“Your Word Is Truth”
“Honor Your Father and Your Mother”
THE first four of the Ten Commandments deal with man’s obligations toward his Maker, Jehovah God. They require that He alone is to be worshiped; that no images are to be made and worshiped, not even of Him; and that his name and his sabbath are to be held sacred. The Fifth Commandment might be said to deal with man’s obligations toward both God and his fellowman in that the parents represent God, exercising authority delegated to them by God. That commandment states: “Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.”—Ex. 20:12.
That the principle of this commandment also carries over to Christ’s followers is apparent from what is said in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Thus the apostle Paul tells children of Christian parents: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’”—Eph. 6:1-3.
What does it mean to give honor? It means “to respect greatly; to regard highly.” It means to hold in high esteem and to give due obedience.
How can children show that they honor their father and their mother? First of all, by the very tone of voice with which they address their parents. It should always be mild, respectful; never harsh, demanding, flippant, sarcastic or impatient. In addressing them the terms “Father” and “Mother” are appropriate, or colloquial terms such as “Dad” and “Mom” if used with due respect and love.
Giving parents due honor also includes speaking respectfully about them behind their backs. Many modern youths come sadly short in this respect. They make very disparaging remarks behind their parents’ backs, referring to them in a sarcastic, mocking or other disrespectful way. Certainly such is not according them due honor.
Showing parents honor also means to be obedient to them. Why should children honor and obey their parents? For more than one good reason.
Are you a young person? Then, first of all, you should honor and obey your parents because Jehovah God your Maker commands you to do so. His commands are both just and wise. That of itself is sufficient reason, in fact, the most compelling reason why you should obey your parents.—Prov. 6:20; Col. 3:20.
You should also honor and obey your parents because you owe it to them. They brought you into the world. If they had not been godly persons they could have nipped your existence short by an abortion or have left you at some foundling home. No, but they reared you, fed and clothed you, took care of you when you were sick and provided you with an education. Since they have done all this, do you not owe them gratitude? If you are grateful and appreciative you will show it by honoring and obeying them.
Further, it is in your own best interests to honor and obey your parents. This is indicated by the very words of the Fifth Commandment, namely, “that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.” God has promised a new system of things in which “death will be no more.” To qualify for life in that new system, youths must obey their parents.—Rev. 21:3, 4.
Besides, as a youth you have not reached maturity; you lack wisdom and experience. You have strong desires, impulses and instincts. You may feel very keenly about certain matters but may not always appreciate all that is involved. Not that your parents are perfect, but they have more wisdom and experience.
Remember, right after the Flood, God said that “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Gen. 8:21) Without training, without discipline, you are bound to err. Your parents are able to look at things affecting you in a more rational manner than you can, and they love you. Your judgment is more likely to be beclouded by emotion. As a teen-ager you may want to “go steady” with one of the opposite sex, not appreciating the dangers to your morals that are associated with such a course. Then again, it could well lead to marriage. Are you able to assume the responsibilities of the wedded state, such as supporting a wife and child?
Further, learning to honor and obey your parents is good training for you. Doing so will make it easier for you to obey your schoolteachers and to get along well with others in school. You will thus be helped to appreciate the need to obey traffic laws and policemen and so avoid getting into trouble. As a noted American author once put it, the reason why youths get into trouble with the police is that the police are the first ones to say No to them and really mean it. And by learning to respect authority, to honor and obey your parents, you will be more likely to respect and obey your employer when you get a job. Truly, there are strong and compelling reasons why you should learn to honor and obey your parents.
The apostle Paul says that children are to obey their parents “in union with the Lord.” But what about children who are dedicated Christians and whose parents are not “in union with the Lord,” who are unbelievers? Must they also obey their parents? Indeed they must. Since God’s Word shows that believing wives must obey their unbelieving husbands, believing children must also be obedient to unbelieving parents. The only exception would be if unbelieving parents required believing children to do something such as stealing, lying, gambling or engaging in an act of apostasy, which violate God’s law. Then children would refuse to obey their parents on the grounds that “we must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29; 1 Pet. 3:1-6.
But what about children when they have grown up, are of legal age and may have children of their own? Are they still obligated to honor their parents, even though they may not be living with them? Yes, they still should accord them honor and respect. If no longer in the parental home, they are in position to make their own decisions, but they should still treat their parents with esteem, honor, regard and love.
Quite recently a very happy teen-age witness of Jehovah just completing high school was heard to remark: “I think I have the most wonderful parents in all the world.” Such gratitude is what parents should be able to expect if they teach their children to honor and obey them, and, of course, set for them a proper example.