Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother:
The importance of honouring those who feed you spiritually.
We all know we are to “honour God with our finances.” Whether or not we accept formal tithing, we recognise that it all belongs to Him, He has trusted us to manage it, and He expects us to plow it back into His Kingdom. How much? “… As [you] may prosper,” says Paul (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). (Tithing or not, 10% is almost universally viewed as a ‘giving’ benchmark.) Referring to the same “collection for the saints,” he goes on to expound on the joys and spiritual benefits of giving in 2 Cor. 9:5-15.
Normally, we fulfill this duty in the meeting of the church. Well and good, for that is giving to help meet the needs of others. Kingdom maintenance. (As often as not, church maintenance!)
But the Lord is intent on building His Kingdom, not just maintaining it: “He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints…, for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ, till we all… ” (Eph. 4:11-13). This is to grow us up from the present reality: “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro…” (vs. 14)
The writer of Hebrews says that we are to honour those who so give their lives to us, “for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” (Hebrews 13:17) In the previous verse he reminds us, “do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” But now we need to recognise that honouring our spiritual “fathers” with our finances goes beyond the sacrifice of giving – it is our spiritual responsibility. (Cf. Abraham and Melchizedek, Hebrews 7:1-2)
Referring to teaching elders, Paul says they especially are to be “counted worthy of double honour.., for the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The labourer is worthy of his wages.’” (1 Timothy 5:17-18; Luke 10:7 etc.) So, by “honour” Paul clearly means some degree of financial provision (cf. vs. 2. Verse 3 emphasizes the indebtedness of children to their parent.)
In 1 Cor. 9:7, Paul says: “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?” Then he brings it home with: “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?” (vs 11, 12)
He then elucidates the scriptural principal: “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the alter partake of the offerings of the alter? Even so, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”
But Paul never did (vs. 12, 15). When he writes his second letter to the Corinthian church, he ends up actually asking their forgiveness for “this wrong!” – the wrong of “humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel to you free of charge?” (2 Corinthians 12:13; 11:7)
I wonder if the Corinthian church ever took that to heart, and decided to honour their spiritual father, as they certainly should have, even though Paul refused to “charge” them. If not, they would have robbed themselves of present and future spiritual blessings and rewards (cf. Matt. 10:40-42), and remained in this, “inferior to other churches.” However, in reading these passages one gets a general impression of an immature, self-centred group with entitlement issues. But, like a good dad, Paul loved ’em anyway!
Identify and honour your spiritual ‘father’ consistently in all respects. By this you will also be honouring the Lord.
SDg Grace and peace to you, in Jesus Name. Bruce St Clair