The Ten Commandments - Fifth - Honoring Parents

Bible Book: Exodus  20 : 12
Subject: Parents, Honoring; Commandments
Series: The Ten Commandments - Paul Brown

The fifth commandment marks a major turning point in the listing of these ten great moral absolutes. The first four deal with man’s responsibility to God; but commandments five through ten deal with man’s responsibility to man. That divine arrangement reminds us that until we get right with God, there’s no way we can be right with other people - parents included. That’s why some people have such a hard time getting along with others; that isn’t always the reason, for sometimes other people can be difficult themselves. But in so many cases people are too easily offended and find it difficult to forgive others because they, themselves, are not right with God.

It is significant that God begins this section of the Ten Commandments by dealing with the family. The home is the foundational unit of society. As the home goes, so goes the country. That’s why Satan so vigorously attacks the family--and that’s why you and I need to give our very best to building and maintaining strong, God-honoring homes.

In dealing with the fifth commandment, let’s first give attention to…

I. The Underlying Assumption Of The Fifth Commandment

A. It Assumes A Father And Mother

When God says, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” he obviously is assuming that a child will have a father and a mother, and that they both will be present in the home to raise that child.

B. The Implications Of That Assumption

That is undoubtedly God‘s intent and that underlying assumption has some subtle yet powerful implications.

1. Divorce Is Not A Part Of God’s Plan

For one thing, it implies that divorce is not a part of God’s ideal plan. One of the great tragedies of our time is that approximately one-half of all modern-day marriages end in divorce. There are two major causes for divorce: husbands, and wives. Marriages fail because people fail--and people fail because they try to get by without giving Christ first place in their lives. All other problems that couples have--whatever the nature of those problems--stem from that basic flaw. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” If a man and a woman are right with God, they can work out their problems.

There are, of course, extreme situations in which divorce is justifiable. Jesus taught us that divorce is permitted in situations in which a spouse is guilty of adultery. However, in most other cases divorce could be avoided if both spouses would commit themselves unreservedly to Christ and work at healing their relationship. In some cases, they might be wise to seek Godly counsel.

In spite of what some liberals would have us believe, it is a documented fact that divorce shatters the lives of precious children. By God’s grace, that liability can be overcome. I know many people who have come out of broken homes, and, with the Lord’s help, have built great marriages and raised wonderful families. But divorce is a terrible blow to the children involved, and some of them never get over it.

Even though divorce is not a part of God’s ideal plan, he will help men and women who have experienced that tragedy to make a new start if they’ll surrender to him. I know some exceptionally fine folks who’ve been divorced, but have yielded their lives to Christ, made a fresh beginning, and have built strong, God-honoring homes and raised wonderful children. Our God truly is the God of another chance.

What about those who have been divorced and have never remarried? I applaud those single parents who, in spite of having experienced the tragedy of divorce, are seeking to raise their children in a Godly manner. I also applaud those single parents who, because of the death of their spouse, are faced with the responsibility of bringing up their children alone, and are endeavoring to honor God in the way they do it. In either case, being a single parent is tough--and all of us need to rally around those single parents, and their children. We need to befriend them, love them, encourage them, and help them in every way that we can.

2. Living Together Unmarried Is Not Part Of God’s Plan

Just as divorce is not a part of God’s best plan for people, neither is it God’s will that children be raised by a man and woman who are not married and living together immorally.  Unfortunately, though, that has become commonplace in our day and time. Many people living in such an ungodly arrangement are not even ashamed of it; in fact, some of them flaunt it. A lot of folks have rationalized and convinced themselves that in their case it’s okay. But, on the authority of the Word of God, it’s not okay--under any circumstances.

Somebody says, “But this is the 21st century, and folks today are more accepting of such things.” But you can’t just wave the wand of social acceptability over something that is filthy and thereby make it clean. God is still on his throne, and he hasn’t changed his laws. Furthermore, God’s laws are not up for a vote. They are not subject to revision. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

3. Same Sex Marriage Is Not Part Of God’s Plan

Still another fundamental truth is implied in the fifth commandment. When God says, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” he is thereby making it very clear that a marriage consists of one man united with one woman. There is no place in the plan of God for so-called “same-sex marriages.“ The very term is a contradiction, and is repulsive. For a man to have sexual relations with another man, or a woman with another woman, is unthinkably wicked. Leviticus 18:22 says, Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.“

In Romans 1 Paul described the depravity of which mankind is capable, and to document his point he referred to a certain group of people who had sunk to the very depths of immorality. In verses 26-27 we read: “For this cause God gave them up into vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

By all means, we must love those who are gays and lesbians, and we must endeavor to win them to Christ, who can forgive their sins, change their lives, and help them to overcome their deviant behavior. But we do gays and lesbians no service by soft-peddling the issue. We need to be clear as to what the Bible says about such perversion. Homosexuality, or lesbianism, is not a legitimate alternate lifestyle; it is not an unfortunate genetic inevitability; it is a sinful, shameful, degrading, God-dishonoring choice and getting right with God is the only real, lasting cure.

Having looked at the basic assumption underlying the fifth commandment, and some implications of that assumption, now let’s consider

II. The Application Of The Fifth Commandment

A. Parents Are To Be Worthy Of Honor

The Bible makes it clear that God expects parents to be worthy of honor. The role of parents is made plain in the Bible. Parents are to love and protect their children, provide for their needs, exercise fair and appropriate discipline, encourage them, and teach them. They are to teach by example as well as precept. Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Children bitterly resent it when parents tell them to live one way, but then the parents themselves live another way.

B. We Are To Honor Our Parents Regardless

But, having said this let me go on to emphasize that God’s command to honor our parents has no exception clause attached to it. Many of us were blessed with Godly, loving parents. But even if your mother and father have failed you, you are still to honor them. In a court of law, the judge is usually addressed as “your honor.“ That expression has nothing to do with the personality or character of the one being addressed. He is addressed as “your honor” because of the position he holds. In like manner, we are to honor our parents because of the unique position they hold in our lives--regardless of how well or poorly they have done the job.

C. What Is Involved In Honoring Our Parents

What does it mean to honor your parents? How do we apply this commandment in everyday life? The Hebrew word for “honor” literally means “to attach weight to,” or “to value highly.” Looking at the command in light of Biblical teaching as a whole, we can see that honoring our parents involves at least three things:

1. Obedience During Our Childhood And Teen Years

Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” Parents have learned some things that children don’t yet know, so God has ordained that while children are still in their formative years they are to be under the authority of their parents. Even Jesus, who was God in the flesh, honored his mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph, by obeying them. Luke 2:51 says, “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them....”

It is a tragic thing when parents exercise little or no control over their children, and simply let them go their own way. Children who receive no discipline are headed for disaster. Yet some parents seem afraid to cross their children. They let them eat poorly, stay up too late, watch too much TV, and they let them get by with being smart-alecks. Our prisons are full of people who are there because they never learned to respect authority and it all started in childhood when they were not made to obey their parents.

In speaking of the sinful depths to which mankind would sink as the second coming of Christ draws nearer, Paul wrote, in 2 Timothy 3:1-2: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy“ and the litany goes on for several more verses. But notice that Paul includes disobedience to parents right in the midst of some of the filthiest sins in the book. He does the same thing in Romans 1. In verse 30 he speaks of “Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents.”

Of course, when a person becomes of age, he is no longer obligated to obey his parents. If they have the right kind of relationship, he will probably always value their counsel, but he is no longer under a divine mandate to obey them. When Jesus grew up, he was no longer subject to Mary and Joseph. Jesus honored his mother, but on an occasion when she came to where he was teaching and tried to take him home, he did not obey her. He treated her with kindness and consideration, but he didn’t obey her.

2. We Are To Respect Our Parents

The command to honor our parents includes a second thing, to which I’ve already alluded: we are to treat them with RESPECT.

God intends that parents and children love each other. But regardless of the relationship that exists, we are to treat our parents with respect. Even if your parents have fallen short, you are still to respect them. As Jerry Vines expressed it, “Your parents may have more hang-ups than the phone company” but he want on to say that you should remember that there might also be some things in your life that disappoint, or even embarrass, them. In fact, he said, “For all you know, your mom and dad may go to PTA meetings under an assumed name!” The fact of the matter is: you have your parents, and they have you, and all concerned should work hard at making it a strong, loving relationship.

The great men of history have treated their parents with respect. Even though Joseph had become the Prime Minister of Egypt, when he was reunited with his aged father, Jacob, Genesis 48:12 says that “he bowed himself with his face to the earth” before Jacob. According to the custom of his day, he was showing great esteem for his father. Look at what 1 Kings 2:19 says about King Solomon’s response to his mother, Bathsheba, when she came to speak to him about a matter that concerned her: “...And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand.“

The attitude you have toward your parents says a lot about your character.

3. We Are To Provide For Our Parents In Their Time Of Need

The commandment to honor our parents includes a third thing: When our parents have needs later in life, to the extent that we are able we are to PROVIDE for them.

Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:4, 16: “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite [repay] their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed [“widows indeed” refers to widows who don’t have family members to help them].”

Jesus, as he hung on the cross, experienced suffering that was horrible beyond description. He bore the sins of the world, and yet during his last agonizing hours he showed concern for Mary, his mother. He saw her grief and distress, and he determined to see that she was provided for. In John 19:26-27 we read: “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

Many of us had parents who scraped, saved, and sacrificed to take care of us. What a shame when a person doesn’t do what he can for his parents in their time of need.

Our aged parents also have needs other than material--in fact, some of their deepest needs are not material in nature. Some folks ought to pick up the telephone and call their parents. Some ought to take some time off from your own pursuits and go visit them. They won’t be around always. Many of you, like Connie and me, no longer have your parents with you. But if you did your best for them while you had the opportunity, you can have peace in your heart about the matter.

Now, let’s consider…

III. The Promise Accompanying This Commandment

God said, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

That is a wonderful promise, but to be correctly understood it must be considered in the context of other Scripture. When studied in light of Biblical teaching as a whole, it appears that this promise has both a general application and a personal application.

A. The General Application

First, the general application: I believe that God is telling us that if the people of a society honor their parents, it is likely that they will also incorporate into their lives other God-honoring, uplifting characteristics as well, and in such a case God will bless, protect and prosper such a people--they will be an enduring society.

B. The Personal Application

But now let’s look at this promise on a personal level. Does that promise mean that God will guarantee a long life to every individual who honors his parents? No. Not every person who honors his parents will necessarily live to a ripe old age because the Bible makes it clear that IN ADDITION TO honoring your parents, there are also OTHER factors which have a bearing on length of life. The promise DOES mean that OTHER FACTORS BEING EQUAL those who honor their parents will be blessed with long life. But other factors are not always equal.

C. Factors Affecting The Personal Application
1. The Length Of Your God-Appointed Mission On Earth

The primary factor which is not the same for everyone is this: God sends some folks to this earth on a short-term mission, rather than a long-term mission. The greatest example I could possibly cite is that of Jesus. The Bible says, in Hebrews 4:15 that he “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus was the one perfect individual who ever lived on this earth. He was perfect in his relationship with Mary, his mother, and with Joseph, his foster father. He honored them exactly as he should have. Yet, even though he perfectly fulfilled this fifth commandment--as well as all the others--he did not live a long life. In his case, he died in his prime--at approximately 33 years of age. The reason was that God the Father had a work for Jesus to do that required that he die precisely when he did. His was the great and marvelous work of providing for our redemption by his death on the cross and then his resurrection.

Let me cite another example: Roy Rogers, known as “the king of the cowboys,” was a successful western movie star, and his wife, Dale Evans, was his co-star. Both of them were outstanding Christians. They were thrilled when, in August of 1950, their little daughter, Robin, was born, but their excitement turned to deep grief when they learned that she was born with Downs Syndrome. They were advised to “put her away” in an institution, but ignored such harsh advice, and took their precious baby home and lovingly cared for her.

She only lived two and a half years, but in that brief time made a powerful impact on her parents and through them on others. Dale wrote the story of their experience with Robin in a book entitled “Angel Unaware.” In spite of the brevity of her earthly sojourn, little Robin changed Roy and Dale’s lives. She brought them closer to God, and they were encouraged to help other children with special needs. In fact, the book’s publisher said that that book actually changed the way our nation as a whole treated special needs children. People still speak of how that book has made a profound difference in their lives. God’s appointed “mission of love” to this earth for little Robin was short-lived, but powerful and of lasting effect.

So, the time required for each person’s God-appointed mission is the primary factor determining length of life.

2. Your Care For Your Physical Body

There are also additional factors, such as the issue of taking care of your physical body, which, for a believer, is the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you. Some people shorten their lives, and thereby thwart God’s ideal plan for their lives, by mistreating their physical bodies, or by taking foolish risks to their safety in other ways.

3. Mysterious Factors, Beyond Our Comprehension

There are still other factors affecting the length of life that are mysterious, and utterly beyond our ability to comprehend. We can’t understand people of various ages, including precious, innocent little babies, dying of dread diseases, or natural disasters, or as victims of violence. In such cases we simply have to walk by faith, and ask God to give us grace to deal with the situation, in spite of the mystery of it.

But, in regard to the promise accompanying the fifth commandment, the “bottom line” is this: If you honor your parents, you enhance your POTENTIAL for long life and, if other Biblical factors are equal, you WILL live longer.


Let me conclude by emphasizing that all of God’s commands not only are accompanied by rewards for those who keep them, but also have penalties attached to the breaking of them. One of God’s most crucial commands is given in Acts 17:30-31: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

God has commanded that we repent of our sins and that, by faith, we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. Acts 16:31 declares, “...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved....” When you thus receive Christ, you can then claim God’s promises which accompany his command to repent and believe. He promises to forgive your sins, to give you newness of life, to be available to help you in your times of temptation, and to give you a home in heaven when you die.

But if you reject Christ and go your own way, depending on your own righteousness to get you to heaven, you’re in for a profound, eternal disappointment. Jesus said, in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”