THE 5TH COMMANDMENT – A BRIEF EXPLANATION
Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
What does it mean to ‘honour our parents’? It means to . . .
(a) Listen to and obey them, as Colossians 3:20 (Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord) and Proverbs 6:20 (My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother) exhort us.
(b) To show respect and deference to them, as seen in how Rachel replied Laban her father (Genesis 31:35) and how Solomon treated his aged mother Bathsheba.
(c) To love and provide for them, especially when they are old. See how Joseph did that for his father Jacob (Genesis 47:12) and how Jesus made various preparations for Mary His mother as He was nailed to the Cross (John 19:26, 27). We also show love to them by covering up their faults and weakness instead of broadcasting them (Proverbs 10:12). For some of our situations, they don’t need us to provide them money as much as to provide them company. Many elderly people die, not from poverty but loneliness.
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Are you ‘honouring’ your parents?
When the Israelites finally enter the Promised Land, they enter as freed people! How can they ensure that this freedom in Canaan will be maintained? The 5th Commandment provides the answer!
Parents will teach their children God’s revealed will as applied to all areas of their lives. The classic example of this is seen in Proverbs, where the father warns his son against easy money and easy sex (Proverbs 1) and where he exhorts his son to cultivate diligence (Proverbs 6). The children must accept these teachings, live them out and teach them to their children. It is only when generations after generations follow God’s precepts and principles for life that they will be guaranteed continuous freedom and residence in Canaan. However, if the next generation choose a violent, promiscuous and lazy lifestyle, over time, the people will find themselves becoming slaves of other nations, culminating in the loss of Canaan itself!
This 5th Commandment promise remains applicable to us today. A son or a daughter who rejects good instruction from his parents will often end up as “slaves” to drugs, gangs, sexual immorality . . . Their lives are often miserable and they often end much earlier than their peers! A society that chooses pleasure over diligence, that on the whole mocks and scorns the elderly instead of honouring and loving them, will, over time, find itself weakened and finally destroyed!
Can the 5th Commandment be projected beyond natural parents to include other seniors (like grandparents) and all in authority over us? The answer has to be ‘Yes’. For example, in Daniel 5, Belshazzar addressed Nebuchadnezzar his grandfather as ‘my father’. The Jews in Matthew 3 called Abraham their ancestor as “their father”. In Isaiah 49:23, kings are said to be our fathers and queens our mothers. In 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, Paul is said to be the father (spiritual) of the Corinthians. Hence, in a projected way, the 5th Commandment can and must be applied to how we relate to all our seniors and in some authority over us: older generation, political leaders, church leaders, etc.
In general, we must show our respect and deference to our seniors, we must obey and submit to our leaders (whether in government or office or church) within the bounds of their authority. We must remember that this is ultimately an expression of our reverence and submission to God, the One who holds all authority and who have us this commandment!
(1) Do parents have a say in children’s courtship and marriage? If yes, how much of a say? If no, why not? Should a marriage ever take place without the approval and consent of the parents? What would you do if your parents object to your boyfriend/girlfriend?
(2) Under what circumstances, if any, may children disobey their parents and still keep the 5th Commandment? Can parents ever be stripped of their parental power? Would physical/sexual abuse fit that category?
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