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The Ten Commandments Series: The Fifth Commandment

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The Ten Commandments Series

The Fifth Commandment

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“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).

“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are two of the most appropriate and important national holidays in various countries. In addition, God commands us to honor our parents throughout the year.

This commandment applies both to young children and adult children. There are some differences, of course. When the Bible tells “children” to “obey your parents,” it obviously means minor children (Colossians 3:20). Even young Jesus “was subject to” His parents (Luke 2:51).

Clearly there are many other ways for children of all ages to show respect, deference, care and concern throughout the lives of their parents. To begin with, be kind and courteous and never talk disrespectfully or condescendingly to them or about them.

In the heart of the Ten Commandments, the Fifth serves as a bridge. In Leviticus 19:3, God says, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father. . . ” Children learn to revere God by first revering their parents. And honoring parents is the foundation upon which respect and love for neighbor is built.

This commandment prepares a child for his or her future relationships. By learning respect and submission to authority in the home, the child learns to have respect for rules, laws, leaders and people in general, especially adults. He learns to have special respect for those in positions of leadership and authority—teachers, coaches, police, leaders in government, leaders in the workplace, etc. The following important scriptures emphasize this truth: Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:17-18; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 5:17; 6:1-2; Titus 3:1-2; and Hebrews 13:17. A child learns leadership by first learning followership.

The Bible also teaches that a person should show special respect toward people who are much older than he is (Leviticus 19:32; 1 Peter 5:5).

Why doesn’t the commandment say to love your father and mother? The Bible teaches that all positions of authority should be respected whether they are acting with good intentions or not. A very young child can learn to act respectfully, and based on that foundation, can learn true love as he matures. (See the elements of respect in the love chapter—1 Corinthians 13.)

This commandment is not limited to honoring one’s biological parents. “Your father and mother” means the people who have or had guardianship and have acted as your parents. They can be adoptive parents, stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, uncles and aunts, etc. Furthermore, grandparents are deserving of special respect.

Major Disobedience of This Commandment is A Terrible Sin

By authoring the Fifth Commandment, God delegated His parental authority to the parents. Disobeying this commandment is a sin against God (see Deuteronomy 27:16; Proverbs 20:20; 30:17).

God prescribed the death penalty for anyone who struck or cursed his father or mother (Exodus 21:15, 17; Leviticus 20:9). And the “wayward son” law provided for the possible death penalty for a chronically rebellious and incorrigible child (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

It’s essential to understand that God never permitted a parent to kill one of his children. The elders at the gate of a city served as a court of law and only they could impose the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21:19). The “wayward son” law required first of all that both the father and mother had to agree to bring the child to the court at the gate of the city for a trial by the “elders .” However, there is no biblical or historical record of any executions that were based on these laws.

Show Your Gratitude to Your Parents!

First of all, you exist because your parents brought you into this world. They accepted a commitment to take care of you for the next 18 years! To begin with, your mother carried you inside of her for nine months.

For the first few years of your life, your parents’ life was give, give, give. Your parents sacrificed to provide everything—safety, protection, healthful living, shelter, food, clothing, first aid, medical care, comfort, guidance, education, coaching, transportation, school supplies, opportunities, encouragement, recreation, entertainment and fun!

So God wants you to understand and remember all of this and regularly express your gratitude in every way possible! And what do your parents primarily want from you? Good attitudes and behavior, especially your gratitude, forgiveness, respect, love, and to see you turning out well. It gives parents great joy to see a child becoming a mature, wise and loving person. “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1; see also 13:1; 15:20; 17:21; 23:15-16, 22-25; 27:11; 29:2; 3 John 1:4).

If you live a godly life, you will honor your parents by protecting and enhancing your family’s name and reputation. “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1; see also 10:1).

Your parents took care of you when you were young and needy, and they may need your help when they are old and needy. When they have serious health problems, need physical and financial assistance, or just feel lonely, make sure your parents feel very loved and are well taken care of (see 1 Timothy 5:4). Jesus severely castigated the Pharisees because they neglected their parents and invented an excuse for that neglect (Matthew 15:4-6).

Should I Honor a Parent Whose Actions Have Not Deserved Honor?

All parents make many mistakes, but when the attitudes and behaviors of a parent have been abusive or terrible in other ways, it is confusing and challenging for a child to know how to honor that parent. To begin with, remember that the Bible tells us to love and be merciful to everyone including our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45). The child should still be courteous, pray for the parent and forgive him.

In extreme cases, it might help to counsel with a minister or qualified outside help about how to honor that parent.

A Related and Huge Subject is Godly Parenting

The other side of this subject is godly parenting, an awesome responsibility! This is a huge subject by itself, so this section will only briefly address it. Much instruction on godly child-rearing is contained in two of our booklets, Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension and Making Life Work.

A child on his own does not naturally honor his parents. He must be taught and respectful behavior must be enforced. Parents must teach the truth of God’s Word and way of life to their children, ideally by doing it every day (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:6-9, 20-25; 11:18-21; Ephesians 6:4). Of course, to be effective teachers, parents must be good role models.

To see how essential it is to lovingly discipline children see Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:6, 15; 23:13-14; 29:15 and Hebrews 12:5-11. Children learn by receiving and responding to discipline.

Western civilization is turning its back on the Bible, the Ten Commandments and Judeo-Christian values. Bible prophecies tell us this would happen: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves. . . blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful. . .  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers. . .  despisers of good. . .  haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4; see also Isaiah 3:4-5, 8-17). Therefore, parents must work extra hard to keep these evils from influencing and infecting their families.

The One Commandment That Promises A Reward!

Remember God said those who honor their parents will receive the following blessing: “that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

First of all, these rewards tend to be true simply because of the logical laws of cause and effect. A teachable and obedient child who has learned to respect people, submit to authority and have good relationships will generally have a safer, healthier, longer and more successful life.

This promise is also meant to apply to “the land”—the nation. Generally, a nation survives for a long time and thrives as long as it is composed mostly of strong families.

“Honor your father and mother… that it may be well with you.” God said it and meant it so it has to mean very good things! God blesses those who obey His Ten Commandments and God gives special blessings to those who faithfully obey the Fifth Commandment!

To all the moms and dads: thank you!



    Thank you. A very timely message in this day and age, with all the disrespect of authority from the young children and adults . The moral fabric of this society has been torn away and thrown in the trash heap.

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