It is no secret that the level of respect that children have for adults is generally quite low these days. It does not really need to surprise us, for Paul prophesied in II Timothy 3:2, as part of a list of several sins of the last days, that “men shall be lovers of their own selves…proud…disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy….” He repeats to the Romans a very similar statement in Romans 1:30.
While we need not be surprised, though, we have every good reason to be disturbed. This dishonorable way of thinking of and acting toward our parents and other elders is sin, plain and simple. The Fifth Commandment promises “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)
Breaking the commandment forfeits the promise.
As a child, I recall my grandma trying to teach us children to respond to our parents with “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am”–not “Yeah” and “uh-uh”. It seemed a little weird to me. I could handle using real words and opening my mouth when I talked; but adding “sir” and “ma’am” to someone as familiar as my own parents just felt odd.
My grandma leads by example. She even often addresses the children with “Sir” and “Ma’am” (although this is not technically correct usage); but as the only times my parents ever expected us to address them that way was in anger or exasperation, it never really stuck with me.
I know I am not alone. Our family has a good friend who used to spend a lot of time with us. He habitually responded with respectful terms of address to virtually everybody. One time, he and my husband were in the auto parts store together, and the cashier asked a simple question. Our friend replied respectfully, “No, sir”, which immediately angered the cashier.
When did it become rude to be respectful!
I searched the internet to see if I could get an idea of what some other people had to say on this subject and came across a great discussion on Stack Exchange. I recommend reading it.
One thing I found that most people agreed on is that what is considered appropriate largely depends on where you are from. In the South, for example, people consider manners very important. In the West, a relaxed atmosphere is highly valued. Hence the conflict when a family (like my grandma’s) from Mississippi moves out west to California.
So what do we do in Vacation Bible School? The exact interpretation of what respect means will vary between people and locations. One thing is for sure, though: we, as friends and teachers of the children, are in a great place to help children see the importance of respecting our elders. We have a unique opportunity at Vacation Bible School to show that having the love of Jesus in our hearts will shine out in many ways–including honor to our parents and the other adults in our life.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for How Should Children Address Adults at VBS?
***Hasten Home is excited to announce the release of a new, original set of Vacation Bible School materials. It talks of God’s law, the Ten Commandments, and teaches the children the awesome truth that God wants to give us both the heart and the power to obey. You may purchase VBS–The Land of Milk & Honey from our store, or if you have questions, just send me a note using our Contact page.***