Honor your father and mother

July 10, 2014

The fifth commandment is about the flow of human relationships, and the home is the key to all relationships. God is commanding us to honor those in authority over us and to require the children in our lives to respect us. God loves us in this command by showing us how to live together in close family units, which will in turn affect every relationship outside our homes.

Show respect

Honor begins in our homes. Honor comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to be heavy” or “to give weight.” It involves taking someone seriously into account, offering profound respect and a place of importance. The opposite of honoring someone is trivializing him, treating him as if he didn’t matter.

Are we living with sensitivity within the range of relationships into which God has placed us? Are the children in our lives seeing us model respect for those in authority over us? If children learn respect in their homes, they will be able to respect other people in authority. We mistakenly believe that we give respect to those in positions of authority because they have earned it. But respect cannot be based solely on personal or professional qualifications. Respect is based on the position that God has given that person.

Think of David in 1 Samuel 26 where he spares Saul’s life yet again. David knew that God had appointed him as the next king over Israel. He also knew that Saul was out to murder him. Yet when David had the perfect opportunity and encouragement to kill Saul, what was his response? David submitted, even at the risk of losing his life, to the authority God had placed over him.

Your family has been established by God. You were placed into your family by him. Families were established by God to be those nearest and dearest to us. This Commandment is placed even before marital faithfulness because what child can respect his spouse if he never learned how respect is supposed to work within a home?

This Commandment does not say, “Honor your mother and father when they are good to you, when they are honorable.” All families struggle, but ignoring your family is not an option for a Christian! Nor does it say, “Honor your father and your mother until you have formed your own household.” We don’t honor our parents because they deserve it. We honor them because the nature of the gospel is that God gives us what we don’t deserve. We don’t do it for their sake—we do it for Jesus’ sake.

Think of Jesus. He created his parents! In Luke 2:50-52, Jesus is twelve years old. When he stayed at the temple in Jerusalem instead of sticking with his family, his parents didn’t understand him at all. They just didn’t get it. Yet he returned with them and “was submissive to them.” And he continued to honor his mother, even as he was dying (John 19:26-27).

This commandment is not teaching us how to have great families. It is teaching us how to be a great family member.

What are some ways we can honor our parents? Let there be a distinction in your mind between turning away from false advice, or even wicked ways, and turning away from your parents themselves.

Require respect

Not only must we model the fifth commandment. We must require it of our children. We must help them understand how respect for authority is the thread that governs our society and ultimately preserves our freedom. They need to see that this is from God.

Children must learn that respect is not a matter of preference—it is a mandate from their eternal Father! Honoring your parents in the early years is largely manifested through obedience. Why are children to obey their parents?

  1. Because parents stand in the place of God to their children, performing God-like functions (loving, providing, caring, protecting, etc.) as God’s special agents. When young children disobey their parents, they are rebelling against God. Disobedience to parents indicates a corrupt, out of control, anti-God spirit (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
  2. Because it pleases the Lord (Col. 3:20).
  3. Because it is for their best interest (Deut. 5:16: Eph. 6:3).

Children disobey for two reasons: Either we let them or the pain they have experienced from disobedience in the past is not enough of a deterrent to keep them from disobeying again. How can you best help your child to obey you?

God is lovingly at work in this commandment enriching relationships. He is sensitizing every one of us to the privilege of belonging to one another. When his grace is upon us we discover who we are, how we fit in, and the blessings begin to flow (Eph. 6:3).

This was originally posted at The Gospel Project.