We continue looking at Ten Essential Words with an excerpt from Chapter 6 – The Fifth Commandment, in honor of Mother’s Day/Father’s Day!
Since honoring seems to be the verb of action in this commandment, let us look at what scripture indicates is involved in honoring our father and mother.
We show them respect. In the book of Leviticus, this command is restated using a slightly different word from the word honor: “Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am Yahweh your God.” So we honor our father and mother when we show them the proper respect. Parenting has to be one of the most difficult responsibilities a person can undertake. And let’s be honest, most of us did not make it an easy job for our parents. Most of us can look back and respect the effort our parents put into rearing us. But I am sure there are more than a few who did not have a great role model in their mother or father. The Bible gives no indication that this respect is contingent on the level of parenting involved. It seems to be more of a positional respect. If you cannot respect the person, at least respect the position and authority that your parents had in your life.
The Hebrew Scriptures refer to this idea of honoring and respecting others in several different ways. We have already mentioned honoring your father and mother. Kings and other authorities were to be honored as well. But in the majority of cases this word honor is used, it is referring to honoring Yahweh. “You who fear Yahweh, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!” Since all the action in this verse is referring to the same concept, we get a clearer picture of what it means to honor and respect: fear, praise, honor, and revere.
When we speak of honoring Yahweh, it is where we also get our concept of fearing God. For some, this can be an uncomfortable way of relating to God: to fear him. But whenever honor, respect, and reverence are mentioned, this Biblical notion of fear is also involved. We need not cower before God like a frightened animal. There are so many other gentle and gracious attributes of God that invite us into a loving relationship with him that we need not be continually afraid. But stepping outside of God’s will and protection is a frightening place to be. Like a king with a powerful army at his disposal, we live in the comfort and protection that power can bring us. At the same time, we live with a healthy dose of fear of that same power if we ever give the king just cause to use it to punish or subdue us.
So it is with our parents. We honor them for all they have invested in us. We respect them for the position of influence they have in our life. And we also live with a healthy dose of fear if we defy them when we are younger or disappoint them when we are older. It is part of what it means to give respect to our parents. Again, fear and respect should not expire upon reaching a certain age. In fact, I dare say there is a direct correlation between a person’s level of ongoing respect and honor of God, and that same person’s level of ongoing respect for their parents.