Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. ( Exodus 20:12)
God says that we are to Honor our Father and Mother. The commandment is not that we should agree with them, love or even like them, but that we should give our parents Honor.
It will be pointed out in the New Testament, that this is the first commandment with a promise.
The idea is that God himself has placed us in our particular families, and given us the parents (and children) that we have. We are to honor that fact, by giving our parents the “weight” that is due to them.
First of all, the Commandment is that we honor both Father and Mother, each are due a special kind of honor. In Pagan societies the concept of “Pater Familias” was practiced in which the Father had absolute reign over his own family. He could even put a child to death if he felt it necessary.
A very much misunderstood law in Deuteronomy addresses this Pagan practice directly,
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.(Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
People cite this law in attempts to show how barbaric the Old Testament law was, not realizing the actual progressive nature of this law. In a day when the Father alone had absolute authority over the family, God’s law took the, “right to Kill” out of the hands of the Father, and into the courts. There is no record anywhere in scripture of anyone ever doing what this law suggests. Also note that the Law includes the mother in the decision.
We have to understand the role of parents, in order to understand this commandment.
No one creates their own life out of thin air… God has ordained that our parents are our first guides and teachers. They provide the foundation of our lives. In the formative years of our lives, Father and Mother shape our outlook, attitudes, and knowledge, for better or worse. In the most vulnerable and significant years of our lives, our parents are intended to be the primary teachers.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.( Deuteronomy 6)
The role of Parents is to teach, particularly the things of God. Both Father and Mother have significant reponsibility to do so.
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. ( Proverbs 1:8-9)
My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. ( Proverbs 7:1-3)
Notice that both Father and Mother are engaged in the Spiritual and Moral teaching. Their teaching is to make their children’s lives, as Proverbs exhorts the Son, to Bind them on thy finger, (Like a ring, let there be a commitment to them), Write them on the table of thine heart, (Let there be an inward acceptance of them).
Ideally the teaching of parents will be an echo of God’s teaching, such as the importance of worship and the fear of God, the danger of folly, the choice of the right companions, the consequences of rebellion, the destruction of the misuse of sex.
There is a direct connection between receiving such instruction and living a long life, as the commandment promises. There is also a link from despising the instruction of parents, and death.
Thus a major role of parents is discipline. Fathers and mothers must train their children as early as possible, children are not born “good” they are to be trained and eventually converted to Christ. If there is a connection between refusing instruction and death, there is a very strong connection between refusing to discipline children and eternal punishment. Discipline is a matter of heaven and hell.
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.( Proverbs 23:13-14)
Every spanking is in effect a sermon, when done properly. When my mother told me, “Wait till your Father comes home”, I learned early the reality that there will come a Judgment day, a day of accountability. I also looked back to associate my sin and rebellion with pain, and was always glad when fellowship with my parents was restored, and we could go on. This conditioned me to accept the logic of salvation, that Jesus took my punishment, to purchase my peace with God.
The fifth commandment is addressed to parents as well as to children. Virtually every parent wants what is best for their children. We must try to live in such a way that trains them to honor their Father and Mother, and not to present stumbling blocks in their way, as Paul the Apostle warned us,
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” ( Ephesians 6:4)
I would categorize “provoking ” your children, as being hypercritical, harsh, always yelling and raising one’s voice, humiliating them, or constantly moving the goalposts, keeping score instead of forgiving and nagging.
The idea is that we are not to exasperate our children. We must remember that though they are to honor us, we are not God. Children when properly trained, are to “give us rest”, not worship. Our goal for them is not merely that they “look good” (and thus we look Good). We want them to be truly good, and salvation is the only way that can happen.
Ultimately, God is who they must answer to, and therefore there does come a time when we must let our adult children go, to be responsible before Him.
The notion of Honoring Parents covers many concepts;
- To Honor them literally means to “regard them as Heavy…” to afford your parents gravitas and respect, whether you agree with them in all things or not, they are worthy of consideration in what they think and say.
- Honor also means to show your parents deference, as in God’s economy, parents are ranked above children. This means children must listen when their parents speak, and answer them with respect, and not interrupt them.
- Little children can show respect and honor by the way they speak to their parents and the way they address them.
- The teaching of manners is a vital part of the training of children. We live in an age where people are encouraged to just, “let themselves go” and to “Be who you are” as if the world revolves around ourselves.
- Children who are trained to honor others, to address people respectfully, to not interrupt, and to put the brakes on their passions, out of deference to others, will be more inclined to accept the gospel and the authority of God’a word, than those allowed to just rebel.
- Honoring your parents also means to take responsibility for them when they are old and have needs, physical or otherwise.
Finally, this commandment is designed to instill an attitude of respect towards all authorities which are ordained of God. Children left to themselves without training and discipline are at a definite disadvantage. God is the one who designed this world to operate on various levels of legitimate authority, but the first and primary authority is Father and Mother.