Wednesday, November 26, 2014

God Warns Us Against “Cursing” our Parents -- Exodus 21:17

“And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”
 
On the list of actions for which God called for ‘capital punishment’, we come to the “cursing of one’s mother or father” in verse 17.  We remember that “striking one’s parents” was, according to verse 15, also part of this list.  After that, in verse 16, came the law on kidnapping in general (also punishable by ‘death’).  I find it interesting though that the two verses concerning how children treat their parents are interrupted with the reference to kidnapping.  I do not have a good explanation for that.
According to David Guzik, punishing the cursing of one’s father or mother by death preserves a critical foundation for civilized society, namely respect between generations by discouraging conflict between them.  God knew that as people age they are more at the mercy of the young, especially their own children who supposedly become responsible for them.  Thus He cannot stand to see open warfare between them, as that would harm society and ultimately possibly destroy it.
Today, as nation after nation, deals with modernizing its laws on euthanasia, which in essence is a legal means of the younger in the world facilitating the killing of those who are old, we seem, despite God’s laws, to be inching more and more towards civilization’s end.
Matthew Henry gives us some insight into the prohibition on cursing one’s parents.  He suggests it has more to do with “profaning any name of God” in a child’s expression of their ill feelings or anger towards their parents.  He also suggests that the “undutiful behavior” of children towards their parents provokes God greatly and if it is not punished by society, it will be dealt with by God Himself.  Henry warns sons and daughters against any such thoughts, feelings, or actions towards their parents, for as he says, “God searches the heart”.
So what does it all mean for us?  As I look back at the life of my own parents (my mom died when I was 35 and my dad when I was 59), I realize know how much of a gift they were to me from God.  I do not know what I would have been like without their direct and indirect influence.  I do not know what kind of husband or father or grandfather I would have been if it were not for how they shaped me.  I do not know how I would have handled the challenges and difficulties of life without following their instruction to rely on God Almighty.  It is possible that much of the good that I may have done towards another person would not have had the chance of ever happening had it not been for my parents and their role models in my life.
And as tough as one or both of our parents might have been towards us, the Bible simply asks us not “to curse them”.  That does not mean we condone or accept what they have done or are doing as parents, especially where they have or are causing harm to themselves, us, our family, or to others. But it does mean we do not wish them harm or death.
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