Commandment #5: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12)
It is interesting to note that the first command having to do with our relationship with others relates to the family. In essence, this is a root commandment. Here God underscores His purpose and plan for the family. This is the only commandment that promises a blessing when we obey it.
The strength of a nation is directly related to the strength of its families. Most social problems today can be traced to broken homes—and specifically fatherless homes. Today, half of America’s children live apart from one or both of their parents. Never in our history has there been more of an absence of fathers. This could be our country’s undoing. It has been said, “A family can survive without a nation, but a nation cannot survive without the family.”
For that reason, God reminds us of the importance of honoring our mother and father. The Hebrew word for honor comes from a verb meaning “to be heavy.” In other words, we are to give weight, or importance, to our parents. We are to respect and esteem them.
Colossians 3:20–21 echoes this thought: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
The honorable parent
Respect for parents is certainly something we have lost sight of in this culture. In fact, Scripture states that this lack of respect and disobedience towards parents is a sign of the last days (2 Timothy 3:2). Yet, perhaps one reason children do not honor their parents today is because their parents are not very honorable.
God has placed parents as the authority in the life of a child. In many ways, we represent God to our children. This means that what the Lord is to us, we are to our children. A child who responds to that relationship will find it far easier to respond to the claims of Christ. Alan Redpath once said, “Happy is the child who learns from honoring his parents to honor the Lord. And happy are the parents who so honor the name of Jesus; it is easy for the children to honor them.”
The reason why the children of some Christian, church-going families rebel against the faith of their parents is that they see their parents contradicting what they say they believe. We as parents need to be witnesses in our homes to our own children. As Andrew Murray said, “The secret of home rule is self rule, first being ourselves what we want our children to be.”
The respectful child
Regardless of how honorable a mother or father is, God tells children to obey and honor their parents. The fact is, most parents have their children’s best interests at heart. Most of us would not be here today if it were not for our parents’ warnings and protection.
It brings a parent great joy when the lessons they have taught to their children have been learned and followed, and even more so, when the God of the parents also becomes the God of their children. King David, while on his deathbed, gave these parting words to his son Solomon:
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).