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The fifth commandment states: “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). It, along with the next five commandments, all define proper relationships with others, but the fifth commandment is the only commandment promising a reward.
When Moses reviewed the Ten Commandments with ancient Israel, he commented on another blessing, in addition to long life, for keeping this commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).
This promise is also meant to apply to “the land”—the nation. Generally, a nation thrives when it is composed mostly of strong families. A teachable and obedient child who has learned to respect people, submit to authority and have good relationships will generally have a more successful life, and contribute to a peaceful and productive society.
The fifth commandment shows us from whom and how the fundamentals of respect and honor are most effectively learned.That is why the Apostle Paul wrote: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:2-3). Even young Jesus “was subject to” His parents (Luke 2:51).
This commandment also prepares a child for future relationships. By learning respect and submission to authority in the home, he or she also learns to have respect for those in positions of leadership and authority, such as the police and leaders in government and the workplace. The following important scriptures emphasize this truth: Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:17-18; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 5:17; 6:1-2; Titus 3:1-2; and Hebrews 13:17.
Honoring our parents is a lifetime commitment. Our parents took care of us when we were young and needy, and they may need our help when they are old (1 Timothy 5:4). Jesus criticized those in His day who neglected making appropriate provisions for the care of their elderly parents, and He corrected the Pharisees because they neglected their parents and invented an excuse for that neglect (Matthew 15:4-6 and Mark 7:9-13).
Notice how God challenged the spiritual leaders of ancient Israel: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” (Malachi 1:6). As our Creator, God is the Father of us all, and in that sense, we should view ourselves as children of God. It is just as important for us to respect and obey our Heavenly Father as it is for our children to respect and obey us.
God places the primary responsibility for teaching children the basic principles of life directly on the shoulders of parents, and this responsibility depends on how much they, in turn, submit to God’s instruction and show love and respect for Him. Four commandments that emphasize the importance of a personal relationship with God precede the commandment to give honor to our parents. Only when we hold right principles in our hearts can we, as parents, successfully instill them in our children.
To be effective teachers, parents must be good role models, and teach God’s way of life to their children on a daily basis (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:6-9, 20-25; 11:18-21; Ephesians 6:4). God’s instruction to parents makes this clear: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
United News (May-June, 2019)