Dying The Death
Robert Wurtz II
But he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:3–8 KJV)
Our passage describes one of the behaviors of people who draw near to God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him. They do a lot of talking or singing, but it is all empty words from God’s perspective. In fact, Jesus takes it another step and calls them hypocrites. Why? Because they travel the deadly path of king Saul of Israel—believing that “drawing near unto Him with their mouth, and honouring Him with their lips” is more acceptable than simple obedience to His clearly revealed word. Jesus said, “their heart is far from me.” Unlike king David, a man after God’s own heart; these people that Jesus called hypocrites did not share God’s heart in matters most important to Him. This is a very sobering thing to contemplate.
Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman once said that ” a man who cannot be faithful to his wife cannot be trusted anywhere. ” Truman had a profound sense of obligation to his family—beginning with his parents and extending to his wife and daughter. If a person is not faithful in these relationships—where can they be faithful?
Long before Truman coined his famous line that has no doubt dogged a few presidents since, Jesus revealed in Matthew 15:3-8 a highly instructive understanding of the will of God concerning treatment of family—particularly parents. It contains both a positive and a negative commandment from the Old Covenant. Honor thy father and mother is the positive commandment. Do not curse your father or mother is the negative commandment. Both of these contain a modifier related to the duration of a person’s physical existence. In other words, if you honor your parents God will add to your years; if you dishonor them you deserve the death penalty.
Sadly, many youth have grown up thinking it’s “cool” to disrespect and even curse their parents. This is the spirit of Antichrist running rampant in the land. In fact, as recently as August, 2014 radio.com published a list of “9 songs to hate your parents to.” They must have worked hard widdling down to 9 because that number wouldn’t even get you started in the Rock and Roll genre alone. However, from God’s perspective, a person who does not have the good sense to honor their parents doesn’t belong on the earth. He has another place reserved for them. From the punk rocker who wanted to “break his mamas back” to the white rapper who was “cleaning out his closet” — all they were really doing is digging their own graves.
Worse Than an Unbeliever
Contrary to certain opinions, disrespect of parents is an ancient phenomena; it didn’t begin with the rebellious youth culture of the 50s and 60s and beyond. In fact, during the ministry of Jesus a person could defraud their parents of necessary resources and call it “spiritual.” If a Jew declared their property (money, etc.) that should have went for the support of their mother and father to be “corban” they were sanctifying it to God (as it were) and didn’t have to give it to them. Grown children were doing this so they didn’t have to give their needy parents any assistance at all. How awful it is that they tried to be “spiritual” by giving it to the ministry! God didn’t want it. In fact, He detested it. Such hypocritical actions are abominable to Him. For a Christian to do such things they are clearly denying the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). These are the type of unloving—heartless people that Jesus had to address.
In order to shirk their responsibility to honor their parents, the religious teachers came up with a clever way of giving the parents honor to God instead. And just as there are unfaithful spouses, there are unfaithful children. That is to say, they take the love that belongs to the one and they give it to another. Truman said in effect that, “a man who cheats on his wife is capable of anything.” This witness is generally true. I would take it a step more and say that a person who does not honor their parents worse than that. Perhaps this is why God declared the death penalty for the crime of speaking evil (flagrant dishonor) and shortened life for passive dishonor?
I recall many years ago an elderly woman dying in the I.C.U at the local hospital. I arrived with a few brothers and sisters to be with the family. To our surprise, only one of several children had shown up, a son. His mother could die at any second her breathing and heart rate were so low. The son’s dear mother flat lined (died) while he was out for a smoke break. I’ll never forget the sound of his shoes striking the floor as he was running down the hospital hall.
When we held the memorial service, many in the family showed up in Gothic dress. Come to find out they were apparently involved in witchcraft and devil worship. It was the most awkward funeral I ever performed or attended. They were a godless motley looking crew, but I still preached Christ. Then suddenly it made sense to me. No wonder they none came to the hospital while she was dying. Many similar stories can be told of children telling medical staff to call them when their parent is dead and not until then.
This may be the behavior of infidels, but what about Christians? I use these horrific experiences as my context when I read Paul’s words, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8) You mean to tell me that for a Christian to dishonor his parents it is worse than being an infidel or atheist? That’s right. Jesus used the word “hypocrite” … perhaps they may be characterized as “hypochristians.” It’s bad for an infidel to mistreat parents; but for a Christian to do it stupefies the mind.
Accessories to the Crime
There are many ways a child (young or old) can fulfill the commandment to express honor to their parents (supposing the parents are still living). The trouble is, there are generally a host of demon inspired people around that will encourage the child not to do it or will act as accessories to their rebellion. The rabbis were “accessories” to these type of sins because they actually allowed the mere saying of this word “corban” by an unfaithful son to prevent the use of needed resources for the support of father or mother. “They not only justified such a son’s trickery, but held that he was prohibited from using it for father or mother, but he might use it for himself.” (A.T. Robertson) The rabbis signed off on the transgression, but God did not. In fact, God doesn’t rejects the resources, time, honor, that He has declared belongs to our parents. To go the next step and consume them upon our own lust is utterly detestable and despicable.
What do you suppose will be God’s attitude towards the rabbis who “enabled” these children to dishonor their parents? These were men who were called to be instructors of the foolish and teachers of babes, and yet they are contributing to the delinquency of sinners. If the epistle of James is any indicator they will endure a stricter judgment. They should have been encouraging the people to keep the commandment of God—not break it. In modern times there are people who would not dare speak evil of their own parents, but will encourage someone else to dishonor their own parents. Perhaps someone should ask; why would you encourage me to dishonor my parents when you won’t dishonor your own? Such persons are your enemy and not your friend. Anyone with sense will always encourage you to honor your parents.
Mean Mouthing Parents
The word for “cursing” parents does not mean “cussing” or “pronouncing a spell” as is often assumed. It simply means “to speak evil of them.” Although few people are afraid to do it in the 21st century, “Die the death” was the Old Covenant penalty for those who speak evil of their parents. Given the fact that Jesus repeated it we can argue that it is still God’s estimate of the behavior. In fact, the penalty is a perpetual expression of God’s estimate of mistreatment of parents. Simply put, God said that those who speak evil of their parents deserve to be put to death. The penalty should be regarded as God’s settled attitude towards those that would stoop to disrespect their parents.
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
It is interesting that Jesus connects cursing the parents with the use of “corban.” This is insightful. You don’t have to literally speak evil of the parent to be in violation of the precept; all you have to do is dishonor them by your actions. Notice there are no exceptions given. Some people think they can sidestep a precept if they have a valid excuse. But you will find none. God never gives a variance to those who would passively dishonor or even dare to speak evil of their parents. Nobody can vote to set aside this rule. God expects us to honor our parents so long as they live.