Honour your Father & your Mother

by Steven Chan

In giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, God saw it fit or necessary to include a command to honour our parents:

”Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deut 5:16)

When Jesus came, He observed that the religious leaders of His days were not observing the command to honour their fathers and mothers; they were in fact circumventing that command with their own interpretations:

”He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’  5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”– 6 then he need not honour his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8’these people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honour Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “(Matt 15:3-9).

So, while it may appear natural or only reasonable that men ought to honour their fathers and mothers who have provided for them and have brought them up, such may not actually be the case.

The apostle Paul reminded Christians in his epistle:

2 “Honour your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Eph 6:2-3).

The command to honour our fathers and mothers is definitely one that God expects us all to observe. Let’s be reminded that it is a command and NOT a Suggestion NOR merely an Expedient Option. Much is said about the Chinese practice of filial piety, but the Bible has all along commanded all men to honour their fathers and mothers. In fact in the Old Testament, the Bible taught that “he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Ex 21:17); “whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness”(Prov 20:20);  “Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt’”( Deut 27:16) – that’s how seriously God views the action of dishonouring our fathers and mothers. In Prov 30:17, the Bible says: “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.”

The Bible also teaches us that we have a Heavenly Father to whom we must also honour:

“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”( Heb 12:7-11)

So on this day, so-called “Father’s Day”, when many in the world honour their fathers, let us remember that we are to honour our fathers and mothers all the days of our lives (and not just on this one single day) and that we ought also to honour our Heavenly Father in all areas of our lives, giving Him respect and reverence.

Let us give some thoughts as regards the danger or possibility of us trying to evade our responsibility to honour our fathers and mothers with our own interpretations or excuses.  God knows our every thought and intent of our hearts.

How exactly have we honoured our fathers and mothers? In Prov 3:9-10, the Bible teaches us to honour our Lord with our possessions:-

“Honor the LORD with your possessions,

And with the firstfruits of all your increase;

10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,

And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

In the case of the religious leaders of the days of Jesus when was on earth, they had excused themselves from making financial gifts to their parents and thereby failed to honour them. As children, we need to realize that we ought to honour our parents with our possessions as well – by making financial gifts to them even though they may not need the gifts as such – just like we give to God even though He does not need our gifts – but that’s one way we are to honour our fathers and mothers as well as our Heavenly Father.
The beloved apostle Paul described it thus in Phil 4:11,17-18: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”  Some of us may think that we do not need to give to our fathers and mothers as they do not need the money but we failed to realize that it is not a question of their “need” for the money but it is an expression of our love and appreciation for them – it is an act of honouring them – as described in Matt 15:3-9 and by Paul in Phil 4:11,17-18). In 1 Tim 5:4, in addressing “children or grandchildren, (Paul wrote) let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God”.

We trust our parents will know what they can do with the token of our appreciation to them. But we need to honour God not only with our possessions but also with our support for them by not neglecting them but visiting them and spending time with them. Although James 1:27 teaches that “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble”, it would nonetheless be true to say that one ought also to visit our fathers and mothers and not just in their time of distress (ours or theirs).  May we truly honour our fathers and mothers as God desires for us to do so that His name may be glorified (Matt 5:16).