What it Means “to Honor Your Father and Mother”

To some ethnic groups the idea of reverence and submission to one’s elders is a basis of society. In China elders even have the right to demand a child marry, and often to whomever they chose. Parents also expect the new couple to take care of the son’s father and others in their old age, but not the mother’s family. This has led to the abortion of girls. To counter this the Chinese communist bureaucracy allows those couples who have a girl initially to conceive a boy to guarantee them a pension.

Other societies are equally demanding; Hispanic groups still exert some influence on family choice. I saw many a foreign-born mother taking over where she did not have God’s lawful authority. God’s command to Adam and Eve was the man is to leave father and mother and cleave to the wife to create a new home. (Genesis 2:24)

That parents’ authority is over. This accounts for some of the immigrants to the USA coming here to make personal choices quite outside of employment or political freedom. This all seems so old-fashioned to Americans who have actually taken personal choice to wild extremes, and the number of divorces should reflect that quickly.

The ancient Hebrew Bible, known the world over as God’s word to mankind, gave 10 commandments. The fifth of these was to “honor one’s father and mother.” But God doesn’t leave it there. He says there is a promise attached saying “In order that your days (not the parent’s day) may be long in the land I have given you.” Hebrews, like most tribes of people, prefer to stay in their own land rather than be relegated to a nation that may not appreciate them.

That leaves us to examine the tricky word honor. To Americans it tends to have the meaning of respect, even deference, maybe also obedience. And on this word many fail to take heed. Bad parents abound, living in addictions, violence, crime, giving out unreasonable punishment, and unable to control their emotions or tempers. And you will hear children from these homes tell you that honor when defined as respect or even love is something they cannot provide.

But the word honor is not respect, not deference, not love or like, and if it involves drinking or drugs, not obedience either. At this point we need to understand why God chose the word “honor.”

Honor’s old-time meaning referred to money or care. We hear it occasionally in the word “honorarium” to indicate a fee paid to a distinguished speaker, or to the person who wins a major award such as the Nobel Prize. In other words, honor means financial support. The children are to care for their parents in their old age. This promise also generates long life for them as well. It does not mean the sexually abused child must love; perhaps that might come from the inworking of the Holy Spirit. But the child can take care, or see that others take care of an aged parent.

Children have an obligation to accept people as they are, and that includes parents. But this is not an acceptance or rejection for performance. The parents’ performance is not the issue.

If your parent has failed in life, you do not need to approve. If that parent tried to kill you or make life a terror for you, lied about you or threw you out into the cold to make your own way, you are not being required to have warm feelings about them. You are only expected to see that are not wards of the State.

Perhaps God in His mercy can help you actually love them, but that is not honor, it is not in the law, and it is not expected. That kind of acceptance is part of your growth, not theirs.

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