When God issued this commandment to Moses on Mount Sinai, He demonstrated His sovereign plan for real relationships. How grand to be reminded of the wonderful truth concerning His invitation for all people to have a personal relationship with Him. Herein lies the hallmark of our Christian faith. In response to the love of the Father, Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross so that all sinners might believe in Him. This relationship comes when we repent of our sin before a holy and righteous God, confess that sin to the Lord Jesus Christ, and then trust in Him by faith.
What God demands of all those who have been brought into this personal relationship with Him is simple and clear: We are to honor Him. And just as we are to honor the One who created us, so we are to honor those who were chosen to carry out God’s plan for our creation—our fathers and mothers!
Before we unpack this beautiful command, allow me to say a word to those who have not had the joy of being reared by godly parents. This kind of pain is severe because the relationship between parents and their offspring is meant to be positive, nurturing and wholesome. Nonetheless, there are many who hurt deeply because of various kinds of parental abuse. How does a believer carry out God’s commandment here, and what would God have to say about this? May I suggest six things to consider?
1) Pray for your parents.
2) Keep on trying to help them, even though that may be difficult at times.
3) Model Jesus for them.
4) Exercise restraint in front of them.
5) Weep for them before the Lord, pouring your heart out to Him on their behalf.
6) Forgive them. The Lord can help you do this!
God designed parent-child relationships to be among the most vital of all human relationships. This may be why He spoke not only of honor, but also attached the promise of “long life” to His command in Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
In Proverbs 6:20-23, God’s Word tells us to pay attention to our fathers and to listen to our mothers. We are to hold their instructions in our hearts and tie them around our necks. In return, we receive guidance, protection, teaching and discipline—four ingredients no one can afford to live without. This command is certainly not a simple suggestion from God! It is a very serious exhortation to all of us.
This is especially true in our world today. We are living in a time when God is being humanized, genders are being neutralized, marriage is being ostracized and children are being victimized. The family is being trivialized, fathers are being demonized, mothers are being marginalized, roles are being disenfranchised and God’s order is being vandalized! Phew! As God “looked down” on the children of Israel in the valley below, He certainly had all people of all nations and all generations in mind.
God’s command to honor our parents is consistent with His divine order. He knows what is best for us. He loves us. He made us. That is why He issues this command and connects this promise into His basic plan for mankind. Just as we will live forever because we honor the Lord our God, so it is that we are given the promise of a well-lived, fruitful and happy life when we honor our parents.
The promise of a long life is the promise of God’s lifelong protection, guidance, deliverance and provision. Surely, there is hardly anything more precious than living in a loving relationship with your parents. In fact, you did not choose your parents. God did. And His design is for you to live your entire life in a continual state of honor and blessing.
Just as all believers give honor to almighty God and receive bountiful joy in return, so it is that children who give honor to their parents receive “boatloads” of joy in return. It is the law of God! Both my wife and I can bear testimony to this divine fact.
So, permit me to give you what I call the “Seven Keys to Honoring Parents.”
1) Value your parents’ world. No matter how old they are, they are living in a world that is highly relevant and valuable to them.
2) Respect your parents’ age. Don’t mock their limitations and inabilities. Love them in it.
3) Model your parents’ godly attributes. You know the many things they said and did that simply blessed your life, so go and do likewise! It honors them and the Lord. Besides, if it blessed you, just think how much it will bless their grandchildren.
4) Protect your parents’ individual dignity. The older they become, the more they will cherish your hedge of protection. Remember, they protected you when you were just starting out!
5) Fulfill your parents’ essential joy. Make it your business to find out what gives them joy. Sometimes it is as simple as a regular phone call—and please answer their calls. It makes their day.
6) Provide for your parents’ basic needs. Make certain you are not feasting at the king’s table while your precious parents are living on cans of baked beans! And, by the way, make sure they are eating right.
7) Just do it: Honor your God-given responsibility. Just do it. God said it. You will be so glad you did.
© 2013 Don Wilton
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Billy Graham’s book “Nearing Home” talks about life, faith and finishing well. It may help you better relate to your parents. To order a copy, visit billygrahambook-store.org. You may wish to get a copy for Mom and Dad, too!