want to wait, take a breath, examine our hearts (for idols and even things we can sacrifice), and then speak to our parents.
Who knows? Afterward, you may come out with a different position.
2. Let your speech be grace-filled
This principle isn’t limited to when we share the Gospel with non-believers, as it’s also needed when we talk to our parents. If you’re going to be disagreeing with your parents, be gentle in your response, share your reasoning behind your decision, and hear their reasons for their decision. Know that a decision won’t be made overnight, so don’t be hasty with your words.
A warning when disagreeing with your parents is to be careful in not sacrificing your relationship with them on the hill of getting your way.
Remember, our lives are not our own, but it belongs to the Lord, and if Scripture constantly tells us to listen to our parents, we should definitely consider that and obey to the best of our abilities.
3. Honoring and obeying are different
Pursuing ministry as a full-time career was not the top choice career that my parents had in mind for me. They wanted me to be a doctor, a businessman, or a veterinarian (which was actually my first career choice) — anything but full-time ministry. And yet, here I am, working full-time at a church. Despite my disobedience in this area of my life, I desired to honor them in any way possible.
Several of my friends have made similar decisions to go in a direction that their parents did not initially want them to go, whether into ministry or other fields, and they all have a similar framework as me: Honoring our parents is not limited to pursuing a career they want for us. Here are a couple of ways I think we can honor them when we find ourselves at a crossroads:
Be present. When you’re in disagreement with your parents on something as huge as what your future is going to look like, don’t become absent from their lives or withdraw into your own circles. Instead, choose to be present. Schedule visits with them, give them a phone call, take them out for a meal – show them you care for them regardless of the disagreement. Not honoring their desires for your future career shouldn’t prevent you from caring for them and being present in their lives.
Include them in your studies/career. Don’t let your career or degree choice be a wedge between your relationship with them, but have it be another bridge that connects you and them. Something I found to be fruitful in my relationship with my parents is that I sometimes treat them as “consultants” for certain decisions that pertain to my work. Does it mean I always have to follow their advice? Not necessarily. But at least it’s a win-win: You get an extra set of eyes on your work and your parents feel connected with you in your next stage of life.
4. Our degree/career choice is a Gospel opportunity
We see this type of conversation between a child and father on a much larger scale when in Scripture, Jesus prays, “Let this cup pass” to His Heavenly Father. Despite the difficulty in submitting to God the Father, we see that Christ pleaded desperately with His Father and still ended up making a decision to submit to the will of God and sacrifice His desire in that moment.
If our lives are to reflect that of Christ, submission to our parents as Christ submitted to God should be on our radar.
Though our parents are not the perfect authority as God is, I wonder if submitting to our parents in the toughest of decisions is an area where we can portray the Gospel to them and to those around us.
Our parents have made many sacrifices, and for us as Christ followers, making sacrifices of our own is not out of the question. If anything, with Christ being at the center of who we are, making sacrifices is part of our new DNA. At the intersection of honoring and obeying our parents in the midst of disagreement is Gospel-centered submission. It’s in that space where we can find our parents being honored and obeyed, ourselves finding contentment in the Gospel and not our career, and God being ultimately glorified.
Young W. Yi currently lives in East Lansing, MI with his wife, Hannah. He is the Venue Director and leads at Riverview Church - MSU Venue. Young enjoys trying new foods with his wife, playing volleyball, soccer, and is a breakdance instructor at All of The Above Hip-Hop Academy in Lansing, MI.