Honoring Parents, Honoring God
The fifth commandment is simultaneously a simple instruction and an indispensable element of the well-being of entire societies. When the Lord gives the command “Honor your father and mother,” He is laying down the blueprint for maintaining the stability of families, communities, and nations.
What does it mean to honor your parents? The word for “honor” carries the notion of weight and heaviness; children ought to feel the weight of respect for their parents. Parents are owed such regard because God has placed them in their roles, and the stewardship of such a role is worth its weight in honor. While children are in view here, the Bible also has much to say about parenting that honors God (see Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
How does a child display this honor? In several ways. For one, a child ought to show practical respect to his or her parents. This can be as simple as speaking well of our parents, showing them courtesy, looking them in the eye, and addressing them with a due sense of deference. Second, it involves genuine love; there should be heartfelt expressions of affection between parents and their children. Third, unless it would involve disobeying God, a child ought to obey what his or her mom and dad say. This expectation is found all over Proverbs: for example, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). Fourth, a child should submit to their parents’ discipline. All good parents discipline their children (though it must not be done in anger nor vindictively or disproportionately), and children ought to trust that such discipline is for their good (Hebrews 12:5-11).
In ancient Israel, respect for parents was valued so highly that those who disregarded it flagrantly or persistently faced the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Why such a significant consequence? Because the home provides a vital training ground, the success of which affects how the child will relate to authorities of all kinds. We never outrun authority in our lives. There are political authorities we are called to obey (Romans 13:1-7), spiritual authorities we are to respect (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12), and those of advanced years we are commanded to honor (Leviticus 19:32). Most significantly, when children learn to honor their parents, even despite their parents’ many imperfections, they learn what it means to honor our perfect heavenly Father. Reverence for parents is an integral part of reverence for God. Because their authority is God-given, to honor them is to honor God Himself.
So if you are a parent with children at home, it is not loving (though it may be easier) to fail to insist that your children honor you. And if you are an adult with parents still living, it is a matter of obedience to God that you show them the honor they are due, not according to how well (or otherwise) you feel they raised you but according to the position the Lord gave them. As you honor them, you will be pleasing Him and showing those around you that God-given authority, when exercised in a godly way, is a blessing to all.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
Children and Parents
1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
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