Piety at Home

Our Christian faith and the Christian principles which proceed from that faith are to be lived out in our relationships. We are to love God and love our neighbor. The one must precede the other. If we love God, we are equipped to love our neighbor, and our family members are our nearest neighbors. So our piety must begin at home. It is sometimes easier to love those people with whom we have little contact. We can wave quite cheerfully out the car window at our grumpy neighbor. But loving our child or husband or parent who is grumpy is another matter.

1 Timothy 5:4 tells us that if anyone has a mother or grandmother who is a widow, they should “first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” We often look for “ministry” that is far away, across the world, or helping people we do not know. And, of course, there is a place for such ministry in the church. But this passage tells us that we ought to keep our priorities straight. Before we start trying to export our piety, we had better have a goodly stock of it in our own homes. Show your piety at home. How? By taking care of your aging mother or grandmother. But that may require around-the-clock care, patience, sacrifice, diligence, time, effort, and money. Exactly. It may not be glamorous or exciting. It may rule out your other plans. But God says this is what we are to “first learn” before we seek to show our piety in other places.

Taking care of your aging parents, particularly your mother and grandmother, is what Paul calls repaying your parents, and he singles this action out as “good and acceptable before God.” Want to know how to please God? Take care of your aging mom. And Paul has this to say to those who don’t: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (vs. 8). This is serious stuff.

Are you wondering how to exercise charity, piety? Are you wondering what you should be doing? Here is the obvious place to start. I know that the widow herself can be uncooperative. But God can overcome obstacles by means of His grace. We ought to all be preparing for the time when we can repay our parents and provide a home for them. Then we can “learn” to show piety at home.

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19 thoughts on “Piety at Home

  1. The Lord has spoken to me many times through your blog, but especially through this post. My husband and I are preparing to move 12,000 miles back to the US to care better for our widowed mothers. It’s a complicated relocation after 20 years overseas, but in this verse the Lord keeps the focus real simple for us. Obedience provides its own encouragement and real or imagined obstacles seem to just fall away.

  2. What to do if the widowed parents stubbornly don’t *want* to be cared for and would prefer to live on their own, either in their own home or some retirement village, despite it probably being better for them in their children’s home?

  3. Franci,
    Part of honoring your parents is to defer to them and their wishes as long as possible. And caring may include other things besides sharing your home with them. So look for other creative ways to help, financially and otherwise.

  4. Franci, offer to take her to lunch and don’t discuss anything unpleasant. Make sure it is a restaurant that she likes. It always works on my mother.

  5. Both of my parents are still well and strong… and likely in better physical condition than I am myself, lol. But the time will come, and probably sooner than I can imagine, when they will be in need fo my help. Like Franci’s mom, my parents are adamant about not wanting “help.” My father has even said that he’d rather die in a fire in his own home, than have to move out… My mother has said that she would rather be put in a nursing home than come to live with any of us kids. Yipes! We actually have very close and loving relationships, bit my parents value strength and independence in the extreme. I think it is very threatening to them to think of a time when they may be dependent on others.. even loved ones. I dread the time when they will be, as I want to continue to give them respect and deference no matter what their mental and physical state may be. It will be a balancing act that is for sure!

  6. It IS definitely a balancing act. I am in the throes of this right now. My Father is 89 and had been still driving. Some wanted to call the eye Doctor to MAKE SURE he failed his eye test. This was so deceptive and not honoring to me. I am standing up for his honor and dignity. I told the person that I, in no uncertain terms, would ever do that. If he passed, he passed……he did…..and he came to me to tell me that HE decided not to drive anymore and handed me his keys. I had predetermined to honor him and prayed that HE would make the right decision. He did. He was an air force pilot in WWII and has ALWAYS been fiercely independent. We have had discussions about where he would go if he had to leave his home. I have told him he would ALWAYS be welcome with us. This too, will be HIS decision when the time comes unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Love, enjoy and PRAY for our ageing parents. They DESERVE our honor.

  7. Cheryl.. thanks for sharing that story about your father… so very encouraging and helpful! When I talk about honoring my parents’ very strong feelings to continue their independence for as long as possible- maybe even longer than is really practical- people kind of dismiss my thoughts as unrealistic, or un-something else, lol. Even my sister feels that they will have to swallow their pride and accept help as they get older. I do understand that that might be true. But I think it’s sooo important to remember that this is *their* life. I am determined to do all in my power to make their possibly difficult older years as fulfilling for *them* as I can. Thanks for showing us a real lif example of how this can be played out ☺

  8. I would like to say a little word to those of you with independent parents.
    Their independence is, for many of our parents, what keeps them strong.
    We should treasure that quality in them.
    My mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law all are rigidly independent. I am learning about them, as their needs are increasing exponentially, that their greatest fear is the loss of their dignity. They see their dignity being chipped away by the medical system and in the way they are treated by the younger crowd who is “in charge”….
    The sweetest ministry to our parents is to preserve that dignity and protect it for them in ways they can see.
    Then they will accept our help more willingly.
    I’m sorry, I believe I just high-jacked this blog.

  9. Oh, oops, I didn’t mean to imply that it was MY parents! They are both still healthy and strong (and alive!) and living quite happily in their own home! I just know that there are quite a number of widows/widowers that simply do not want to live with their children and was wondering how you’d deal with that in the best way.

    :-)

  10. Nancy, how do you deal with a widowed mother-in-law who has unrealsitic expectations for us and is critical and easily angered when her expectations are not met? She’s even called left threatening messages to end her life because we had been out when she called. She assumed we were purposefully not answering her call, which was absurd. And, by the way, I have a 3 year old and an 8 week old and we live in a 3 bed/1 bath home and she wants to come live with us. Not b/c she needs to physically, but because she says God was wrong to take her husband so early and she is alone in this world. HELP! I do want to honor her, but her idea of being honored is for us to fulfill her every emotional need. Consequently I find myself distancing from her and letting my husband do all the dealing….

  11. Sarah,
    You are exactly right to let your husband do all the dealing. That is what you are supposed to do. Continue to follow his lead.
    Meanwhile, honoring our parents does not mean obeying them the way we did when we were children. Sometimes it means not giving them what they demand. For example, if your widowed mother demanded a bottle of wine every morning, you would not give it to her, and that would be honoring her even though you were disobeying her.

  12. Sometimes honoring your parents means not walking away from difficult decisions and family situations – like going to court to be appointed guardian when a parent has dementia.

  13. Is there anything we can do about adult parents who really don’t want to spend time with us? I come from an outwardly pretty sturdy but inwardly very dysfunctional family, and there came a moment where I realized that I could never please my parents and it was either leave or die trying (this was shortly before college graduation, and I always lived at home prior to that decision). In the years following I’ve experienced a lot of healing that I would like to share with my parents -particularly my mom. Is there anything I can do when they (especially Mom) really don’t want to have anything to do with me?

  14. During a truly difficult time with extended family I was listening to a series by you (Nancy)–I think it was The Pleasant Home. I had been letting my husband handle the various crises, but was beginning to feel that maybe I was being too chicken. You addressed that issue on the CD, I believe putting it as “it’s his job to protect you, so let him do it . . .” It was nothing short of providential!

    I continued to keep my mouth shut and because I let him handle things, when stuff got worse, our children in particular were saved from a lot of turmoil. Boundaries are in place, there is respect, and there is even peace. I was too wrapped up in the emotions of it all, and am so glad I continued in obedience to let my husband lead.

    Hope my testimony brings someone some encouragement! :)

  15. Last week the Lord was opening our eyes to some things in our family, and then Friday morning I read this and meditated on it over the weekend as we drove out to Southern California to go visit our daughter…. I believe this has many many applications and not just for parents or in-laws. “… our piety must begin at home” and therefore therein lies our primary responsibility. Paul is clear, we don’t get to chase after our dreams and desires (even if they are good and godly) we must fulfill all responsibility before the Lord. Not preaching to anyone here, just myself, thought I’d share.

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