How do you honor your parents biblically?
Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment, tells us to honor our parents. It doesn’t give any explanation as it does for some of the other commandments. But it does give us a promise that our days will be long.
In the original context, it says that the days were long in the land that the Lord gives to the Israelites. In other words, part of the covenant stipulation for them to dwell in the Promised Land is that they treat their parents with honor.
The Hebrew word for honor behind the English text is the same word we use for the glory of God, the weightiness of his presence. Here the idea of “honor” is that we give them respect and, in a sense, praise. It is not the kind of praise we give to God.
It’s more in the sense of them having glory and weight as God has glory and weight. God has placed our parents in our lives to teach us, and, most importantly, to resemble God to us in his authority, compassion, nurturing, discipline, and a number of other roles he takes on in our lives.
Our parents are God’s authority to us on this earth. If you grew up with godly parents whose aim was to introduce you to Jesus and show you how to live with godly wisdom, then you are blessed the on measure.
Even though we may disagree with our parents from time to time, especially in our teenage years, they have the right aim in mind and are doing their best to show us what Jesus looks and acts like.
As we get older and become more mature, we can see what they were attempting to do even if they didn’t do it well. And when you become a parent, it’s even easier to see as you fulfill the same role for your children.
However, not everyone grows up in a godly household with godly parents. Following this commandment makes it doubly hard when the parents are not living for the Lord or even trying to emulate him in their parenting.
Paul talks about how we deal with the authorities in our lives (Romans 13:1-7). He says that we must live within the laws of the land. God placed these authorities in our lives (Romans 13:1b). We must obey them and submit to them.
But, if the things they tell us to do our unbiblical or ungodly, we must choose to serve God rather than men (Acts 5:29). As much as we are able to honor our parents by obedience and submission to the rules, we must honor them.
But if they give us a rule or teach us a lifestyle that does not honor God, God comes first. It’s much harder to “honor” our parents, or give them weightiness in our lives. In these cases, children must toe the line between submission to what does not go against God’s commands and what they must reject from their parents.
There may be other ways to show love to your parents in such situations, but obeying them and going against God’s rules and commandments for your life puts them either in the place of God or above him. This violates the first commandment.
So as much as we are able to honor the godly parts of our parents, the things that they should be teaching us to imitate God and his character, these things we can honor our parents for. We can even try to explain to our parents why we cannot listen to them or honor them for the ungodly things that they are trying to pass on to us, but they may not understand.
God knows our hearts. And he is the ultimate Judge. He knows that we do the best we can with the situation we are in. He knows that her heart is to honor him first and to follow his commandment on our parents as much as we are able. Our earthly parents may not understand, but our heavenly Father does.
Paul also mentions this commandment in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:1-3). He begins by explaining honoring our parents as obedience. Obedience in the Greek language needs to listen and follow through with what you hear. Too amazed to hear first and then to do.
Through obedience, we honor our parents. He says that this is “right in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). The word for “right” is the word for righteousness. We are righteous children when we obey our parents and honor them in this way.
“From the Old Testament and the word in Greek for honor means to cherish, to prize highly, to hold preciously. So when we honor our parents we hold them in high esteem, not higher than God,. Paul tells us that this is the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:2) and then quotes the promise from the Old Testament commandment (Ephesians 6:3).
To live long does not mean that we have a life of drudgery. These rights were living long in the Promised Land. This was God’s gift to them and they enjoyed the prosperity of the land. The long life you live with you on your parents is a life that is blessed by God with many fulfilled promises.