Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
It is interesting to note with the Ten Commandments that in the first tablet the first four commandments deal with our relationship to God our Creator. The first Commandment brings out how we need to honor God.
In the second tablet the first Commandment is dealing with man’s relationship to man – in the command to honor our father and mother.
From this it would seem that in God’s eyes, as in a small child’s eyes as well, a parent stands in the place of God. When you think about it – a parent is the child’s creator, provider, lawgiver, teacher and protector. The child’s response to this relationship will greatly determine the child’s response to society and even his relationship with God Himself. How often we have heard how it has been hard for a child who had a cruel father to relate to the goodness of our Heavenly Father.
Because of this relationship that parents have to a child the obligation of the parents to live worthy of that honor is extremely important.
From Scripture and the last six commandments we come to understand that the family is established by God as the fundamental authority on earth. We see in Genesis 1:26–28 that the original commission or cultural mandate of God was for man to take authority or dominion over the earth and this was to be done primarily through the family.
However, we find that the state has taken away much of the authority of the family as well as taking dominion or ruling over the earth. We see many things taking place by the state that undermines the family – homosexual marriage, tax laws, and welfare benefits that basically pay mothers not to live with the father of their children. We see how the state has taken over the education, health and welfare of the children and citizens.
There are other things done by the state to undermine the family that are not biblical; things like property tax, the graduated income taxes and government regulations regarding land-use, and etc.
We also see that this fifth Commandment has a promise. In Deuteronomy 5:16 we read: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land Lord your God is giving you.”
Paul also repeated this promise in Ephesians 6:2, 3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise.”
We see some very strong language being used about anyone who would curse or attack their father or mother. This cursing is not just about the use of words, but about bringing bodily harm to the parents. In the Old Testament this cursing, along with striking the parents, was tantamount to murder and was punished accordingly.
This relationship of parents to children does not stop with age. For example, in the Old Testament we see Joseph and the reverence that he had to his father Jacob. We see this reverence with Joseph when he brought his two sons to have Jacob bless them. Genesis 48:12 “Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground.”
In adulthood there might be a time when it is no longer necessary or right for a person to strictly obey his parents like in childhood, but God’s requirement to honor them never ceases. With parents, and especially godly parents, the duty to honor them pays dividends to the children by giving access to the wisdom of years.
Here in the West we appreciate youth more than the elderly, but in the Old Testament and other parts of the world, especially Asia, we see that old-age is highly respected.