Deuteronomy 5:16 states: “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” What does this mean for us today?
In the fifth commandment the Lord makes two promises: that those who honor their parents will live long and have pleasant lives. The reason for this in the Bible is two fold.
- First, a servant could receive the inheritance over a biological son if the parents found the son’s behavior dishonorable (Proverbs 17:2) and therefore cut off their children from economic well-being in the future.
- Second, the habits we learn at home, in general, radiate outward into the texture of the rest of our lives. Learning to honor our parents helps us to honor and respect other people in our lives.
But there is also a third reason that these promises make great sense. Our very existence depends upon the prior existence of our parents. Our likes, dislikes, bodies, souls, and culture come from them. If we do not learn to cherish our parents, no matter how good or bad they really are, we cannot cherish our own souls. Other than God himself, nothing should be cherished as much as your souls. Indeed, Jesus says that not even the whole world is worth your soul (Matthew 16:26). The truly long-lived soul belongs eternally to the one who goes to God for forgiveness and restoration of soul (Psalm 19:7).
If we stand to gain so much by honoring our parents, how do we do it? I recommend three things.
- First, we must honor our parents with outward respect and gratitude: please, thank you, refrain from using sarcasm, offer to help with chores, do what they ask the first time, and so-on.
- Second, we must regularly thank God for our parents. This will help us learn to honor them internally as we start to feel compassion and happiness for their presence in our lives.
- And finally, we must learn from our parents. There are three ways to learn from them: listen to their wisdom, observe their ways, and strengthen in ourselves the weaknesses they have.
In honoring our parents, we set ourselves up to receive the promises of God.