“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
This command is not typically a teenager’s favorite. But God didn’t say to honor your parents only when it suits you.
This is a neat command as it relates to the others because it connects the first 4 commandments with the last 5. The first 4 are specifically about our relationship with God- a “vertical” relationship. The last 5 are about our relationships with our fellow man- “horizontal” relationships. This command is about both. God has placed us in our families and given our parents authority over us. Our relationship with them is “vertical” because of that authority, and “horizontal” because they are our fellow man. Our relationship with them also reminds us of our relationship with our heavenly father.
Our relationship with them changes as we get older. When we are little, our parents take care of us in an intellectual, financial, and physical way (have you ever watched a parent take a disobedient 2 year old and put them in the bed, chair, stroller etc?) But as we get older, these relationships change and their control decreases to the point that we eventually take care of ourselves on these fronts. (Yes we still have relationships, but the authority changes).
While you are still under your parent’s roof, however, they are still in charge. Our relationship with God is where everything starts- remember ALL men are created in his image, and loving him teaches us to love others.
Deeper relationships with God deepen our relationships with others, including our parents. They may not always understand us, and, as with any human relationship, you may not get back the same love and respect that you give. But we are still to “love our neighbor” including our parents. (Matthew 22).
So what does it mean to honor our parents? When you are still in your parents house, there are so many ways to honor them: ‘thereness’- it means a lot to them if you spend some time with them and your family; we are created to live in community.
Protect their name. Pray for them. Be good stewards of the material goods they provide for you. Don’t abuse their unconditional love. Work hard at your school work. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry. If your parents are not Christians- share the gospel with them. Act like a grown up.
We are to develop physically, emotionally, financially in preparation to leave our parent’s house as adults. And obey them. As adults outside of our parents homes we can still honor them even though the level of control they have over our lives has changed. We can listen respectfully to their opinions and suggestions. We can call them and spend time with them. We can continue to protect their name. We can be patient with them in their differences from us. We can care for them as they get older and have more difficulty caring for themselves. We can continue to pray for them and share scripture with them (Christian or non-Christian) all the way through.
You might be reading this and thinking that this is really hard. Remember that God is a God of reconciliation; ask him for help. And if you are reading this and realizing you have a great relationship with your parents, remember to thank God for them and that relationship!
What are areas you can improve on in honoring your parents?