[NOTE: This week’s guest post comes to us from Weylan Deaver. To learn more about Weylan, check out his bio information at the end of this week’s article.]
Echoing the Fifth Commandment (Exod. 20:12), Paul writes, “Honor your father and mother” (Eph. 6:2, ESV). The precept applies across covenants, since it is in both Old and New Testaments. It is a basic moral law for mankind. Paul’s instruction is that children obey their parents (v. 1) and honor their parents (v. 2), which results in the children’s well-being, including “that you may live long in the land” (v. 3). Considering that last clause, and with no evidence to the contrary, the principle of honoring one’s parents applies without expiration. Whether we are children at home or adults on our own, we are to honor parents.
The verb, “honor,” translates the Greek timao, which Thayer’s lexicon defines as “to estimate, to fix the value…to revere” (p. 624). To “honor” parents is to make an accurate appraisal which produces required respect, realizing the debt owed them. Now, if that is the definition, what is the application?
The only obligation in the context associated with honoring parents is to “obey your parents.” We generally take that as applying to children living under their parents’ roof, and with good reason. For example, in marriage both spouses are to leave their parents in establishing a new home (Eph. 5:31). A man’s role does not include governing his grown children who have homes and families of their own. If so, it would imply that a wife is obligated to submit to both her husband and her father, with no solution for when the two differ. Instead of such an unworkable arrangement, God says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). So, while obeying is part of honoring parents while children still live at home, children who have moved out and make their own decisions are still obligated to honor their parents.
But, how? Here, inspiration leaves much to our judgment and imagination, revealing the wisdom of God since there are a thousand ways in which the principle can find expression. Having said that, here are just a few considerations.
First, if your parents raised you to be a Christian, be one. There is no better way to honor their legacy of faithfulness. If they failed to teach you the gospel, then learn it and be a Christian anyway, as the noblest thing you can do (even if they don’t immediately recognize it) is to live a godly example in front of parents (and everyone else). Not to mention, your soul depends on it.
Second, keep in touch with your parents. Surely, you cannot honor parents by having little to no contact. If they live far away, technology makes interactive options easier than ever via phone call, email, text, etc. How simple it is, with a smartphone, to take a picture and send it to Mom or Dad. Those little points of contact keep others “in the loop,” and mean more than the small effort it takes to make them happen. Though it seems technology dominates communication, don’t underestimate the impact of a handwritten letter.
Third, ask and value parental advice. The Bible places a premium on older age; it comes by life experience, supplemented with wisdom. “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man” (Lev. 19:32). Rather than be put out to pasture, the previous generation is to be respected. They are a resource who can help us out of a difficulty, or help us avoid it in the first place. The idea that brainpower peaks in our youth is not biblical. The older ought to know more than the younger, especially if they have logged many a year in the Lord’s service. “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation” (Psalm 71:18). To ignore a godly parent’s wisdom is often proof of a child’s foolishness.
Fourth, see to their care. It is, after all, the duty of children to take care of their parents when the time comes. Whatever assistance the government might provide, it is still the case that responsibility rests with grown children to care for aging parents. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8; study also vv. 3-16). This is part of what it means to “honor your father and mother.” And, just as God’s “commandments are not burdensome” if we love him (1 John 5:3), it is an honor to help our parents if we love them. Perhaps it is the least we can do for those without whom we would not even exist.
Fifth, when your parents are gone, honor them by telling future generations about their lives, especially if they were faithful to the Lord. Memories of righteous ancestors can be a powerful motivator to help keep us walking in the light. God intends we do all we can in order to bring about multi-generational faithfulness, meaning our children are taught to be Christians, so that their children become Christians, on and on. If our parents or great-grandparents are waiting in Paradise, we want our children to know who they are, and to anticipate meeting them there some day.
Weylan Deaver is a graduate of the Southwest School of Bible Studies, Freed-Hardeman University, and the Bear Valley Bible Institute. He preaches for the Sherman Drive church of Christ in Denton, Texas and serves on the faculty for the online program of Tennessee Bible College. He and his wife, Cheri, have four homeschooled children. His hobbies include hunting and songwriting. Follow on Twitter @wdeaver.
Photo background credit: Jonas Boni on Creative Commons