The Expository Files

“Honor Your Father and Mother”

 Exodus 20:12

When I walk through nursing homes and see the halls of elderly men and women in various stages of deterioration, I wonder how many have families who care. As I look on their faces, hungry for attention, I think of the fifth of the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) which was repeated to the Jews by Jesus (Matthew 15:4) and was re-taught to Christians by Paul (Ephesians 6:2). Honoring your parents involves several biblical principles.

Honor your father and mother in youth by respecting your parent’s authority. Ephesians 6:1–3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” The breakdown of authority that is creating chaos in our streets and schools generates from a failure to learn respect for the authority of father and mother (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2).

Honor your father and mother by living the wisdom they taught you. “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). Timothy was a great example of a grown man who honored the wise teaching of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14–15).

Honor your father and mother by meeting their physical needs. As He suffered on the cross, Jesus made provision for His mother’s welfare (John 19:26–27). Paul exhorted children and grandchildren, “Let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God” (1 Timothy 5:4). Jesus criticized the Pharisees who neglected their parents’ needs, claiming their money was dedicated to God (Mark 7:10–12). How much more under condemnation will children be who neglect parents out of selfishness? Such makes them worse than infidels (1 Timothy 5:8).

Honor your father and mother by respecting the difficulties that age has brought them (Ecclesiastes 12:1–5). Be patient with their frailties. Remember these people fed you, changed your diaper, carried you about, and rose up in the night when you cried. They worried over your childhood illnesses, put up with your immaturity, and paid your bills for almost 20 years. If their age brings some burdens to you, consider it as a long overdue repayment.

Honor your father and mother by seeing that their emotional needs are met. “Do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). Elderly parents go through the pain of watching as one-by-one their friends and family members die. The day comes when death separates your father and mother, and one is left alone. Are you there for them in those days of loneliness? Do you continue to let them know how important they are to you?

“The tender words unspoken
The letters never sent
The long forgotten messages
The wealth of love unspent
For these some hearts are breaking,
For these some loved ones wait,
So show them that you care for them
Before it is too late.”

As we look, not only at our parents, but at all the elderly, let’s remember one day (if we live) we will be in their shoes, crippled with the pains of old age, longing for companionship.

Someone has written …

“We are the old folks that you see
Who fast to life have clung,
And like us you will someday be,
For once we too were young.
We now are in life’s aftermath,
And by the grace of God
Your feet will travel o’er the path
Our weary feet have trod.
The things we should remember
Slip by us, just like time,
Our flame is now an ember,
And our efforts not in rhyme.
So treat us kindly as you pass.
And as your days unfold
Remember, time is going fast …
You, too, are growing old!”

“Rise up before the greyheaded, and honor the face of the aged …” (Leviticus 19:32).

Jones, P. (1994). “Honor Your Father and Mother” (Exodus 20:12). In M. White (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: July 1994, Volume 11, Number 6 (M. White, Ed.) (15). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

By Pat Jones
From Expository Files 20.1; January 2013