Exodus 20:12, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
Charity is not the only thing that begins at home, but also thoughtfulness, truthfulness, honesty, uprightness, good citizenship and respect for authority all begin in the home. Lawlessness often begins in the home because there one can learn to disrespect authority as well as learn to respect it. If the world is ever going to be a better place there first must be better homes. The lessons regarding the home from the Word of God must be learned and practiced. So much of the degenerate behavior seen in our world can be attributed to the collapse of the home and its falling away from being what God ordained it should be.
The welfare and salvation of society rests in the family and the reconstruction of family virtues and values, parental authority and responsibility, and the obedience of children to their parents. There is much disrespect toward the older on the part of the younger, and much of this is because of the disrespectful way many who are older have conducted their lives, treated their mates and their children.
The family is the nucleus and spring of society. There can be no spiritually and morally sound nation unless such is characteristic of the home. It is also true that there can be no sound church unless there is soundness in the home because the influence of the home, generally speaking, is greater than that of the church. The home often determines the direction of the church rather than the other way around. The state and the church are both ordained of God, as is the family. The home was instituted in Eden’s purity and sinlessness and is the oldest of God’s institutions. The home heavily influences both state and church, even though influences go both ways.
A God-given Provision
The fifth commandment, learned, believed and obeyed is one of the surest safeguards, and is a near guarantee for correct and righteous human behavior. It gives the blueprint for the reign of law and order. It makes possible a life of peace, security and happiness. It will provide, especially for the young, that solid foundation upon which life can be built and lived as God would have it. When children obey their parents they learn to obey those in charge of schools, government officials, employers, and all others with whom they will have to deal in life. While children obey parents they are doing more than learning the right ways and obeying parents. They are obeying a distinct command and expectation of God. All just authority echoes the voice of God. Our holy obligation as children of God is to obey God. The child’s holy obligation to parents bears the imprint of the God-man relationship.
By Example and Decree
Christ set the example for honoring parents. Luke 2:51, He went down to Nazareth and “he was subject unto them.” His first miracle was undertaken at the request of His mother. As He died on the cross He remarked, “Woman behold thy son,” and to another (probably John) He said, “Behold thy mother.” In this fashion, even as His life was going from Him, He showed care and concern for His mother and instigated the means for her continued provisions in this life.
This fifth commandment is bound upon the Christian by apostolic authority. Ephesians 6:1-4, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; [which is the first commandment with promise] that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The obligation children have to parents is not a one-way street. Parents have obligations to their children. There is no law of God that says children must obey their parents in doing that which is wicked. Many parents are not respected because they are not respectable. To be honored one must strive to be honorable. Parents must in some measure earn and deserve respect as well as demand it. Parents earn it and children learn it. It is futile to expect children to respect parental authority when the same parents do not have respect for divine authority.
Paul’s comment on this commandment was, “For this is right.” It will ever be right to honor and obey parental authority. Parents who have served God and their offspring with patience, devotion, sacrifice, self-denial (even of necessities), provided the physical and medical care for their children, prayed for them without ceasing, toiled without intermission, hoped through good times and bad, lavished their children with genuine love akin to the love God has for His children, such parents (and there be many of this quality) are entitled to the highest place of living honor, second only to the honor we offer unto Deity. To fail to obey and honor such parents is to sin against God by defying His commandment.
Parents who are indeed worthy of honor may reap life’s richest rewards, but the unworthy parent who has set a sordid example before his or her young can well expect to reap as they have sown, also. Many “parents” are deserting their own flesh and blood, abusing their own children, even maiming and killing them, casting them off as if they were nothing. Many deprive them of the barest needs because of parental degeneracy like drunkenness, being a “social butterfly” and the seeker of fame and fortune of their own careers, flitting hither and yon, attending to everything their own selfishness demands at the overwhelming cost of leaving the care and upbringing of their children to some other. No less are the sins of the irreligious, profane, worldly, godless and indifferent parents who take no thought for the spiritual welfare of their children, but who may, at the same moment of spiritual neglect, lavish material abundance upon them. What a vast horde of unworthy parents are marching across the scene of history in our time and we are seeing daily the disastrous results of such conduct in the lives of people of every age.
Extension of Honor
What many seemingly have never learned or forgotten is that duty to parents does not end with childhood days at home and under parental supervision. Christ rebuked some adults who dishonored their parents when their parents were dependent on them (Matthew 15:1-9). They were giving to God but neglecting the care and provision of their parents which was also commanded by God. Christ condemned such inconsistency and accused them of making God’s Word null and void and displacing the commandments of God to conform to their own traditions. They committed the mistake of making secondary duty a priority over a primary one.
Providing the necessary care of parents in their old age, when they are sick, when they can no longer provide for themselves, is as much a duty God has given children as for children to obey parents when the children are young. There may not be found some ideal way to provide the special care some parents may need. Being aged and sick is something far less than an ideal existence. None who have ever been involved in providing such care would suggest that it is always easily done. But whatever else may be said on the subject does not displace the duty that children have toward parents, and it should be considered a privilege to care for those who once cared for you. One of life’s tragedies is to witness a neglected and ignored father or mother whose life is almost spent, whose children seem to lack even natural affection one would expect. So many children, although adults, are so concerned for only their own ways, their own ambitions and their own selfishness that they neglect parents.
Continuing After Death
Honoring parents need not end with death, but only with the death of the child. Holding parents in honor in precious memory is to continue to honor father and mother. How sweet and reassuring, comforting and strengthening it is to recall the days of youth when the hands of father and mother were tending to our needs and guiding our hearts, showing us by word and deed the way we should go. When parents have crossed Jordan, those who have been so blessed to have had godly parents will come to appreciate more and more what benefits they received from their parents.
Errors Regarding Parents
There are some things that ought not be done that some confuse as giving honor to parents. In some societies there is a strong ancestor worship. Only God is to be worshipped. Civilizations that have engaged in ancestor worship have distorted their relationship to their parents and to God. Placing the will of parents before the will of God is to again get priorities confused. There are some who may never become Christians, children of God, because their parents were not Christians. Some hold the church back in its mission because their parents used to do things differently. To be sure, when our parents followed the truth, and we follow the truth, we walk the same paths, but only because we both are following God. But with the changing of situation and conditions that are inevitable along the way of life, there may be various means of doing the same work that God wants done. We should not be so wedded to such things as once devised by our foreparents that we do not utilize more efficient and productive means of accomplishing the goal. This would be an improper attitude toward parents. At the same time, tried and proven means and methods should not be cast away hurriedly simply for the sake of doing things differently. We dare not fall into the deceptive manner that things new are always best. To have the attitude that some display to always do things differently may reflect we are more concerned with what is new than with what is true.
Neither does this fifth commandment include the adoration of self-appointed ecclesiastical leaders who call themselves “father” and claim a spiritual parenthood over others. Jesus said, Matthew 23:9, “Call no man you father on the earth, for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven.” This does not forbid calling our male parent by the term “father” because the Holy Spirit uses the term in that sense many times in Scripture. This does forbid using the term with reference to a spiritual title or distinction, looking to such as one elevated in rank as if he was the go-between of God and man. Romanism, as well as other religions, has grossly violated this teaching of Christ through the years. The practice is wrong and should be discontinued.
The Best Way
What is the true way to honor parents? To live a godly and decent life before all men as God’s child is a crown of everlasting glory to fathers and mothers. The greatest honor a child can bestow upon his parents is to live a consecrated and faithful Christian life. This builds for the parents a monument that shall endure after the passing away of stone.
True honor begins with genuine love for parents. It is manifested even in “little things,” like keeping in contact with them, showing interest in their lives, as well as doing those things for them that need to be done. Letters, calls, gifts, remembrances, words, visits, honor of their views and respect for their advice are such things that parents may lawfully claim and expect from their children. Speaking respectfully of them, refraining from abusing them, being conscious of their feelings, trying to make their days bright as possible, all are ways and means of showing the honor to parents which they deserve. Even when one is married and the first loyalty is to his or her mate, there is no cause to dishonor one’s parents.
Honoring parents brings blessings to the child as well as the parent. Virtue has its own reward. The serenity of conscience is likened unto the peace that passeth understanding. One who honors his or her parents will most likely rear children who in turn will honor them. The Jews were promised a long existence in Canaan if they honored their parents. Their dishonor of parents and loss of respect for parental and divine authority is what cost them their happiness and continued possession of the land.
There are two types of failures in the parent-child relationship. One is the slackened discipline of children to the point of abandonment. Parental authority has been weakened by poisonous philosophies which say, “Let the child express himself, without discipline, lest you warp his personality.” Time has already proven that the most warped personality walking among men is that person who has been spared discipline, never learning self-control, never having been properly taught the difference between right and wrong. Punishment for wrongs committed, restraint wisely and firmly applied, is a blessing to one and all who receive it. It is God’s way of teaching respect and cannot and will not be surpassed or equaled by the devices of men, especially those devices created by those who care nothing for the spirit of mankind and the existence of God. Sparing proper discipline has produced an age of license, rape, arson, murder and similar inhumanities one toward the other in our nation which is a shame and disgrace before history and the world at large. Righteousness, restraint and respect for parental and other authorities are acquired traits, not something inherited. They must be taught. What failure has been the sorry lot of many lives on this score!
A second type of failure is the domineering, autocratic, dictatorial parent who fails to properly consider the personal dignity and worth of the life and soul of the child. “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath” has been violated by many, even well-meaning parents. Children are like coiled springs when they are born, pressed down at birth. But they must eventually be released. When they are so pressed during their formative years and not allowed to gradually uncoil under supervision, when the hour comes for them to be released they will fly away in every direction. When the pressure is gradually lifted, however, being carefully managed, the spring will uncoil but stand where it should.
Protector of the Home
The fifth commandment is the guardian of the home. Godless forces are running loose in the world and sowing the seeds of distrust and dishonor as well as defiance and disrespect. A prime order of business for the Christian is to stabilize the sanctity and honor of the laws of God concerning the home. Let the home be treasured, parents honored, disciplined learned, authority accepted and respected! Let intelligent youth join hands and hearts with concerned adults, and together they will be able to slay the dragons of evil that threaten everything that is good, pure and proper before God! Together, through Christ, an overwhelming victory will be won for all!
If the home and family are lost society will degenerate to conditions heretofore believed impossible because of the extent of wickedness. May God grant that home, marriage, parent and child relationships be made to stand in the strength of the Lord!
1. Name specific qualities of character that begin at home.
2. What promise accompanied this commandment?
3. How did Jesus demonstrate obedience to this commandment?
4. Are the Ten Commandments part of the old law that has been abolished?
5. Where is this commandment taught in the New Testament?
6. What reason did Paul give for honoring parents?
7. Are all parents deserving of honor?
8. Are we to honor parents only during our youth?
9. How do we honor parents when they are old or dead?
10. Do we worship ancestors when we honor parents?
11. What is harmful about neglect of discipline?
12. What is harmful about a dictatorial parent?
13. How is the fifth commandment a protector of the home?