Yesterday we continued our mini-series on the Ten Commandments. If you couldn’t join us then you can catch up here. We looked at the 5th Commandment, which in the ESV reads:
“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Honour For Parents
We noted how Paul applies this Commandment to the gentiles in Ephesus when he says:
Ephesians 6 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honour 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.”
So for Paul, the most straightforward understanding is obedience. Thus, the first and primary meaning is that children are commanded to honour their parents. This means, literally, consider them to be “weighty,” significant, and of great importance. This would work out in many different ways, for example:
- Obedience to their instructions and wishes
- Heeding their wisdom and advice
- Deference to them
- Honouring by enacting deeds of blessing for them
- Doing nothing that could lead to their shame or disgrace
- Provision for them in old age
Neither Moses nor Paul put limits on this: it doesn’t expire with age and it isn’t invalidated if parents are not honourable. The Pharisees tried to find ways around this command, and you can read Jesus’ thoughts on the matter in Mark 7:9-13.
Great examples of honouring parents can be found in the lives of Noah’s sons Shem and Japheth in Genesis 9, in Isaac and in Joseph in particular with his wonderful provision for his family who left him for dead. Ruth is a remarkable example of loyalty to her mother-in-law, and through her loyalty great blessing for her – and the entire world! – came to pass.
Honour From Parents
We discussed how a natural extension of this Commandment is that parents should therefore be honourable. This means, for example:
- Educating our children – we may entrust this to schools but the parents remain ultimately responsible
- Providing consistent, appropriate and proportionate discipline
- Providing consistent and reasonable boundaries that are reviewed as the child matures
But perhaps the greatest and most honourable thing a parent can do is model the Christian walk. It doesn’t mean being perfect; it means giving an example of prayer and trust, of forgiveness and repentance, of worship and fellowship. If, for example, we are putting our own priorities and agenda ahead of God’s, we are teaching our children to be selfish!
Parents, to young children, are like God to them. They are their source of life, they provide their needs, they teach them and protect them. In many other ways, too. As such, we parents – and perhaps especially fathers – have the awesome responsibility of depicting the heart of The Father to them. A high calling, and we do well to seek God for assistance!
We touched on the difficult topic of how to handle dishonourable or even abusive parents. Sadly, mankind’s brokenness is such that many thousands of children are abused. The National Association of People Abused in Childhood publish some alarming statistics here.
The will of the LORD for us is that, as followers and believers in the Lord Jesus, our calling is one of forgiveness, even as we have been forgiven. We looked at David and Saul in 1 Samuel 24 as an example of showing honour even to a wicked, abusive king.
Showing honour might look like:
- Praying for the salvation of our parents
- Not speaking ill of them
- Not blaming them for our own sins
- Forgiveness and responding to change, should their be any
However, it is not honourable to tolerate abuse of any kind. Just as David did, and as the Lord enables, you leave.
Honour Our Father
Jesus said many incredible things during His ministry on Earth. One, in particular, was revealing God as “The Father.” This concept is almost entirely absent from the Old Testament, and only hinted at in a couple of prophetic passages about the Coming Messiah. One of the central tenets of the Christian faith is that, when we come to saving knowledge and believe the message, we are adopted by God the Father. We enter into an intimate Father/child relationship with Him, something all throughout the Old Testament no one could boast.
All praise, honour and glory is due to Him. It’s Him whom we ultimately revere and obey. Our relationship with Him supersedes all others (see Luke 14:26-27). So, while we are charged to obey and honour our parents, it would never be in violation to the Word of God.
Just as our earthly fathers discipline us, so too does our Heavenly Father. The difference is, He does it perfectly. Our challenge is to humbly submit to God’s discipline, knowing that ultimately it works for our good and His glory.