The Wooden Bowl
I read a powerful story recently and thought I'd share it with you today along with some applications.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year - old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his steps faltered. The family ate together at the table. But, the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he lifted his glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law soon became irritated with the messes. "We must do something about father," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor." So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, the old man ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in his direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Daddy, I am making a little bowl for you and Mommy to eat your food in when I grow up." The four-year-old smiled innocently and went back to work. The words struck the parents so strongly that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Although no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And, for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Dear friends, it was no accident that the Ten Commandments contained a divine law pertaining to the treatment of one's parents (cf. Exo. 20:12). Jesus reiterated this truth when He declared - "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death'" (Matt. 15:4).

It is important to honor one's parents to the best of his ability at every stage of life. A child honors his parents by doing as he is instructed. An adult honors his parents by treating them respectfully, even after he establishes his own household. If the health of one's parents deteriorates, he is responsible for their care and provisions. "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" (I Tim. 5:8).

The story shared above exposes a very real problem in the world today. It is not a new problem, having existed in Jesus' day and before (cf. Matt. 15:5,6). The sin of selfishness manifests itself in families in numerous ways. Sometimes it shows itself via an abortion that a young unwed girl pursues because she doesn't want to be a mother yet. Selfishness is seen in the lives of busy adults who work themselves to death to the neglect of their children. It is seen when adults place their parents in nursing homes when they are fully capable of taking care of them, all because they are unwilling to sacrifice their lifestyle. Yes, selfishness shows up in so many places and in various ways. And, whether we realize it or not, the children are watching and learning to become like us.

What are your children learning from you? Are they learning how to love and respect one's parents? Are they being taught the ways of compassion and tenderness? Or, are you teaching them how to be inconsiderate and consumed with self? Sometimes we might be surprised--and grieved--as to what we are teaching. May we be guided by the Golden Rule in every aspect of our lives (cf. Matt. 7:12)--and be gracious. "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).