The Fifth Commandment
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” Exodus 20:12 NIV
The first four commandments address how we treat and honor God. The next six look at how we treat each other. But why is the first of these six commands about how we treat our parents? Why wouldn’t God put “You shall not murder”, “don't commit adultery” or any other commandment before this (Ex 20:13 NIV))?
I think the reason is obvious: when children are taught from an early age to honor their parents, then they will also learn by living how to honor God; then there should be fewer murders, lies, thefts, adulteries, greed and stealing. This may explain why God places such a high value on honoring parents.
But are we required to honor a parent that is not a good parent? It’s not something for which the Bible makes an exception. We’re told to honor them—-period. It does not mean that we necessarily agree with them or even in follow their example—but we are commanded to show them respect, courtesy and kindness, i.e. “honor” them. Honor your parents, alive or not, not because they deserve it but because God commands it. Parents that don’t do this fail their sons and daughters and put their children at risk when they lazily refuse to hold them accountable for showing respect and honor to them.
Obeying and honoring parents prepares children to honor and obey God. When we permit our children to dishonor us—or any parental figure or people in places of authority—they are dishonoring God.
When Moses gave the ten commandments, the children who honored their parents were promised the reward of peace and long life in the land God gave to Israel; can you think of a better gift to pass on to our children??? Peace and a long and fulfilled life on earth. But it begins with children learning to submit to the authority of their parents—-and then to others in authority and ultimately to God. (ANTIFA and those that seek to defund the police or bring about anarchy and the destruction of the military and any resemblance of law and order were apparently never brought to appreciate by the fifth commandment.)
The punishment for children who continuously disobeyed their parents was death by stoning (Ex. 21:15; Deut. 21:18-21). That’s how significant this law is! But what has happened to appreciation for this commandment? Does God not know about children and how they should be raised that our passing sociological experts? Look at our nation and the disrespect youth and children have towards the police, teachers, laws—-it goes back to poor parenting and not holding tight to the fifth commandment.
The commandment means that we are required by God (not the merits of our parents!) to show honor and respect to our fathers and mothers, and all in authority over us. Do we? Do we expect this of our children or grand-children?
And honoring our parents doesn’t stop when we become an adult.This is a lifelong command that includes respecting, loving, and faithfully bearing with our parents. Consider these verses: “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching.” (Prov. 1:8 NIV). “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old."(Prov. 23:22 NIV). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1 NIV)
But the fifth commandment has implications for parents as well. As Paul explains, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NIV). God has given parents authority over their children; however, to mistreat one’s children is to abuse the authority God has given.
And who represents the best example of a child honoring their parent? Jesus Christ. He was the perfect Son and proved it by the manner in which He honored his earthly parents and heavenly Father. Jesus was born into a family structure, and he obeyed this commandment perfectly even as God incarnate. He honored his earthly father and mother by submitting to their care and authority (Luke 2:51 NIV). When he was grown, Jesus provided for the future care of his mother right before he died by telling his disciple John to treat her as his own mother (John 19:26 NIV). Jesus obeyed his heavenly Father by keeping the whole law perfectly and submitting to his will even to the point death. His death on the cross was Jesus’ ultimate act of obedience to his Father. Christ’s obedience provided the way for every son and daughter to be adopted into God’s own family where they are welcomed just as the prodigal son was welcomed home by his father when he returned in repentance.
Are we honoring our parents—-in life or death? Are we honoring our “heavenly” Parent in the manner in which we speak, respond, obey Him and honor Him? If our parents did their job, submitting to God and honoring Him will not be difficult, it would be our nature. Nor would we find it hard to honor the Governor, President, Speaker of the House, Judge or State Trooper.
Let me close with one personal observation. 24 years ago, about this same time, I was in Baptist Hospital, holding my father’s hand as he slowly passed away. I was the last soul to see him alive, and though he was comatose and only a few minutes earlier removed from life support, I was determined that he would not die alone. And so I held his hand and whispered to him that I loved him. I don’t think he heard me—-his life was ebbing away. But I needed to say; and do you know why? Because I rarely said it to him or my recently deceased mother. What a pity and how foolish of me. Why did I not say it more often and with more heart! I loved them, but I failed to honor them in life by verbalizing that love enough.
Saying you love your mother and father is one of the primary means of honoring them! Do you say it, sons and daughters, to your moms and dads? I failed——and it haunts me. I don’t want my children to be similarly tortured. Tell your parents you love them. And more importantly, tell your heavenly Father that you love Him. It stirs His heart just as those words stir our earthly father’s heart.