Parents who won’t let go

It is quite sad and disturbing to see or experience a situation where you are held to ransom by your own parent. Most of us have been raised by a single parent who had to work very hard to get us where we are. This is highly appreciated and commendable as most single parents these days, simply abandon their children.

The bad side of this situation is that some parents after having done all this, feel entitled to the income of their children and this entitlement is lifetime. They never let go, never appreciate and start to develop greed, selfishness and hate. This mostly develops when the child marries or is married. They see their child’s spouse as an enemy and as a stumbling block to their financial state. The poor wife or husband endures very bad situations. 

Not only is it quite a good thing in the eyes of God to take care of your parent(s), it also makes moral sense. However, when the parent’s sense of entitlement is so severe that the parent fails to see a difference between his/her own income and the income of his/her child and this entitlement affects their child’s marriage or life, it must stop. When the sense of entitlement turns the parent into a lying and scheming person who will do anything to ensure a steady flow of income from his/her child, even if it costs the child his/her marriage or life, it must stop. When this sense of entitlement causes the parent to live a lifestyle beyond his/her means simply because they know that when things are bad, their child will come to their rescue, which in turn puts the child in a poor financial state to an extent that, the child’s own family suffers as a result of this, it must stop.

Although it is understandable for a parent to expect financial and other support from their children, it must not turn parents into evil people who will do anything to keep the support going. Parents instead should appreciate and receive with love all that their children gives them. Children, be aware also that you are spiritually and morally required to take care of your own family. Do not neglect your own family at the expense of a parent who can only be described as evil personified, selfish, greedy, unappreciative, self centered and ungrateful.

What then does the bible say about this? How must the relationship between parents and children be like? Ok, let’s look at it.

First, what does the Old Testament say about this?

Exodus 20:12 (ESVST)
“ Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Leviticus 19:3 (ESVST)
Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths:I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 5:16 (ESVST)
“‘ Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (ESVST)
18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. ’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

The word “Honor” is a Hebrew word “kabad” which also means to glorify. The word “revere” is also a Hebrew word “yare” which means to fear. I use Hebrew because the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. Now the normal dictionary definition of the word honor and the revere, means to show utmost obedience and respect.

3 things are raised by the verses I have chosen above. The action, benefit and punishment.

1) The action
Children are to completely respect and obey their father and mother. 

2) The benefit
When children respect their father and mother, their days will be long in this world.

3) The punishment
When children don’t respect their father and mother, they are to be put to death.

This is simply what the Old Testament is saying, respect your parents, live longer or don’t and die.

Secondly, what does the New Testament say about this?

Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESVST)
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “ Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “ that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Colossians 3:20 (ESVST)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
1) The action
As you can see from the verses above, the action is still to obey your parents (father and mother). 

2) The benefit
The benefit is that it will go well with you, you will live long. So in the New Testament, the benefit is still to live long but there is an additional benefit, it will also go well with you. There is also another dimension added to this, the action of obeying parents pleases The Lord. 

3) The punishment
Not surprising that punishment is not mentioned in the New Testament, why? Because we are no longer under the old covenant of law and punishment but rather under a new covenant of grace and forgiveness. 

Unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament places certain obligation on parents towards their children.

Ephesians 6:4 (ESVST)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 (ESVST)
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
2 Corinthians 12:14 (AMP)
Now for the third time I am ready to come to [visit] you. And I will not burden you [financially], for it is not your [money] that I want but you; for children are not duty bound to lay up store for their parents, but parents for their children.

1) The action
– parents must not provoke their children to anger
– parents must not depend on children for money. 
Wether this only meant that parents must not depend on children only when they are young is not clear. Even if it meant that, at what age does a child stop being young?
– parents must bring children up in discipline and instruction of The Lord. 

2) The benefit 
Children will not be discouraged. The background of this is that, most ancient fathers and educators at the time,beat their children as a matter of course; like a minority of ancient moralists, Paul advocates a more gentle approach to child rearing.

3) The punishment
Not surprising that punishment is not mentioned in the New Testament, why? Because we are no longer under the old covenant of law and punishment but rather under a new covenant of grace and forgiveness

However, there is ones slight variation to this. This comes when a parent becomes a widow. Now the bible defines a widow only as feminine. It does not include the father. So when the mother becomes a widow, it means:
1 Timothy 5:5 (ESVST)
She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day,
1 Timothy 5:9-10 (ESVST)
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works:if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

This is a definition of a widow in the bible. For a person to be declared a widow by the church, these conditions must be met:
– She must be left all alone
– She must not be less than 60yrs of age
– She must have been a wife of one husband
– She must have a reputation for good works
– She must have brought up children
– She must have shown hospitality
– She must have washed the feet of the saints
– She must have cared for the afflicted meaning those in trouble or need
– She must have devoted herself to every good work. 

So what then about a widow. 
1 Timothy 5:4 (ESVST)
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
1 Timothy 5:8 (ESVST)
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 unbeliever.

1) The action
Children must make some return to their parents. This simply means that children must take care of their mother if they are a widow. The word “parents” in this context and from the Greek dictionary, only refers to a mother. It is important to note here that the verse we are referring to above also says that the children must first take care of their household and then their mother who is widowed. Children cannot and should not neglect their own families and take care of their mother. Mothers should also not put children in a position where they have to make a choice. Remember this
Genesis 2:24 (ESVST)
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Therefore mothers need to let go. The wife or the husband is your child’s first priority, not you.

2) The benefit
If children take care of their mothers who are widows, it is pleasing to God

3) The punishment
What the bible say is that, if you don’t take care of your relatives, especially members of your household, you have denied the faith and you are worse than an unbeliever. Now the word “especially” simply means that members of your household takes first priority then relatives. Example, if you have hundred rand to spend. You don’t share it between your wife/ husband and your mother or relatives. What you do is you address first the needs of your family, that is your wife/ husband and children and, if there is anything left, then you can take care of everyone else. If you neglect your own family and take care of relatives, you are denying the faith. If you take care of your family and there is nothing leftover for you relatives, you are not denying the faith. 

In summary:
I could not find a place in the word of God where God places an obligation on children to take care of their father and or mother financially except for when the mother and only the mother is a widow. However, if you love your parents, you will want to take care of them anyway. You must support your parents freely and cheerfully and under no obligation. Parents must also not unnecessarily depend on their children financially and must accept with love, all that their children give them. Parents must not expect and demand financial support but, when being given, they must appreciate and be greatful. Children to respect and obey parents, Parents not to provoke their children to anger. If I were to add my own interpretation here, I would say that this simply means “susu ilela suswana, gore suswana e tle e go ilele”, a Setswana saying meaning adults respect children so that children can respect you. 
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