Whatever Happened to ‘Honor Thy Parents’?
ONE father said concerning his two sons: “Whenever I express my opinions, they act as though they barely tolerate me. Whatever happened to ‘Honor thy Parent’?” Similarly, the director of a family-service agency observed: “These days, young people don’t just talk back to their parents, they regularly defy their authority.”
Whether you are a youth or an adult, likely you have noted that many young people today disobey and disrespect their parents. This is a matter that should concern you, whether you are a youth or a parent. Why?
Because the parent-child conflicts you observe are part of a pattern, a mosaic of events, that marks these times as the last days. According to the Bible, the period called the “last days” comes before the final destruction of the worldwide system of things. (2 Timothy 3:1) There will, though, be survivors who will enjoy life under a real heavenly government.—Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:1-4.
But how does disobedience to parents fit in with what the Bible says about the present and the future? In previous issues of The Watchtower we have reviewed Jesus Christ’s prophecy at Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13. Jesus focused on world events that would mark “the conclusion of the system of things”: wars, earthquakes and lawlessness, to name a few. Now, however, we focus on a related prophetic description of this time period, found at 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Instead of just dealing with the external forces affecting mankind, the Bible here highlights the attitudes of people experiencing these dramatic events. It says:
“Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, . . . and from these turn away.”
Note that these words of the apostle Paul are a commentary on how the last days would affect people. Observe, too, that ‘disobedience to parents’ would be prominent during the critical period called the last days.
Fulfilled in Our Day?
‘How do we know that Paul was not speaking of conditions in only his day?’ some may ask. Since the apostle followed his prophecy with counsel to the Christian named Timothy, some understandably wonder if Paul really wrote about our day. (2 Timothy 3:5, 14, 15) Note, however, that Paul says that “in the last days critical times . . . will be here.” He must have been referring to a future development. Timothy was told to “turn away” from persons manifesting undesirable traits, since some in the congregation already did so. But Paul’s words show that in the future last days the situation would be more critical.—Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12; 3:6-14.
You may have heard, though, that some researchers claim that most youths today are really getting along reasonably well with their parents. In view of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, what are you to think of such claims? Before reaching a conclusion, let us view Paul’s prophecy against the backdrop of Bible history.
“Honor Your Father and Your Mother”
So said the fifth of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:12) These words were impressed on the minds of Jewish youths. (Deuteronomy 5:16; 6:6, 7) Disobedience to one’s parents was unthinkable—a capital offense in some instances! (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) The ancient way of life helped parents maintain this loving but strict control. The family structure was patriarchal. Parental roles were well defined. Children were viewed as an asset, a blessing, and chores in their agricultural society gave them plenty to do.—Compare Psalm 127:3.
However, as the nation veered away from Jehovah’s ways, family life deteriorated. Some 800 years after the Ten Commandments were given, the prophet Micah observed: “A son is despising a father; a daughter is rising up against her mother . . . a man’s enemies are the men of his household.” (Micah 7:6) Similarly, Ezekiel said of the city Jerusalem: “Father and mother they have treated with contempt in you.” (Ezekiel 22:7) Such gross disrespect for parents was symptomatic of widespread moral degradation. Therefore, God took severe disciplinary action against the entire nation.—Jeremiah 1:15, 16.
Viewed from this perspective, you likely agree that much of the conduct of 20th-century youths would have seemed shocking to Paul back in the first century. Present liberal views of childrearing were unheard of then. Hence, we need to bear in mind that studies painting a rosy picture of modern family life overlook God’s standards for children. (Ephesians 6:1-3) When the attitudes and conduct common among today’s youth are compared with God’s standards, we can understand why the Bible calls the present generation “disobedient.” Not that all children are necessarily rebellious. But disobedience is significantly widespread and intense—very noticeable.
Yet is ‘disobedience to parents’ really worldwide? Is there enough evidence of parent-child conflict to indicate that we are living in “the last days”?—2 Timothy 3:1, 2.
[Blurb on page 4]
‘Not all children are rebellious. But disobedience is significantly widespread and intense’