Observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother.
How do we apply the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12)? Throughout the Old Testament, the command to honor someone demands a tangible expression. We are told to honor God—not just by our thoughts of Him, but, for example, “Honor the LORD from your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). One way you show God to be worthy of your honor is what you do with your money. Giving a gift to Him is a tangible expression of honoring the name of God. In the same way, the command to honor our parents demands a tangible expression. There are four stages of life in which we can apply this commandment to reverence our father and our mother. Today, we will look at the first two.
First, to children, to honor our parents means to obey our parents. A child is to obey his parents’ commands until he is out from under his parents’ authority. Until he forms his own home, that child is under the direct authority of his parents. If you’re a child or a teenager, one of the primary ways God is going to direct your life is through your father and your mother. God set into order a chain of command in every part of society, and the way He communicates is through that chain of command.
Some people ask, “But what if my parent is not a Christian?” That’s no match for God. God is not hindered in His Word because your parent is not a Christian. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Even an unbelieving king is ultimately subject to the sovereignty of God. Obviously we’re never to obey a command from anyone that violates Scripture. Acts 5:29 says, “We must obey God rather than men,” though doing so may cause us to have to suffer. But for children, to honor our parents means to obey them.
Second, for young adults this commandment has a different meaning. From the beginning God had a plan for us to move from dependence to independence from our parents, and we see this plan in Genesis 2:24. Moses writes, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” This is not just a physical leaving, but it is also an emotional leaving. There comes a time when you emotionally leave your father and mother in order to cleave to the spouse God has ordained for you. There is a leaving and a cleaving that is a part of the marriage relationship. And it’s very important for that emotional leaving to take place if a home has any chance of surviving.
In the marriage relationship, our relationship toward our parents changes. No longer are they authority figures in our life. Nevertheless, we ought to seek their advice. It doesn’t mean we have to follow their advice all the time, but we would be wise to seek it. Our duty as young adults is not to obey our parents but to respect our parents.
In Proverbs 6:20–23, Solomon says, “My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light.” All throughout our life we ought to consider the godly counsel we may have received from our parents.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Honoring Your Parents,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.