The 10 Commandments: The 5th Commandment

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

~ Ex 20:12

Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

~ Dt 5:16

The 5th Commandment is the 2nd with a direct blessing attached, but it is the 1st one with a promise. God promises that long life and that it will “go well” with those who obey this Commandment. We do have to remember, of course, that God is addressing Israel as a whole, so in context this is a corporate blessing. In other words, in general these are the things that people can expect if they obey it, but it should not be looked upon as a guarantee to every individual in the nation.

It is often said that the first 4 of the 10 Commandments are how we express love towards God, and the last 6 are how we express love towards our neighbor. This Commandment is the pivot between the 2 sets, and that is appropriate because God is our Father. It applies to Him as much as it does our earthly parents.

Parents are the first authority figures that children deal with. How their relationship develops will influence that child’s attitude towards authority for the rest of their lives. Parents need to be aware of this. It will even affect their attitude towards God.

Adam and Eve disobeyed their Parent. Was this attitude passed down to Cain? Is that why he seemed to have such a disregard for authority? He also disobeyed God, and it certainly did not go well with him.

Another aspect to this is that when our parents become elderly and cannot care for themselves, we must step up to the plate.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

~ 1Ti 5:8

Long before nursing homes and Medicare, it was normal that extended families lived together, sometimes even in the same house. These days, older people sometimes don’t want to “be a burden” to their children. However, there is a certain richness that is lost because families are often scattered. The stories that generations pass down to each other are lost because time isn’t spent together. Children and grandchildren don’t learn of their heritage or of the mistakes to avoid in life.

Honor is much more than obedience. Certainly, young children need to obey. However, as the child matures, so should the relationship. Honoring someone means putting them before yourself and giving them special recognition. In some societies, that may mean standing when an older person enters the room. In other cultures, one attempts to not be “above” the older person and so will lower the upper part of their body while walking past. These are cultural ways of showing respect. This can be difficult, though, in a postmodern society that does not value respect for self or for others. TV sitcoms certainly portray parents, and especially fathers, as incompetent fools. The role of parent is marginalized in a society that does not respect authority.

God intended the parent-child relationship to be so much more. Look at the example of Jesus. He loved and obeyed His Father, even to the point of death. That’s because He knew that God the Father was capable of raising Him from the dead again. He trusted His Father in all things. Human fathers may let us down, but we are still to respect them. How much more should we trust in God the Father, even as Jesus did?

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