No doubt you have heard of the commandment to "honor your father and your mother." But what does that really mean on a day-to-day basis? Why is it so important? How can we honor our parents in the world today?
Have you ever thought about what a big task it is to truly honor your parents? Surely you've at times felt that it's a hard thing to do!
As vertical thinkers in today's society, how can we stand out from the crowd and be shining examples of how to properly honor our parents? Before contemplating that, let's first consider the importance of doing so—and of making sure we don't dis honor them. Then we'll look at some practical applications.
A serious matter with a higher meaning
In the Old Testament, God said, "For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus:20:9). Put to death? Yes, death! Seem important? Even though God has not given His Church today the role of enforcing the death penalty for this malicious behavior, we should still recognize it as a grave offense. The apostle Paul lists being even "disobedient to parents" among such evils as sexual sin, murder and hating God! (Romans:1:28-32).
The importance of honoring parents makes complete sense when we think about what the parent-child relationship represents—the overall purpose for humanity! God created human beings because He wants a family. He wants children who will become like Him by developing His character. He wants to be a Father to you and me! The way we obey, respect and glorify our physical parents says a lot about our willingness to honor God as our ultimate Father.
Have you ever thought, when interacting with your parents, about what your relationship with them is intended to portray? How do you speak to them? Would you phrase things differently if God Himself was standing in front of you?
I write this not as a perfect example of a respectful child, but rather as a recovering disrespectful one! I say recovering because it takes a lifetime of effort to perfect the work of honoring our parents and our eternal Father. I've had my share of disrespectful moments over the years, times when I definitely was not considering what God was thinking about my actions.
God's commandment to honor our parents comes with a great promise: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus:20:12). Long life is offered as a blessing for obedient children.
This may come in part through God's direct intervention, but it is also largely the natural result of obedience. Children who obey their parents' instructions about safety and not getting into trouble tend to have fewer fatal accidents and missteps compared to those who ignore those instructions.
God detests disrespect—to the point of calling for the death of those guilty of the worst examples of such an attitude toward parents. In fact, merely failing to honor parents is, as a violation of God's spiritual law, sin—and the penalty for all sin is ultimately death (1 John:3:4; Romans:6:23).
The fact is, sin brings harm not only to others but to its perpetrators as well. On the other hand, obedience results in blessing all around. The result of honoring our greatest parent, God the Father, is eternal life in His family. It is the best gift that God can give us, and He wants to give it!
So how can we properly show respect and reverence for our moms and dads in a way that will be pleasing in God's sight—pleasing enough to make Him want us to live even longer? Here are a few practical tips to get your thoughts turning.
Follow the right lead
First, don't follow the negative examples you see all around you—disrespectful back talk, bad attitudes, sarcasm, lying, selfishness. Too often, this is what we see in child-parent interactions around us. Such things happen so often that they can almost seem normal, even acceptable.
If we can't always look to either side of us for a living model, then where do we turn? How about looking up to a higher example by literally looking down—down into the pages of the Bible? Jesus Christ was the best example of a son, the only man to ever live without fault as a child and throughout His life.
He lived to please His Father in heaven and to bring honor and glory to His Father's name, but He was also very considerate and caring toward His earthly mother. So much so, that even when He was dying He made sure that she would be taken care of (John:19:25-27).
The Golden Rule says, "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew:7:12, New International Version). What makes you feel loved, appreciated, even honored? Chances are, it's not your parents getting angry or sarcastic, raising their voices, slamming doors, cutting deep with words or giving you the silent treatment. Think about how you interact with your parents. Is this how you want to be treated?
Show respect by word and deed
How do we show our respect for God and our desire to honor Him? Most obviously, it's by what we say and what we do. The same is true with our parents. If we love them and want to honor them, we need to show it by what we say and do. Here are a few examples:
Practice respectful communication —both verbal and nonverbal. How we say things is sometimes more important than what we're saying. A disrespectful tone will drown out the meaning of your message.
Be honest. Telling less than the truth can seem appealing at times, but in the long run honesty really is the best policy. If you're honest up front, your parents may see this openness as a sign of maturity. Perhaps they would allow you to do something you thought you could only manage to do through lying. If it's past that point, realize that it's never too late for honesty. Somehow, parents always seem to find things out. It's better that they hear it from you than from someone else.
Be teachable. Vital to communication is listening. Knowing it all isn't all it's chalked up to be. A willing ear is a sign of respect, with the added benefit of gaining wisdom.
Be thankful. Verbalize gratitude and display it through deeds. Mow the yard before your dad gets home or give your mom a night off from the dishes. Actions like these can say "thank you" more than words ever could.
Use wisdom. Obedience seems like a great display of honor, and it is! But if you want to raise the bar even higher, try making wise choices without first being told. Do what's right because it's right, not just because Mom or Dad said so.
Do you want to really throw them for a loop? Try asking a simple question: "What makes you feel honored?" In preparing this article, I tried that with a few parents, including my own. The question is almost paralyzing because they've likely never been asked that before. It may even take them a while to come up with an answer.
Asking your parents this question will show them that you're making an effort, and it will supply you with a personalized list of how-to steps. Of course, be sure to apply what you learn or you'll lose credibility.
In a nutshell, why honor our parents? Because honoring them also shows respect and reverence for our spiritual Father (Colossians:3:20). Indeed, His law requires it—as it is for our good and that of everyone else. How do we show honor? Basically, through everything we do. A big task? Sure it is. But it's worth it. Are you preparing for a long life ahead? VT