Commandment #4: Parents

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 5, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

The 4th commandment in my series on the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and your mother. The meaning of this commandment according to Luther’s Small Catechism is, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have fantastic parents! They raised my brother and me in a Christian home, taught us how to live our lives in a right and moral manner, provided well for us, and have always showed us love to the best of their abilities. A couple months ago, my parents came to my aid when I was injured in a motorcycle accident, making the nearly 2-hour drive to and from my house many times just to be with me and help out with whatever I needed. So this commandment may come easier for someone like me than for someone who had parents who didn’t seem to care much about their children. But, God doesn’t tell us to honor our parents only if they honor us as their children; there’s no stipulation on this.

As with all the commandments, why should we do this? Honoring our earthly parents shows that we honor God with our lives. We love God, so we should love our parents too, because He created them and gave us to them as their child. Our parents (even mine) aren’t perfect, but that’s no reason for us to break this commandment; we should honor them no matter what, as difficult as that may be at times.

Every time I ponder this commandment, I recall the Hebrew for it. The word that we translate as “honor” can also be translated as “to make fat” (because fat was a sign of wealth in that culture). It always makes me laugh when I think of this commandment as “Make your father and mother fat”! Clearly that’s not the intended meaning here, but it still makes me giggle because language can be funny.

You’ll notice that Luther’s meaning for this commandment also includes “other authorities.” This commandment doesn’t just apply to our biological parents but also to others in authority over us - grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, bosses, government officials, etc. For more on what the Bible says about authorities in our lives, check out this post.

This commandment is known as the only commandment with a promise. This one gives us the result of what will happen when we obey it: “so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This was especially applicable to the people of Israel since they were journeying toward the Promised Land when they received these commandments from God. That was their goal in life, and they as a people would achieve it if they as individuals respected all of the authorities in their lives.

While you and I are likely not on a many-year journey to a promised land, we can still claim the promise this commandment gives us. When we honor our parents and other authorities in our lives, our lives will be better. Of course there is no guarantee that we will live to be over 100 years old if we honor our parents, but the idea behind it is that our lives will be fulfilling when we honor those around us, and in turn honor God with our lives. When we serve, love, and obey our parents, we serve, love, and obey God.

Do you truly honor your parents and others in authority in your life? What could you change this week to show more honor to those around you and in turn honor God by keeping this commandment?

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