This is the fifth message in a series of ten sermons on the Ten Commandments. The Fifth Commandment says, “Honor your father and mother.” I challenge you to learn all ten this summer.
The Ten Commandments:
The Ten Commandments:
- Do not worship any God except the Lord.
- Do not make idols of any kind.
- Do not misuse the name of the Lord.
- Remember to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
- Do not murder.
- Do not commit adultery
- Do not steal.
- Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
- Do not covet.
Today we will look at the Fifth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:12
12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
This verse has two parts. First is the commandment—honor your father and mother. Next is the promise—[if you do this] …you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. The Fifth Commandment is the first commandment with a promise. Remember, this commandment was originally written for the Hebrew people as they prepared to enter the Promised Land God was giving them. In order to keep that land and to live the full, abundant life God wanted for them, they would need to remember how God delivered them. That’s easier for the generation that lives through the miracles. (I don’t think I would ever forget if I had seen the Red Sea split in half with my own eyes as I crossed over it with my own feet.) But historical events would eventual become stories that were passed down to children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. If the events were to be remembered and trusted as, the children would need to honor their parents retelling of the tales—to trust their word that the events actually happened. Furthermore, the younger generations would have to accept the faith and ideals of their elders and continue to walk with the Lord in order to secure their place in the Promised Land. Even today, we have much to learn from the wisdom and ideals of our parents. We do well to honor them.
The Hebrew word for Honor is pronounced [Kabowd].” Kabod is the noun Hebrews used for the liver, which is the heaviest internal organ in the human body. (It is also a very important organ. If you lose your liver, you are going to die!) When used as a verb, Kebod means to be heavy in the sense of respect. If you don’t honor something, you might say you “take it too lightly.” To honor something, would mean to treat it as a weighty matter. Does that make sense? To honor your parents means we treat them as people of great importance.
You can honor someone even if you don’t agree with them. The command to honor our parents doesn’t necessarily mean blind obedience. For instance, let’s look at how we honor our country. Even though we “honor our country” it does not mean we blindly agree with everything our country does. When we honor, it means we give serious consideration to what the state says, considering the heavy burden of leadership our government officials bear, considering the great sacrifices soldiers have made for our nation, considering the hardships of our forefathers who tried to create a more perfect union, and so we refuse to take our national heritage lightly. We may disagree, we may debate, we may at times even disobey, but we should always be respectful, showing honor to those who represent our great nation.
In a similar way, we honor our fathers and mothers. It is not blind obedience or subordination. To honor your father and mother means to treat them with the appropriate seriousness. It is sometimes easy to think nothing really important happened until “we” came along. I mean, my grandparents died having never owned a computer and they never even heard of a cell phone or Facebook. It would be easy to relegate them and their ideas to irrelevance in my own mind. But that kind of generational narcissism, taking previous generations lightly and thinking they have nothing relevant to offer us, is not only disrespectful, it is detrimental to my own life. My father and mother—and all the previous generations—have tremendous wisdom to offer our times, wisdom they earned through generations of accumulated practical experience. Older generations may actually see some things in our times more clearly precisely because they are less affected by contemporary cultural influences. Therefore, you should honor your father and mother—taking them and their ideas seriously and treating them with the deep consideration they deserve.
The truth is, some parents have not lived lives worthy of adoration. Some fathers abandon their children. Some mothers are abusive. Some people follow a reckless path of godless living, leaving their children to pick up the pieces. God is not suggesting we should imitate them just because they are our parents nor is God commanding us to honor their dishonorable behavior. Yet even if our parents were dishonorable in whole or part, we can still honor the position. Just as a soldier must salute a superior officer he does not like or who is not a good officer, you can honor your parents simply because they hold the honorable position of father or mother—even if they have not done the job well. By honoring our parents, we honor all parents and we glorify God who gave parents authority and the task of raising children.
I want to give you some practical ways to honor your parents. I hope you will get in the habit of doing some of these. Think of it like this, “What would you do to honor a dignitary who visited your home? What would you do if the Queen of England or some other important person came to visit?” You should hold your father and mother in the same esteem. They should be the most honored persons in your life. Treat them with the appropriate dignity.
First of all, spend time with them on their agenda, not yours. Visit and call them regularly. You might love spending time with your parents. On the other hand, you might not enjoy being around them all that much. Never-the-less, spend time with them—even if you just sit in silence—as a way of honoring them. It shows they are important to you—important enough to give them your time. Time is one of the most precious gifts we can give. Your parents gave tremendous amounts of their time to raise you. Now, it’s your turn to honor them with your time.
Second, be patient. Recognize that your parents needed great patience to care for you when you were a child. When you were an infant, you probably pooped and peed and vomited on them. When you were a toddler, you threw temper tantrums in grocery stores and mortified your parents in front of strangers. When you were a teenager, you broke their hearts. Through all these life phases, your parents had to be tremendously patient with you. So now return the favor. Be patient with your parents—even if they don’t deserve it.
Third, be respectful. When you disagree with your parents, do it respectfully. If they make you mad, be gentle. Refuse to look down on them. Don’t speak negatively of them. Don’t do anything that would cause them shame. Deliberate speak well of them to others—both in their presence and in their absence. Protect their dignity and defend their honor. If someone speaks badly of them, speak up on their behalf. Honor your father and mother.
Fourth, help your parents. Drive them to the doctor or go with them to get groceries. Help them fix something on their house or car. Assist them with chores or cook dinner for them. You might even help pay some of their bills. There are a multitude of practical things you can do to help your parents. Look for ways to do favors for them that will be an expression of your honor for them.
Finally, celebrate your parents. As a pastor, I frequently go to funerals where people pay tribute to all the best qualities of their parents. Why wait until the funeral to pay tribute to your parents? Why not do it while they are still alive and can appreciate it? Don’t wait! Do it now! Tell your parents how much you appreciate them. You might think they already know, but tell them anyway—do it again and again. And don’t stop there. Honor them in front of other people by thanking them publicly and extolling their best qualities. Here’s an idea, write and present a tribute. Sit down and take some time to think about all your parents’ best qualities. List all the things you appreciate and admire about them most. When you’re finished, have it professionally typed and framed and present it to your parents by reading it to them publicly at a special gathering of friends and family. Wouldn’t that be a great way to honor your parents?
Honor your father and mother and it will go well with you. Your Heavenly Father will be pleased and reward you. Your own children will see your example and be encouraged to treat you with the same honor and respect. Others will be encouraged to act honorably and a rising tide of honor for all will again fill our land and it will be a better place to live.