When I was a young kid, we never went to church, but we did have a large family bible that was displayed in the foyer of our house. It was open to a page that listed the Ten Commandments.
As a kid every time I did something wrong my Dad would say to me, “Do you know what the Bible says?”
“What?” I’d say.
“It says honor your Father and your Mother.” I heard this over and over again growing up.
On one occasion, when my father was particularly upset with me, he yelled out, “Don’t you forget the forth commandment!”
I knew what he meant, but being the smart aleck I was I couldn’t resist correcting him, “Remember the Sabbath.”
“No. Honor your father and your mother.”
“But that is the fifth commandment, not the forth commandment.”
“Yes. It is.”
At nine years old I was technically right, but I had no idea how to honor my parents.
Yet, honoring parents is obviously important to God. In fact, Scripture repeats the command 8 times.
Perhaps its significance goes back to Jesus who called God his father and instructed us to do so likewise. We are his children, and he is our father. In learning to honor our parents we learn to honor God. If we fail to honor our parents, how can we honor our Father in heaven?
Part of the difficulty with honoring our parents is that as children we never learned to do so. Then as adults we make our lives separate from them. At least that has been my story. Now as my parents grow older and my mother has been stricken with MS (multiple sclerosis), I am being forced to wrestle with God’s command again.
In Ephesians 6:2, the apostle Paul reminds the church at Ephesus that the command to honor parents was the first of the commandments with a promise: “that it may go with you and that you may live long in the land.”
I had always thought that the responsibility to honor my parents had ended when I was a child, but the promise at the end of the command makes particular sense if we think of honoring our parents in their old age. If honoring our parents means sacrificing our lives today to support them, then God promises a long life that will go well in return.
I have always respected people who never abandoned their parents even to the end, now it is my chance to honor my parents in the same way.