Throughout the Bible, children are viewed as a blessing to their parents. Such is the case in Psalm 127:3-5, where children are referred to as “a heritage from the Lord,” “a reward,” and, ultimately, a blessing. However, in order for children to truly be a blessing to their parents, they must understand the proper relationship they are to have with their parents. That is where the biblical command to “honor your father and your mother” comes into play (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3). But why did God instruct us to honor our parents?
Before you read any farther, it needs to be said that there is no excuse for parents to abuse, manipulate, or abandon their children. Those sinful dynamics are unacceptable in the eyes of God. Remember, God’s inspired Word instructs fathers not to “provoke their children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4), condemns anyone who causes a child to sin (Mark 9:42), and cites Jesus’ indignation when His disciples tried to prevent children from coming to Him (Mark 10:14). These and other passages imply that the aforementioned sins against children are included in the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” against which God will reveal His wrath (Romans 1:18). The objective of this article is not to specifically address such ungodly situations. Instead, the goal of this article is to help us understand why God instructed us to honor our parents, and there are at least three main reasons.
First, God instructed us to honor our parents because they are imperfect. Parents make mistakes, and, unfortunately, some parents fail at their parental responsibilities. Since parents are not perfect, God instructs us to honor the position rather than the person. In other words, honoring one’s parents is about respecting the role rather than the individual. It is the same principle that is often applied to the President of the United States. You may not like his agenda, his policies, or his character, but you are expected to respect the office that he holds. Therefore, by instructing us to honor the position of parenthood, God established a precedent for the parent-child relationship that supersedes the inadequacies of parents.
Second, God instructed us to honor our parents because respect for authority begins at home. Scripture presents three spheres of human authority that Christians are told to respect. The first is the home where parents serve as the authoritative figures (Ephesians 6:1-3), the second is the church where elders serve as the authoritative figures (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17), and the third is the civil government where a variety of individuals and/or institutions may serve as the authoritative figure (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Before one can learn to respect church leaders or government officials, he or she must first learn to respect his or her parents. By honoring the position of parenthood, children learn to honor other positions of authority that God expects them to recognize.
Finally, God instructed us to honor our parents because obedience is temporary. You may have noticed that Paul instructed children to “obey your parents” in Ephesians 6:1. Obedience is an aspect of honoring our parents up until the point one begins his or her own new home. From the beginning of creation, God expected children to eventually leave the home. In Genesis 2:24, after God introduced Adam to Eve, the following command is presented: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Notice the emphasis on leaving in this passage. Once a child leaves the home to start his or her own home, the obedience aspect of the parent-child relationship is annulled, but the honor aspect persists. Thus, obedience is only a temporary trait of the parent-child relationship while honor is a permanent one, and, for this reason, God instructed us to honor our parents.
As you consider the responsibility of honoring your parents, remember that your goal as a Christian child should be to “Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice” (Proverbs 23:25).