By Whose Authority?
The Everliving One is the Sovereign who gave a command about honouring your mother. He is the Lord God who sets the standard of right and wrong, and established the family relationship. When the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob cried out to God, the I AM, he delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Then he rehearsed with them those standards of conduct that he promised would bring liberty to those who followed them faithfully. Honouring your mother was one of those fundamental principles in God’s law of liberty.
Jesus Christ, the I AM, confirmed the importance of keeping the commandments and following in his footsteps. For it is in the keeping of his commands, and walking with him, that our love is perfected. Honouring your mother meant that you would respect, obey, and care for her welfare. Jesus set the example. While on the cross and in great pain, he was able to care for and meet the needs of his mother who had depended on his support. In this society the families of condemned criminals lost everything, so Jesus gave John the responsibility of providing for his mother, as if she were his own.
The Church Family
This was in keeping with the churches’ understanding that they were family. Paul made it clear that it was the responsibility of brethren to care for widows – the mothers in the congregation who had no support. And in similar fashion these women would ‘mother’ the brethren. This is why in writing to the church in Rome, Paul made a special mention of Rufus’ mother, who had also been a ‘mother’ to Paul, ministering to his needs. Paul acknowledged the vital role that Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, had played in teaching Timothy God’s way of life. These faithful women had been able to transmit their sincere trust in God and the authority of scripture to Timothy.
God Chose Deborah
God does not limit the role of women to their vital work within the family. Though that is their realm of greatest potential in nurturing a new generation. Sometimes women are called by God to assume other roles in society. Deborah was called to be both a prophetess, as well as a judge or civil ruler, for her people in a time of great oppression. Jabin of Hazor and his armies under the lead of Sisera had dominated the northern tribes of Israel for 20 years. With an army of 900 chariots they had ruled over the Israelites. Yet there came a time when God heard the prayers of his people and began to intervene. He told Deborah his plan to overthrow the invaders, and she called Barak to rally the people to fight. And at Barak’s insistence Deborah accompanied the warriors into the arena of battle. She understood her role, and fulfilled it faithfully as a servant of the God who had called her to this responsibility of leadership.
Avoid the Two Ditches
There are many religious people today who fall into the ditch of feminist thinking and ignore Paul’s instruction that women were not to assume the role of elders leading the church. Similarly, in ancient Israel, it was only men who were given the role of priests, and levites. Though there were prophetesses in ancient Israel, the nation was told not to adopt the religious practice of their polytheistic neighbours. So there were never any priestesses in Israel.
However, there are those in the opposite philosophical ditch who think of all women as inferior and subservient to all men. This is another falsehood . According to scripture, Paul valued the work of women in the congregations, as fellow-servants both teaching and encouraging other brethren. Though they were not in the official capacity of apostle, or elder, they had important responsibilities in the church community. The Lord God established the way in which he wanted worship services to be administered. He still has the authority to expect us to follow the example he set, that was preserved in scripture for our benefit. And it is foolish for women to covet the positions God set aside for men, when a woman’s work in a congregation is greatly valued by God.
The Virtuous Woman
Of course the most concise synopsis of God’s instructions about mothers is found in the Proverbs. This picture of the virtuous woman, the eshet hayil, is something that all women, mothers or not, can consider for inspiration.
God has called women to fulfill a vital role in family and community. And the mothers who fulfill their function are worthy of honour. The Lord created the role of wife, mother, and community helper to encourage every daughter to take up this challenge. The Proverb extols the virtues of the godly woman: faith, goodness, industriousness, productivity, resourcefulness, foresight, compassion, strength, dignity, and wisdom. She is an able teacher, and an excellent provider in the family and the community. But most importantly she ‘fears the Lord’ looking to him for the wisdom she needs to fulfill her many roles.
From the very beginning the Lord God created men and women to compliment one another and support one another. Life together was a cooperative venture of differing roles executed with mutual honour and respect. Eventually the Creator’s plan was for man and woman to become heirs together of eternal life. This was the Lord God’s vision, and his laws protecting the family were created to benefit men and women. So when God tells his people that honouring your mother is something that he wants every child to remember, we need to listen and obey.
Marriage Series: Learn more about Marriage and Family