Honor Your Father and Your Mother

20: 12

    REFLECT: Have I shown disrespect for my parents, or withheld my care for them? Have I been unable to appreciate them as gifts from God and refuse to consider their viewpoints as valid? Do I exasperate my children? Am I raising them in the training and instruction of the Lord? Have I reconciled with a parent from whom I have been deeply hurt?

    Honor your father and your mother, so you may live long in the Land ADONAI your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

    Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).

    As far as Isra'el was concerned, the fifth commandment had a promise of longevity that referred to the nation as a whole. Instead of meaning a long life for each individual Israelite, it meant that the nation itself would live long in the land of Canaan if they honored their fathers and mothers. On the other hand, cursing one’s parents, the same as to rejecting their authority, was a capital offense. ADONAI commanded: Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head (Leviticus 20:9 and Proverbs 20:20).

    The Scriptures direct every child to honor his or her father and mother. But just what does it mean to honor your father and your mother? The Hebrew word honor literally means to be heavy, weighty, to honor. Today we would say that his or her words “Carry a lot of weight.” Someone whose words are weighty is someone worthy of honor and respect. However, we can learn even more about what it means to honor someone by looking at its opposite in the Scriptures. The literal meaning of the word curse is to make light of, of little weight, to dishonor. We would say their words “Carry very little weight.” Therefore, when ADONAI commands us to honor our parents, He is telling us that they are worthy of high value and respect.377

    Our greatest example is Messiah Himself. Even though God the Father would wake God the Son, morning by morning and teach Him that He was destined to go to the cross (Isaiah 50:4-7), Jesus was still obedient to His earthly parents (Luke 2:51). Imagine that, the sinless God of the universe honoring His earthly parents! One of the ways that we are conformed into the likeness of Messiah (Romans 8:29) is by honoring our parents.

    Without a doubt, there are some parents whose insensitivity and unloving actions have hurt their children deeply. What if you had a father or a mother was physically or psychologically abusive? What about the parent who has chosen to be a friend of the world and therefore become an enemy of God (James 4:4)? That parent loves everything that God hates. How can you honor that parent? I know that from a human perspective some fathers and mothers don’t appear to deserve honor. I am not saying their actions were not hurtful, nor am I rationalizing the negative effects they may have caused over the years. However, I am saying that the only way to be free from the hurt is to honor them. Because every time we lower their value and cut them down, we’re dishonoring a part of ourselves. So if you are in that situation, what can you do? You can make an unconditional decision to treat them (or their memory) as a valuable treasure, and granting them a position of respect and honor in your life. I am not saying this is always easy, but the alternative isn’t very good either. In that way you can stop chasing past hurts and be at peace in the present.

    Besides the fifth commandment, the book of Proverbs has much to say about honoring our parents. We honor our parents when we listen carefully to their counsel (Proverbs 1:8, 2:1, 4:1, 5:1, 9:8, 10:1, 13:1 and 15:5). We honor our parents when they see us acting wisely (Proverbs 27:11). Praising our parents brings light to our lives, but cursing them will snuff out our lamp (Proverbs 20:20). We dishonor our parents and bring grief to them when we act foolishly (Proverbs 17:25). Involvement in immoral relationships not only affects us, but also causes our parents to grieve (Proverbs 5:1-23, 31:3). Being prideful, critical and judgmental dishonor our parents as well (Proverbs 30:12-17).378

    What happens if a parent has died and you cannot speak face to face? The memory of an absent father or mother can be just as vivid as real life. We carry those mental pictures around with us all our lives. Some people loved their parents deeply but never told them so. Others struggle with a painful past and have horrible feelings and memories of them. May I suggest that you write a letter to that person and share your feelings as if he or she were with you in person. Or if writing a letter is too difficult, make a recording that you can play back and listen to. Love the sinner, hate the sin. You can still be completely honest, and yet not sin with your words.379

    Rabbi Sha'ul broadened the commandment to include both children and parents. This commandment deals with the consequences of family behavior. Families are a part of God’s plan. No one is an island and God makes a home for the lonely when He places us in families (Psalm 68:6 NASB). The nature of human life is that each generation begins where the previous generation places it. That’s not some ancient, religious code. That’s an indisputable fact of history. This means that both the blessings and the sins of the parents have an impact on the following generations. This is true genetically, physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. Each generation starts where the previous generation leaves off. And because this is the nature of humanity, we need a commandment to guide us.380

 

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