Commandment – Honor your father and your mother…
I was going to tackle the subject of “Christian Honor” by doing a study on the word “honor” throughout the Bible. That was the plan anyway until I began researching the word “honor”. This word that we read throughout the Bible, is used in so many different ways depending on the subject. Even within a confined subject, like honoring your parents, several words are translated as “honor”. It became obvious within a few minutes that I needed to narrow the subject down a bunch. So this post is focusing on the commandment to Honor our Parents.
The words translated to “honor” in the Bible can vary widely in meaning from having honor in dignity, to having a good reputation, to being honored by receiving riches, to showing honor through respectful behavior and weighty responsibility, to carrying the heavy burden of upholding a covenant promise. Again, I’m just focusing on the one area of honoring our parents in this post.
The word “Kabad” (Strongs 3513) as used in Exodus 20:12 of the Ten Commandments – Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
This word conveys a heavy weight on our shoulders, a burden to show respect at all times, to be obedient to our parents. When we tell our children to “honor” us, are we also breaking down the word “honor” so they understand the different aspects that are necessary? If you’re like me and took the basic concept of the word “honor” for granted…probably not. We know what “honor” means. We have a dictionary right? But how many times have we actually sat down and thought through the various meanings? And do we lead our children by example and honor our own parents, no matter our age?
This commandment from God does not provide a “release” for us. There is no time limit to honoring our parents and it continues on into adulthood.
Matthew Henry’s commentary breaks this meaning down well:
Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteem of them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their lawful commands; come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this, as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Also submission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavoring, in every thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy; maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour makes to be particularly intended in this commandment, ( Matthew 15:4-6 )
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Concise)
And here is what Jesus had to say about it…
4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’
5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’
6 he is not to ‘honor his father with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
People find all sorts of reasons and excuses for not “honoring” their parents, especially once they have their own families. There are all sorts of jokes that abound about the “in laws” and truth be told, some of them are hilarious! But…that is not a good example of honoring our parents and unfortunately, our children are privy to many of our own bad behavior examples. Little eyes and ears, see and hear everything.
Children learn by example, and if they learn early on that it is okay to disrespect or neglect parents once they are adults, they may grow up and exhibit the same behaviors. Only this time it will be you on the receiving end.
As our parents age, they find themselves not able to put in as many hours at work, if they are still working. They find they aren’t able to do everything they once did with ease. It’s a difficult transition, especially if your parents were healthy and energetic, “always on the go” type of people. Suddenly, they find themselves dealing with health issues or the death of their spouse. They may be navigating the Medicare and Social Security waters and facing the worries of having enough money to live on. They may face dependency issues, unable to drive or live without aid.
I agree with Matthew Henry that part of honoring our parents is to comfort them and make their old age easy. Our parents shouldn’t be forced to “ask” for help. Attentive children (of all ages) should be able to see where there are needs. It’s important that our parents be allowed to age with dignity. Don’t make them beg.
Honoring our parents as we all age can take on many forms. Sometimes the way to honor them is to provide financial help. Other ways we can honor them is to simply listen and share time with them. The best way to honor them is to love them.
How do you honor a parent who was a “bad” parent or an “absent” parent?
God doesn’t tell us to honor only the “good” parents. For those who were abused or neglected or ignored growing up, the main instinct is to leave an aging parent to their own devices. Don’t take care of them because they failed to take of me…attitude. That sounds more like revenge than justice and that is certainly not the “Christian” thing to do. Jesus never did that.
The best way to honor the “bad” parent is to forgive them and be the example to them that you needed growing up. What good does it do to mirror their own bad behavior to them? What does that solve? Instead, shower them with all the love they withheld from you. Provide them the support they never offered to you. Gift them with the forgiveness they never earned. If you are unable to honor the person of your parent, honor instead the concept of a parent.
In honoring our parents, we ultimately are learning to honor our Heavenly Father through obedience, love, respect, submission to counsel and corrections, and cheerful giving.
In many cultures around the world, extended family living situations are the norm. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters, all live in close proximity to each other. There is the hierarchy within the family that is unquestioned. A natural support system is in place for the aging, for the young, and for all in-between.
In our culture, extended families have become a rarity. We have scattered. The natural hierarchy is lost as well as the natural familial support system. We simply do not allow for the support system in our county and view it as “dependency”. In our culture, dependency in any form, tends to take on negative connotations. We have become an every man for himself society.
That is not a biblical way to live. Yes, married couples need some space out from under their parents to “grow up” and become one together under God. But that doesn’t mean they are to turn their backs on their families completely. That doesn’t mean they should never seek their parents advice or help. That doesn’t mean their doors should be closed to their parents, or any other family member in need.
Jesus was very vocal about loving our neighbors. I do not believe that same love wouldn’t extend to our family. Jesus made a point of giving his own mother to His disciple John to take care of when He was on the cross. If we are Christian…we should follow the example of Christ. Christ took care of His own mother, and made provisions for her care before His death. His disciple, John, took her into his own household.
26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
Should we do any less?