by Rev. Dr. Rick Bunker, Chaplain
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12 (ESV)
The fifth of the Ten Commandments listed above gives us a lot to think about. One thing worthy of mention is that it lifts-up women. The Bible is very progressive when read thoughtfully. Here is an example where both parents are commanded to be honored in a time when cultures all around the Hebrews had little regard for women. There are many other examples in the Torah where women are given much higher standing than in other cultures of the time.
This commandment gives the family a position of priority. Right after the first four commandments that specifically focus on our relationship to God the fifth commandment focuses on family. It also says that this honor will be a natural requirement to the success of the nation – “that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” It is fundamental to national and societal health and vigor.” The old saying is that you can have good families without good government, but you cannot have good government without good families.
Another point is that it says, “Honor.” The Hebrew there is never translated obey. In the New Testament Paul writes in the Epistle to the Ephesians, “Obey your parents,” but this is immediately followed by, “In the Lord,” and then he immediately quotes the fifth commandment. The Bible is very wise, no surprise since it is the word of God, and God knows that some parents’ commands will be wrong to obey. Sadly, there are some bad parents, that would lead and even command their children to do bad things, but the commandment says, “Honor.”
There is significant difference in God commanding us to do things that will be honoring to our parents, rather than blind obedience. This command goes on for the entirety of our lives, even after the parent has died. It speaks of actions that are honorable. The parent may not have been a good parent. They may have set a bad example, and even commanded the child to do things that are reprehensible. God is not foolishly commanding children and adult children to obey their parents – parents that may be commanding bad things. God is saying to honor our parents.
Do things that will bring honor to your parents. Do they deserve it? Maybe not, but you do, and the people around you do. In doing things that will honor your parents you will be a blessing to them, to your family, to the larger society, and to yourself.
This may require a whole lot of forgiveness, powering through anger and resentment. Does the parent deserve to be forgiven? Maybe not, but you do. Forgiveness is not the silly, sappy thing that some make it out to be. Forgiveness may include a lot of caution, and it may even sometimes include punishment by the state, and distancing yourself, but it ultimately will be a healthy thing for your soul, allowing you to do things that are honoring to those who bore and birthed you.
If you were blessed, or are blessed with a pretty good mother, even a great mother, be sure and count those blessings one by one. It is not easy being a parent. There are no perfect parents. The best way that you can honor your parents is being the best person you can be, that is what honoring your parent is all about. And be sure and say thanks, and be as specific as you can. It will be a blessing to mother – and to you!
13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. – Isaiah 66:13 (ESV)