What Is the Bible’s View?
What Honor Is Due Parents?
THE Bible commands children to obey their parents, to honor them. It emphasizes the rightness of this course and shows that it results in lasting blessings. We read: “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.
So honoring parents includes being obedient to them. Why is this “righteous”? Of course, the very fact that the Giver of the command to honor parents is a righteous God shows that obedience is, of necessity, right. But why has God given this command?
Really, children owe it to their parents to be obedient. What if they had been totally neglected? Could they have raised themselves? So should not children rightly show appreciation for what their parents have done for them by being obedient in all matters that do not interfere with heeding the superior law of God and Christ?
Giving honor to parents by obeying them is also essential for preserving unity and order in the family, and in society as a whole. If children do not learn to honor parents, they are not likely to respect any other kind of authority. Their disobedience will therefore make them misfits in society, persons who disregard the rights of others. Then, too, if children refuse to obey parents who have their interests at heart, how can they be obedient to the invisible heavenly Father, Jehovah God?
Another factor that makes obedience to parents righteous is that parents have the benefit of age and experience. A child’s background is definitely limited and so are its powers of reasoning and understanding. Especially in the early years of life, a child needs parental guidance and discipline to avoid trouble. That is the point made by the Bible proverb: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.”—Prov. 22:15.
Inherent in heeding the command to honor parents is the promise: “That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.” This is because parents generally want good, not bad, to come to their children. Despite their weaknesses and imperfections, most parents try to do what they can to help their offspring to avoid injury. Acting in harmony with parental, instruction, children can spare themselves untold pain. Generally, obedience to parental counsel would result in one’s shunning sexual immorality, drunkenness, the taking of drugs and other practices that can lead to great harm and perhaps even premature death.
But is honoring parents solely a matter of being obedient to them while one is a minor child? No. Jesus Christ pointed out that giving honor to parents is something that continues as long as they are alive. Exposing the traditional view of the Pharisees, Jesus said: “God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have by which you might get benefit from me is a gift dedicated to God,” he must not honor his father at all.’ And so you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.”—Matt. 15:4-6.
Similarly, the apostle Paul showed that material giving to parents and grandparents is included in giving honor to them. In connection with the responsibility of the congregation and children as regards widows, he wrote: “Honor widows that are actually widows [that is, having no family members to aid them]. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight. . . . Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”—1 Tim. 5:3-8.
This matter of honoring aged parents and grandparents is, therefore, something that should be viewed very seriously. It is a Christian requirement. Ignoring it constitutes a rejection of Christian faith. The person who disregards the needs of others, especially of those related to him, lacks love. If love for parents whom he sees and who have cared for him is defective, he cannot love God.—1 John 4:20.
According honor to parents by caring for them may not always be easy. Because of infirmity and sickness, aged parents may require considerable attention. Their disposition may not always be the best. Personality differences between parents and children may become more pronounced with the passing of years and could lead to considerable friction. But would that entitle one to ignore the needs of one’s parents? Certainly not.
It was not always easy for parents to put up with their children’s foolishness and to care for them in times of sickness or other adversity. But love moved parents to do what no one could have paid them to do. Many parents have given of their time, assets, energies and, at times, have even sacrificed their health in efforts to help their children grow up to be responsible adults. Are parents, then, not entitled to compensation from their children?
But what if the parent is an in-law? True Christians realize that, when they marry, they also may, in time, have to take on the responsibility of caring for the needs of their mate’s parents. A devoted Christian would not say, “I did not marry your relatives,” and reason that he or she has no obligation toward those related only by marriage. He or she would want to honor parents on both sides of the family, appreciating that this is right.
In many lands, parents may have what they need materially. But they may yearn for companionship and reassurances that their grown-up children love them deeply. Children do well to give thought to things they might do to express thanks for what parents have done in their behalf. They should want to do what they can to make their parents feel needed and appreciated, including them in their plans and activities. By consulting with their parents on weighty matters, children are demonstrating that they value the wisdom of their father and mother. These are all ways of showing honor and esteem for parents.
Only if we accord parents the honor they deserve can we expect the blessing of Jehovah God. In this respect, true Christians in these “last days” stand out in sharp contrast to the world that lacks “natural affection.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) While young, Christian children should be exemplary in being obedient to their parents. As adults, they should be concerned about doing all within their power to contribute to their parents’ happiness and welfare.