What does it mean to honor my father and mother?

Question: "What does it mean to honor my father and mother?"

Honoring your father and mother is the respectful words and actions that stem from an inward attitude of esteem for their position.

The Greek word for honor means to revere, prize, and value. Honor is giving respect not only for merit but also for rank. For example, some Americans may disagree with the President’s decisions, but they should still respect his position as leader of their country. Similarly, children of all ages should honor their parents, regardless of whether their parents “deserve” honor or not.

God exhorts us to honor father and mother. He values honoring parents enough to include it in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:12) and again in the New Testament: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

In Old Testament days, speaking evil against one’s parents or rebelling against their instructions resulted in capital punishment (Exodus 21:15-17; Matthew 15:14)! While those who honor their parents are blessed (Jeremiah 35:18-19), a trait of both those with a “depraved mind” and those who characterize unGodliness in the last days is disobedience to parents (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2).

Solomon, the wisest man, urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17). Although we may not be directly under their authority right now, we can’t outgrow God’s command to honor our parents. Even Jesus, God the Son, submitted Himself to both His earthly parents and heavenly Father (Matthew 26:39; Luke 2:51). Following Christ’s example, as Christians we should treat our parents the way we would reverentially approach our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9; Malachi 1:6).

Obviously, we’re commanded to honor our parents, but how? Honor them with both our actions and attitudes (Mark 7:6). Honor their unspoken as well as spoken wishes. “A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scorner does not hear rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1).

In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the command of God to honor their father and mother. They were obeying the letter of the law, but they had added their own traditions that essentially overruled it. While they honored their parents in word, their actions proved their real heart motive. Honor is more than lip service. The word honor in this passage is a verb and, as such, demands a right choice/action.

Honor includes the idea of bringing glory to someone. First Corinthians 10:31 tells us that whatever we say or do, we are to do all to the glory of God. We should seek to honor our parents in a similar way that Christians strive to bring glory to God—in our thoughts, words, and actions.

The Greek word "hypakouo" means to obey, to listen, or to heed. For a minor child, obeying parents goes hand and hand with honoring them. That includes listening, heeding, and submitting to their authority. After children mature, the obedience that they learned as children will serve them well in honoring authorities such as government, police, and employers.

While we’re required to honor parents, that doesn’t include imitating unGodly ones (Ezekiel 20:18-19). What if your parents ask you to do something wrong? In that case, you must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:28).

The command to honor parents is the only command with a promise: “that it may be well with you” (Ephesians 6:3). Honor begets honor. God will not honor those who will not obey His command to honor their parents. If we desire to please God and be blessed, we should honor our parents. Honoring isn’t easy, isn’t always fun, and certainly isn’t possible in our own strength. But honor is a certain path to our purpose in life: glorifying God. “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).

Recommended Resource: Your Family God's Way by Wayne Mack.

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What does it mean to honor my father and mother?