The 5th Commandment was repeated frequently by Jesus when He was teaching on earth. If you had good parents, it is easy to understand and agree with this teaching. However, what if your parents were less than perfect, or even abusive? Does the teaching still hold true?
5th Commandment: Honor Your Father and Your Mother
In Exodus 20:1, “…God spoke all these words”, meaning the 10 Commandments. In verse 12, the 5th Commandment is recorded:
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long
in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
In Matthew 19:19, Mark 10:19, and Luke 18:20, Jesus repeated the first words of the 5th Commandment. (Also read the verses just before Matthew 19:19 and Mark 10:19; it is clear that Jesus said honoring your father and mother is one of the things we must do to inherit eternal life.)
Less Then Perfect Parents
The command is not to honor your father and your mother “if they were good parents”. It just says to honor them. That is what God said when He gave the 10 Commandments, and that is what Jesus said. There are no qualifiers to only do so “if” something else is true.
I was blessed with wonderful parents who took care of me and taught me about God. What if that is not true for you? Why does God tell us to honor people whose behavior and treatment of us, as a child, was anything but honorable?
Jesus did not specifically say, “Why?”. He just said to do it. Maybe because, even if they were bad parents, they still gave the best gift any human being could ever give: the gift of life. To put it in perspective, without that, you would never be in a position to receive the gift of eternal life from God! Or maybe honoring and respecting earthly parents teaches us how to submit to authority figures on earth as we are to submit to the authority of our Father in heaven. Perhaps the command to honor our father and mother is given because they were chosen by God to give us life and, despite what they may have done or not have done as parents, we are to forgive as Jesus commands us to forgive in Matthew 18:21-22. Perhaps honoring and respecting our parents, regardless of their behavior, puts the emphasis where God wants it: on our behavior.
Jesus Gives His Mother to John
In John 19:26-27, as He was dying on the cross, Jesus saw his mother and the disciple John standing nearby. Jesus said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son”. Jesus said to John, ”Here is your mother”. Jesus’ concern and care of his mother, so near the point of His death, is touching and beautiful.
Honoring our parents, and taking care of them, are important matters to God. So important that this is one of the 10 Commandments. So important that this is the last recorded item Jesus took care of before He died on the cross. By ‘giving’ his mother to John, He was asking John to take care of her like she was his own mother. This was especially important in Jesus’ day, when women generally needed a husband, son, or son-in-law to care for them in old age. (Side note: I wonder why Jesus did this, when it appears at least one of his biological brothers was still alive? See Galatians 1:18-19).
Jesus also stressed this command in Matthew 15:3-9 and Mark 7:6-13. In these scriptures, Jesus said we should not give money to a good cause when it needs to be used to take care of our parents. You may think that giving money to your church is always a ‘good’ thing to do, but not when it violates one of God’s 10 Commandments. That is what Jesus said.
Call to Action
If you struggle with giving your parents the honor that God demands, read about giving forgiveness in Jesus Said Be Giving-Part II. Stop grieving the Holy Spirit. Forgive them and move on. That is the only way to have freedom in living and following God.
If you are blessed with good parents, go back and read Jesus Said Don’t Teach & Follow Rules Taught By Men to read more about how we sin by following our man-made rules and traditions rather than following God’s commands.