I am pretty confident that all of us have at one time or another dealt with the issue of “Honoring” our parents. You find that command first given in Exodus 20:
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live for a long time in the land Yahweh your Elohim is giving you (Exodus 20:12
Now there are several things we should notice here. First, it is a command and not just a good idea. Secondly, you won’t find any mention of a term-limit on that command. You may be married and have your own family to care for, but you are still commanded to “honor” both of your parents.
Okay, so what does that mean? Well essentially, honoring your parents is simply being respectful in how you talk to them and about them, but also, how you act toward them. It is having an inward attitude of esteem for their position. The Greek word for honor means “to revere, prize, and value.” Honor is giving respect not because they earned it, necessarily, but simply because they are your parents.
I know that for some of us this is a tough principle. I fully understand that. Not everyone had parents as good as we have been [cough, cough]. But I have searched all through the Scriptures to find an out, but I never found it. Children — of all ages — should honor their parents, regardless of whether or not their parents “deserve” any honor!
Let me be real personal here. I have not exemplified this all the time. There are many very dishonorable parents out there. But, as difficult as it may be to swallow, we must still honor them.
Look, I am not perfect at this. I admit it. There was a period of three or four years where I had absolutely nothing to do with my dad. We had an argument, we both said some terrible things and he ordered me to leave. So, my wife and kids who had come to visit, packed up and left! The argument was between my dad and I, but it affected my wife, kids and mom.
As a result of that argument, for several years we never spoke. Since we lived in separate cities, it was easy. During Christmas, my wife took our kids to see my parents, but I conveniently volunteered to work during the Holiday, so I stayed home.
Yes, I was being very dishonoring to both of my parents, and the Lord very directly and sternly spoke to my heart and finally broke through my pride and anger. It took time, but eventually, my dad and I reconciled and we were able to be together again. And just in case you are wondering, I fully reconciled with my Lord, as well.
But in many cases, the issues are never resolved. I asked my pastor about all this “Honoring our parents” stuff. This is what he told me:
The command to honor ones parents – that can be a tough one, but only if we look at it through the lenses of ‘whether we think they deserve it or not.’ This decision as to whether ‘we think they deserve it or not‘ involves judgment to some measure or other, so we can’t go down that route without making a mess of it all.
My dad died last year, he was 84. I always loved him and did my best to honor him – but I didn’t always like his self centered behavior, or his ability to ‘make a scene‘, or the way he treated my mother, but i think – more often than not – that I did ‘honor‘ him. you might ask how? Well, my love for him wasn’t dependent on things he either did, or didn’t do. I loved him when he was funny and kind and I loved him when he was plain nasty.
You see, honoring one’s parents does more for those of us who do the honoring than the person being honored. Honoring someone when they are being ‘plain awkward‘ takes the desire and discipline of approach to honor one’s parent – for no other reason than that God commands it. This is how we are to view and respond to all of the commands of God. With the firm discipleship response of ‘yes!’ Plus, we are not perfect either and honoring one’s parents teaches us and disciplines our attitude of heart and mind: do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Honoring my parents taught me discipline, patients, love, compassion and forgiveness. All things I needed – and things we all need. life is a ‘proving ground’ for us and what we say we believe. We honor our parents because God says so, and we honor God when we honor our parents!
You see, our Heavenly Father values that we give honor to our parents. So much so, that He included it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12). But it is not just there! Paul wrote,
“Children, obey your parents [Why?] because you are Christians. [Oh!] This is the right thing to do. The Scripture says, ‘Honor your father and mother that everything may go well for you, and you may have a long life on earth.’ This is an important commandment with a promise.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Honoring parents is the only command in Scripture that promises long life as a reward. Those who honor their parents are blessed (Jeremiah 35:18-19). However, those with a “depraved mind” and those who exhibit ungodliness in the last days are characterized by “disobedience to [or dishonoring] parents” (Romans 1:30; II Timothy 3:2).
Solomon urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17). I understand that we may no longer be directly under their authority, but since we never outgrow God’s command to honor our parents, even though we may be older and independent, we are still required to honor them!
Even Jesus, God the Son, submitted Himself to His earthly parents . Do you question me on that? Read Luke 2:51. He also honored His heavenly Father (Matthew 26:39). I am not stretching this any, but if we want to follow Christ’s example, then we need to treat our parents the way we would reverentially approach our Heavenly Father! (Hebrews 12:9; Malachi 1:6).
Okay, I hope I got your attention. So how do we honor our parents? We honor them with our actions and our attitudes (Mark 7:6). Honor their unspoken as well as spoken wishes. I get that from something Solomon said:
“A wise son listens to his father’s discipline,
but a mocker does not listen to reprimands” (Proverbs 13:1).
In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the command of God to honor their father and mother. Now, they were obeying the letter of the law, but, as is the normal trait of a human mind, they had added their own traditions that essentially overruled what was commanded. While they honored their parents in word, their actions proved their real motive. That’s right. What I am saying is that honor is more than lip service. The word “honor” in this passage is a verb and, as such, demands a right action.
We should seek to honor our parents in much the same way that we strive to bring glory to God — in our thoughts, words, and actions. For a young child, obeying parents goes hand in hand with honoring them. That includes listening, heeding, and submitting to their authority. After children get older and have their own families, the obedience that they learned as children will serve them well in honoring other authorities such as government, police, and employers. Hey! I just thought of this: if you hope to teach your children to honor you, then begin to honor your own parents!
Now please understand. While we must honor our parents, that doesn’t include imitating ungodly ones (Ezekiel 20:18-19). If a parent ever instructs a child to do something that is clearly evil and contradicts God’s commands, they must obey God rather than his/her parents (Acts 5:29).
Honor begets honor. our God will never honor those who will not obey His command to honor their parents. If we truly want to please our Heavenly Father and be blessed (and I presume all of you do), then we must honor our parents. No, honoring is not always easy, nor is it always fun, and it certainly is not possible in our own strength. But when we honor our parents we will discover the path to our purpose in life — glorifying our God! Paul wrote, “Children, always obey your parents. This is pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). So there you go. The rest is up to you . . .
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