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Honor Your Father and Mother

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from Words of Life Radio Program)


It is good to be together again as we can look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson is, “Honor your Father and your Mother.”  And the text is in Exodus chapter 20 and verse 12. Listen to the Word of God.

Honor our father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. This is the Word of God.

The subject of the first four commandments of the 10 is God.  The subject beginning with this fifth commandment through and including the 10th commandment is our relationship with others, with one another. Two unique features of this fifth commandment are, first, this is the only commandment that comes with a promise and, second, this commandment is the only commandment without a shall not.

  1. Kent Hughes, a very fine expositor or Scripture writes these words regarding the fifth commandment. Quote: This is the divine, unchanging formula for domestic blessing which if obeyed will guide one’s family in the paths of grace. As such, it contains indispensible advice to both growing children and mature adults. This is God’s commandment for the young and old, end of quote.

Family solidarity has usually been one of the characteristics of the Israelites.  It was probably originally directed to adult children who were burdened with the care of an aged parent and, as such, was a warning against the heathen habit of abusing or abandoning aged parents when they could no longer support or take care of themselves. Certainly there is application to this circumstance today to all peoples and all nations.

In Exodus chapter 20 and verse 12—honor your father and your mother—by extension this can also include honoring the memory, the names, the positions of our parents in our lives even after they have passed on. In the original Hebrew, honor comes from a word which means weightiness. So we are to give weight, so to speak, to the person who is honored. To honor and to respect our father and mother who carry or carried a lot of weight in our lives. We all should honor, respect, obey—unless sin—our parents or whoever is acting as our parents.  We should obey even if sometimes we do not understand their correction or disciplining, because fathers and mothers have more experience, have lived longer and are usually wiser.

Consider Proverbs chapter 13 and verse one that says: A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.  Usually children from, say, birth to age 12, roughly, think that their fathers and mothers are great. But sometimes from about ages 13 to 25 they may think that their father and their mothers are just geeks. Then usually about ages 26 and up children reinstate their fathers and mothers to greatness.

Today in America honoring fathers and mothers can no longer be taken for granted. One source, which is greatly to blame, is television programming, sitcoms and the like.  Movies and all the rest of the programming often that often downgrades parents, denigrates parents, which youth watch and listen to daily. And also the family unit in many places in America is breaking down. It is estimated that about nine million plus parents are actually physically abused, not just verbally, but physically abused by their own children each year. This is probably a low number since much of this type of abuse is probably not even reported.

Today the trend has become to idolize youth and discount maturity and older age. This is the opposite of most ancient societies. Secular counselors today often blame younger person’s problems on their parents.  Certainly parents do have responsibility and accountability on those they raise, but ultimately as accountable individuals, we all make our own decisions and mistakes. Honoring fathers and mothers is not just a commandment with spiritual consequences, which it is, it is also impacts us socially. Widespread, rampant dishonoring of parents, disobeying God disrupts the family unit and can spell disaster even for a society, regardless of the time or nation. To honor demands a profound respect that governs all relations with honored parents.  It entails an enduring command that extends through the growing years into the maturing years. Certainly a key to societal stability is reverence for parents and their authority over us.

In Exodus chapter 20 and verse 12 it ends with these words: So that you may live long in the land the Lord your God has given you. Obviously this is a promise given to Israel regarding the Promised Land of Canaan. God expected his people Israel not to tolerate juvenile delinquency, which, at the heart and core is dishonoring parents and their authority.

One of the reasons for the loss of their land into the Babylonian exile regarding Israel, according to Ezekiel chapter 22 and verse seven, it says there, in part: In you they have treated father and mother with contempt. This should not be.  A serious sin then and still serious today.

The apostle Paul individualized this original national promise to Israel when he applied its truth to believers in his day and which is still binding today in the Church age. Consider Ephesians chapter six and verse one.  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. So children are to willingly remain under the authority of parents with obedient submission, as long as it is not sin, because God has made parents his agents. As obeying parents is to obey God, that is what God has declared as required. This is a commandment and it is the right thing to do morally and ethically.

In Ephesians chapter six and verse two it says: Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise.  Although submission to parents should first be for the Lord’s sake, God has also graciously added a promise of special blessing for those who obey this commandment.  Notice, whereas Ephesians chapter six emphasizes action: obey, Ephesians chapter six in verse two emphasizes attitude: honor. There is a difference between obeying and honoring. To obey means to do as one is told. But to honor means to respect and to love.  One can obey without honoring, but honoring works in tandem with obeying. The attitude of honoring parents is for life, not just while in the home.      Ephesians chapter six and verse three says that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. The apostle Paul, obviously inspired of the Holy Spirit, applies this to all believers, not just the ancient Israelites, including us today.  Notice carefully the apostle Paul switched the word land that was originally in the book of Exodus to earth in the New Testament epistle to the Ephesians. And, of course, harmony in the home doesn’t guarantee that things will go well and that you may live a long life on the earth, however, as a general rule this promise is true.  Certainly harmony in the home characterized by honoring parents promotes wellness and life. Honor, harmony and happiness in the home all contribute to a healthier environment for a longer, more fulfilling family life all which on a macro scale also improves societal stability as families are the building blocks of our society.

Now a common complaint for not honoring fathers and mothers goes something like this. Quote: My parents don’t deserve it.  They need to earn my honoring, end quote. Notice God’s fifth commandment to honor fathers and mothers is without qualification, without preconditions. Fathers and mothers are not perfect and may and do sometimes fall well short of what they should be. However, fathers and mothers do not have to earn or merit our honor. Parents are to be honored because of their position, not their performance.  Certainly no one should obey regarding sin. But the fifth commandment requires us from God to honor fathers and mothers in their roles, in their relationship to us in spite of their imperfections.

We do not honor their sins. We do not honor their faults or failures.  We honor them. Without our father or our mother we would not even exist.  We honor their roles, their positions as our birth parents or those who stand in the role of parents to raise us.

Even the one and only Son of God in his humanity honored Joseph, Jesus’ legal father and Mary his blood mother. Consider Luke chapter two and verse  51 that says, in part, regarding Jesus: Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.  Of course, Jesus as a young boy was obedient to his father and his mother, his legal father and mother and Jesus was sinless, perfect morally. He never sinned, not in thought or word or deed ever. He was sinless and yet he obeyed his parents who were both sinners. Jesus Christ perfectly honored his father and mother and, of course, Jesus Christ kept all of God’s commandments, all of the law. He was perfect, morally and ethically and our perfect  example in every way.

So we are to honor our father and mother because God states this is right. And, of course, it is a commandment to be obeyed, not questioned. Dishonoring parents ultimately leads to a fractured family. And the cumulative effect of fractured families leads to spiritual and social instability and national calamity.

Moreover, to dishonor parents is also to dishonor God who commands us to honor fathers and mothers. This is not a suggestion. It is not optional. It is a commandment from God.  God placed parents or those standing in as parents physically to represent him. The family is an institution established by God.       In Genesis chapter one and verses 27 and 28, it says, in part: Male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.


Always remember our children  are watching and listening to how we honor or dishonor our fathers and mothers.  So to reinforce our children to honor us we must also honor our fathers and mothers.  A recipe for honor goes something like this. Honor God, honor your father and your mother and honor will return to you or to us.       I read of a true life incident of a Christian couple who met with their minister in a premarital counseling session.  One question the minister wisely asked was if their parents agreed, their both sets of parents agreed with the wedding plans. And they confessed no.  So the minister wisely spent the next hour trying to convince the couple that their parents, their both sets of parents have the right to rejoice in their wedding and to exclude them was not to honor them. The young couple finally agreed and the wedding plans were adapted, adjusted to make both sets of parents happy.  By honoring their parents they did not fracture their families. They proved their honor and respect to their parents and gave a loving testimony and witness in Christ Jesus.

Obedience to God’s commandments is always the right thing to do in all circumstances. We need to honor our fathers and mothers for this is right.


David Johnson is minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4