Honorable Parents

Children often hear the biblical command to “honor your father and your mother.” It’s no wonder. It’s one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12), quoted by Jesus (Matthew 15:4), and reinforced by Paul (Ephesians 6:2). As if that weren’t enough, I like it. What parent wouldn’t?

As I have meditated on this recently, it occurs to me that this command isn’t simply for children. It seems that there is a pre-understanding that brings such force to this phrase. The understanding is this – the parents are honorable people. Yes, I’ve heard many say that a child should respect the position regardless of the person. While this may have some truth, is it truly the focus of Scripture? Does God not put gender, position, looks, nationality, and affluence aside to focus on the person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Mark 10:21-22, Galatians 3:28)?

Perhaps we, as parents, ought to consider whether or not our children think us to be honorable people. There are many areas in which we could evaluate our lives through the eyes of our children, and we ought to be searching Scriptures to learn more. To get us started, let’s consider a few together.

Scriptures teach that parents are to teach God’s commands to their children by speaking of them “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). The understanding here is that a parent can pass on truth because they spend time with their child. How can a child find anything honorable about you if you are never involved in their life? Take a moment to consider your weekly schedule. How many hours does your child spend with a childcare provider or school teacher? How many hours does your child spend in art, dance, or athletics? How many hours does your child spend in church activities? Now, how many hours does your child spend with you? It is little wonder why the people a child or a teenager will rave about and honor is someone other than their parent. Honorability is preceded by investment.

Last night, a neighbor girl came over to hang out with my girls, and I watched the interaction as each of my girls tried to share the new things in their lives. Anna, my oldest, brought out a beautifully decorated pillow with a pocket for her first lost tooth (intended for the tooth fairy, of course). “Look at this, Katie! My mom made this pillow!” Anna pointed out every detail as if to squeeze out any possible bit of pride that could be had. “Mom did such-and-such, and this was my idea…” You see, it wasn’t so much about mom making the pillow as it was that mom and Anna made the pillow together. Mom had invested time in Anna, and Anna couldn’t wait to share her pride, excitement and honor for her mom.

When dealing with the mess of Eli’s household, God makes a very awesome and telling statement. “Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30). It is a biblical command for children to honor their parents. It only follows that a parent showing honor toward God would reinforce God’s command in the child’s heart and mind. Who do your children consider to be their spiritual hero? Who do they honor because of a strong commitment to the Lord? It is probably the person who takes time with your child to deal with spiritual truths and questions. Many teens say it’s their youth pastor. Some children might indicate a Sunday School teacher. According to the Bible, your child’s spiritual hero should be you – the parent (Deuteronomy 6). Honorability is preceded by faithfulness to God.

We could continue going through passages on “honor” throughout the Scriptures. Our pride may be a barrier to our children following the command to honor us. Honorability is preceded by humility (Proverbs 15:33). Our anger and bickering is off-putting to our children. Honorability is preceded by a desire for peace (Proverbs 20:3). How we handle our money might be what doesn’t add up in the minds of our children. Honorability is preceded by gratitude and sacrifice (Proverbs 3:9). Our marriage can either be a help or a hindrance to our children showing us honor, because honorability is preceded by parents who respect one another and are true to their wedding vows.

When our children act disrespectfully toward us, our first response may be to quote the command “honor your father and mother” or at least have that be the basis for our reprimand. Rather, our first thought should be “have I been worthy of honor?” Yes, our children will still be disrespectful even when we do feel we are acting honorably. We should expect this – they’re sinners. Our problem arises when we forget that we’re sinners, too. God has given us a great responsibility to care for these children. We must be about the business of living up to the honor our children are commanded to give.

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