Philippians 2:3–8 stresses becoming a kind of person who is oriented on what others need, not just on our private desires. This is the great issue of life. Would we be selfish or would we be servants? The beautiful life, the Christ-honoring, Christlike life, is the life of serving others — not ignoring others or using others while we just go about our self-satisfied way. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others” — Now, that would include parents — “more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4). That includes aging parents.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:5–7). He stoops from being the King of the universe to being a Servant, being born in the likeness of men, being found in human form. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.
That is one of the most convicting, one of the most beautiful, one of the most transforming texts in the Bible. The great mark of the Christian, Paul says to the adult Christian child, is that they look not just to their interests in midlife as their careers reach their capstone. They look towards the interests of others, including aging parents. They count others, like their parents, as more significant than themselves. They don’t sit atop some pinnacle of privilege, but like Jesus, they come down to where the need is and serve even on to death. There’s a basic principle and a call in it.
Now, Jesus linked that love command with parents by putting them side by side in Matthew 19:19. He said, “Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” One way of honoring your parents is to love them as you love yourself.
One of the most beautiful examples of this is John 19:26. Despite Jesus’s unspeakable sufferings on the cross, He did exactly what Paul said; namely, He looked not to His own interests or His own pain. He looked to His mother’s. He was the eldest son of Mary. Joseph, evidently, was gone now. Custom would dictate that the firstborn takes special responsibility for his mom in her old age. He looks down from the cross and says to His mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and then He said to His disciple, “Behold your mother.” And “from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26–27).
Are we ready to make sacrifices for our parents? Or are we resentful that they are becoming a burden? That’s the real test. All of this may or may not mean that the parents come to live with us or near us. There are innumerable variables that make one situation right for one family and another situation right for another. The main issue for the Christian child of aging parents is not the precise circumstances. The main issue is, are we servants or are we selfish? Are we ready to sacrifice and trust God with the joy to meet every need? (JOHN PIPER)