The fifth of the Ten Commandments reads: “Honor, your father and your mother.” This commandment is so important that it is one of the only commandments in the entire Bible that gives a reason for observing it – that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Many people read that part of the verse as a reward. But, while it may be regarded as a reward, the fact remains that it is a reason. If you build a society in which children honor their parents, your society will long survive. And the corollary is, a society in which children do not honor their parents is doomed to self-destruction.
Honoring Your Father and Mother Matters
In our time, this connection between honoring parents and maintaining civilization is not widely recognized. On the contrary, many of the best-educated parents do not believe that their children need to show them honor, since honoring implies an authority figure. And, that is a status many modern parents reject.
In addition, many parents seek to be loved, not honored by their children. Yet neither the Ten Commandments nor the Bible elsewhere specifically commands us to love our parents.
This is particularly striking, given that the Bible commands us to love our neighbor, to love God, and to love the stranger. The Bible understands that there will always be individuals who, for whatever reason, do not love a parent. Therefore, it does not demand what may be psychologically or emotionally impossible, but it does demand that we show honor to our parents which should automatically translate to love.
A Few Reasons to Honor Your Father and Mother
So then, why is honoring parents so important? Why do the commandments believe that society could not survive if this commandment was widely violated?
One reason is that we, as children, need it. Parents may want to be honored and they should want to be, but children need to honor parents. A father and a mother who was not honored are essentially adult peers of their children. They are not parents. No generation knows better than ours the terrible consequences of growing up without a father. Fatherless boys are far more likely to grow up and commit violent crimes, mistreat women, and act out against society in every other way. Girls who do not have a father to honor, and hopefully to love as well, are more likely to seek the wrong men and to be promiscuous at an early age.
Second, honoring parents is how nearly all of us come to recognize that there was a moral authority above us to whom we are morally accountable, and without this, we cannot create or maintain a moral society. Of course, for the Ten Commandments, the ultimate moral authority is God, who is higher than even our parents. But, it is exceedingly difficult to come to honor God without having had a parent, especially a father, to honor. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry and an atheist theorized that “one’s attitude towards one’s father largely shaped one’s attitude toward God.”
There’s one more reason why honoring parents is fundamental to a good society. Honoring parents is the best antidote to totalitarianism. One of the first things totalitarian movements seek to do is to break the child/Parent bond. The child’s allegiance has shifted from parents to the state. Even in democratic societies, the larger the state becomes, the more it usurps the parental role.
How Can We Honor Our Parents?
Finally, there are many ways to honor parents. The general rule is this. They get special treatment.
Parents are unique, so they must be treated in a unique way. You don’t talk to them in quite the same way you do anyone else. For example, you might use harsh language when speaking to a friend, but you don’t with a parent. You don’t call them by their first name, and when you leave their home and make your own, you maintain contact with them. Having no contact with parents is the opposite of honoring them.
And yes, we all recognize that some parents have behaved so cruelly and I mean, cruelly, not annoyingly, that one finds it almost impossible to honor them. There are such cases, but they are rare, when we simply have to honor bad parents as unto the Lord.
Remember this, if your children see you honor your parents, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be, the chances are far greater that they will honor you. Think about it.
So, What’s The Play Call?
- Have there been times when you have not honored your parents?
- In your opinion, what are the reasons that we should honor our parents?
- Do you find this commandment difficult to follow? If so, why?