A few weeks ago we looked at how we can love our siblings, noting that at times it can be hard to do! The same is sometimes true of honouring our parents.
Before we look at the ‘how’ let’s remind ourselves of the ‘why’…
The Bible puts great emphasis on honouring our parents. It’s the fifth commandment and God ranks it up there with not stealing, or committing murder, adultery etc. Throughout the Bible this principle is often repeated. For example, Paul says,
‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.’Ephesians 6:1-3
He reminds us that this commandment to honour our parents has a promise attached to its keeping – ‘that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth‘. Not only does God command that we honour and obey our parents; he also makes it clear that much benefit comes from doing so and of course implies the opposite if we neglect it [Note 1].
Just expanding on this a bit, honouring our parents fits in with one of the key building blocks of a stable society – respect for those in authority, leading right up the ladder to God who is the ultimate authority. If we reject the God-given authority of our parents over us, ultimately we are rejecting the authority of God himself.
Two other things to think about initially:
- Turning 18 doesn’t exempt us from this commandment. The way we approach honouring our parents in practice will change over time – it’ll be different as teenagers to when we are adults or when we have our own children – however, the general principle still applies.
- God is very wise – he balances this commandment with one to parents, that they should only exercise their authority within the boundaries God sets (see Ephesians 6:4).
With all that in mind, how can we honour our parents? Here are some practical suggestions:
1 – Obey them: We should do what our parents ask us to do and not do what they ask us not to do, all so long as this does not go against something God commands.
Maybe this aspect is what we automatically think of with the commandment to honour our parents, and it is perhaps at the top of the list, however, there is a lot more…
2 – Submit to them: Closely linked with obedience. However, obey willingly not resentfully. Also, submit to those times when your parents correct you when you do wrong, and remember that they do it because they love you (Hebrews 12:6-11). And, when you do something wrong, say sorry – it’s hard to do, but makes a huge difference to everyone.
2 – Respect them: Treat them with respect at all times, including when you are not with them. Don’t moan about your parents to your friends.
3 – Listen to them: Young people don’t like being told that their parents know best, but I’m not going to apologise for telling you this again – the reason…because it is true! Older people have a wealth of experience to draw on, they have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. They’ve made the mistakes and learnt from them. God knows this, which is why he tells us to honour our parents. They are a great source of advice and guidance. Make use of this!
4 – Talk to them: There are many benefits to talking to your parents and telling them about the ups and downs of your life. It always helps to share troubles. If your parents don’t know what’s going on, their help and advice will likely miss the mark. Two-way communication is vital to a close relationship. You might worry that your parents will judge you, get cross with you etc. – and of course, sometimes they will. Often this may be justified, but sometimes your parents might mess up their response to your situation. However, remember that they love you and do have your best interests at heart.
5 – Be kind to them: How this works out will depend on your stage of life. When you (and your parents) are younger, perhaps it’s kind words and gestures, when you are all older maybe it is willingly caring for them.
6 – Say thank you: Most of us have no idea just how much our parents have done for us whether practically, in praying for us or in many other ways. Saying ‘Thanks Mum’ and giving her a hug will mean a lot.
7 – Pray for them: Pray that God will help your parents and give them wisdom. Pray for their souls. Pray for grace to honour them.
One final thought, treasure your parents, because you won’t always have them and when they are gone, you will miss them. And remember, some of your friends may have already lost one or both their parents – what can you do to help those in this situation (James 1:27)?
Note 1: God is not saying that everyone who honours their parents will automatically have a long and prosperous life – we know this is not the case. Two things here:
- However much we try to honour our parents, as in all things, we do so imperfectly, ‘sin is mixed with all we do’, therefore God is perfectly justified in not fulfilling this promise.
- An important part of this promise is as a general principle to society as a whole which will benefit where there is widespread respect for parents and others in positions of authority.