Inferior’s Love and Devotion to Superiors at Home, Church, and in the State
Our catechism questions for today are going to start at the bottom and work their way up. As we have noted before the language here may be somewhat uncomfortable for us. This is because we live in an egalitarian age and the WLC was written in a more biblical time. Part of the tenor of the fifth commandment is that there is hierarchy, and that it is good. Everyone can’t be the same, and if society (including the Church) is to be rightly ordered than it is important that all men and women understand and know their role. A well-oiled and fabricated machine will run forever if this cog and that cog stay where they are supposed to. The second a flywheel decides it would be a better fit as a cylinder then your steam engine is going to go kablooie.
God has formed each human with dignity, respect, and purpose. Christians do not base their love and care for individuals upon fleshly categories of large or insignificant, or utilitarian ideas of what can this person do for me. All people great and small are made in His image and deserve the same benevolent passion regardless of where they might fit in His kingdom. That being said one of the sins mentioned below that it would be good for us to consider as we read the questions and answers for today is the transgression of “. . .envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against, [a superior’s] persons and places. . .”. Humility, thanksgiving, and contentment are the marks of a committed believer in Jesus Christ and they more so than in maybe any other context come into play when it is time be gracious in obedience to God’s design for us in this life, so that we might be ready and able to enjoy the plan He has for us in the life to come. We’re to be who God made us.
As we meditate on that let’s go to the Q/A’s:
Q. 127. What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behaviour; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defence, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.
Q. 128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against, their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking, and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.
Twitter, or X, or whatever we are supposed to call it these days is rife in Reformed circles with fears about Patriarchialists and their dastardly deeds. I’ve noted before in this series that the Fifth Commandment is unreservedly Patriarchal in it’s understanding of the family and society in general. Men are to be the heads of households, shepherd the church in leadership, and to ordinarily lead in civil affairs as well. God has made men and women to be different. No amount of Feminist rage will change what the plain teaching of Scripture declares. However, as we will get into next week as we look at the superior’s responsibility for and to inferiors, heavy is the head that wears the crown. The failure of men to lead is not the result of what the Bible calls them to do, but is endemic of their sin, but more on that later.
Inferiors can refer to wives, children, subjects/citizens, employees, servants, and/or players on a team. Men and women can both be inferiors depending on the situation. Each in their own way they speak of someone who is in the position of inferiority to someone else. As has been made clear in the past that is not necessarily always the case for an individual. A mother is a superior to her children and the children are to obey and faithfully support her in her “office”, as is their duty. It is sin for young Johnny to sass his mom. As an aside I have yet to understand how, or why, sass became an activity/attitude to be praised in an individual. By definition it is disrespectful of authority. It should not be a positive attribute to be rude to those in positions of superiority, which is why that is especially mentioned in Q.128 as something of a refractory and scandalous carriage. A sin.
Why would that be a transgression of the commandment?
Because part of the purpose of the honoring of father and mother is to build up within the soul and person of the inferior a way of being that exhibits similar traits of support and desire to assist the peaceful ruling of the superior, whether that be son to father, or creature to their Creator. It is often noted that you can tell a lot about a man by how he treats his mother. Contempt and insolence to mom almost always pours itself out in how he will take care of his wife, children, and predicts the kind of relationship the punk has with the Lord Himself.
Part of the wisdom of the Fifth commandment is ensuring that as the son learns to give praise and honor to his mother, he would absorb sympathetic love from her witness of piety and grace towards her superiors and through that would learn much towards how he is to care and provide for those God might one day grant him to serve in leadership both in the home and in the church. We teach so much by our own example, particularly when we seemingly gain nothing from the transaction. The soft word turns away wrath.
In closing we have barely scratched the surface when it come to the sins of inferiors to superiors, but at the end of the day the reasons why we must be watchful of this breaking of God’s law has to do with not only making our lives easier. It also includes encouraging the superior to honor his responsibilities by seeking to provide a mutually beneficial relationship which is filled both ways with love, honor, and gratitude.
Here’s another word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church