"Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God will give you.” (Exodus 20:12 NLT)
Many of you will recognize this passage of scripture as being the fifth commandment in the list of the Ten Commandments God gave the Israelites after He freed them from being slaves in Egypt. From a young age, I have always been struck by this commandment! For one matter, it is the only commandment of the ten that has a promise attached to it, basically meaning that if we obey God in this commandment, He will bless our lives by giving us a long life. While it could be argued that He was specifically addressing the nation of Israel, I believe he still desires that we honor our parents as well. I will address this more later, by discussing a few other passages in the Bible on the matter of the relationship between children and parents.
I have always been passionate about this topic. I have been blessed to have been raised in a Christian home with parents who I always trusted and believed had what was best for me at the heart of their decisions and rules. Yet, in our culture today, I see more and more disrespect for parents and general authority figures, and it grieves and angers me terribly. Most recently this topic of respect for one’s parents and the authority they have been given by God (Ephesians 6) came up while watching my favorite current prime time TV series “Parenthood.”
This series tells the story of four grown children and their emerging families. All four children are parents, and they still spend time learning from and hanging out at their own parents home. The oldest son is Adam, and he and his wife Kristina have two children, Haddie and Max. Over the course of three episodes (“Opening Night,” “A House Divided” and “Just Go Home”) that aired this past February on NBC, Haddie becomes upset and angry with her parents over their decision to not allow her to date Alex, a young man who is four years older than her and comes from a troubled past. This leads her to sneaking around so she can see Alex, which ultimately leads to her getting caught by Adam and Kristina. Her parents ground her, and even take the door off of her bedroom, stating that she has broken their trust, so she needs to earn back her right to privacy. This then leads to Haddie running away from home and moving in with Adam’s parents (her grandparents) for a while. Naturally this leads to a rift between Adam and Kristina and Adam’s parents.
Looking at this fictitious example of a how one child’s rebellion against her parents can cause so many relational problems leads me to believe this is why God has spoken so much about the importance of children honoring their parents. For example, in Proverbs 23:25 Solomon writes “So give your parents joy! May she who gave you birth be happy” (NLT). Think about that, as children we are to bring joy into our parent’s lives. Other translations say let your father and mother “be glad” about you. I don’t think that part of making your parents glad about you involves not trusting them enough to believe they know what is best for you. It is important to remember that wisdom comes with age (Job 32:7), therefore we should trust that our parents are wiser than we are.
Paul also speaks about children’s relationship with parents on two occasions. First is that we are to obey our parents because it pleases the Lord (Ephesians 6:1) and secondly, that disobeying our parents is a sin (Romans 1:30). I realize that not all of you who read this have had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home by Christian parents. However, I believe God still desires that you honor your parents whether or not they are Believers. The only exception that I can see to this rule is if you parents would tell you to do something that is openly sinful. It is important to know that while your parents may not be Believers they still have lived longer than you and therefore can still have that “wisdom that comes with age” that Job talks about.
To be fair though, Paul also addresses the responsibility that parents have to their children. In the same chapter of Ephesians where Paul commands that children obey their parents he also says this to Fathers specifically: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV). This is pretty clear to me that while we as children have a big responsibility to follow God’s command of obeying and honoring our parents, our fathers have even bigger responsibility in this matter. They are commanded not to anger or exasperate us as their children, but to bring us up so that we learn to honor God. That is huge responsibility, because let’s face it our fathers are under a lot of pressure, and they will blow it sometimes, but that is where we must extend them grace.
As for our mothers, Proverbs talks about how our mothers are to be honored for serving the Lord “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (Proverbs 31:27-28 NIV). That’s right, as children we are to call our mothers blessed and be a blessing to her. A Godly mother and wife will work hard for her family. This is in my opinion one of the gifts God gives to a woman. Women are more relational than we men are, and therefore the ability to manage and maintain a household comes more naturally to a woman than a man. While God calls me to be leaders of their household, He gives the gift of running and maintaining the everyday parts of life to come more naturally to a woman. Therefore because of gifts God gives to both our mothers and fathers, we are to honor and respect both of our parents.
Let me also say that the Bible never seems to say that once we turn 18, we no longer have to honor our parents. That however, seems to be a common thought in America today, where we are considered adults on our 18th birthday, and thus freed from parental authority. Unfortunately, I have seen this thought process creep into the Church at times, and it is rather disturbing, as I see no Biblical backing for this belief. Don’t get me wrong the Bible does talk about children growing up and moving out from under their parents roof (Genesis 2: 24), but it never says that we no longer need to honor and respect our parents after we move out, or become legally adults.
As Haddie’s grandmother ultimately said to her while she was staying with her, and away from her parents, “honey you need to just go home!” It didn’t matter whether or not she agreed with her parents or not, she belonged living in their house and honoring their decisions, even if she didn’t agree!