The Fifth Commandment

"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
(Exodus 20:12)




        Beginning with the Fifth Commandment, we commence dealing with the last six of the Ten Commandments. As Jesus Christ characterized them, it is obvious the "great commandment" is to "love the Eternal thy God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself."

        By summarizing the Ten Commandments, Jesus tells us the first four show us how to love God, and the last six show us how to love our neighbor - how to love mankind!

        The last six might be characterized as the "family oriented" commandments; the laws of God that have to do with our interpersonal, familial and communal relationships.

        There is a cause for every effect! Today we experience the enormous effects of murder and violence, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, wife beating, child abuse, homosexuality, sadism, abandonments, desertions, divorce, illegitimacy, venereal disease, and an incalculable amount of human woe and misery - all of which can be traced directly to the family!

        "Homicide" has become "home-icide," for much of the murder of which you hear in the news occurs in the home, among and between family members, often between husbands and wives!

        No class, no racial group, no segment of society is immune from the massive blight of marital unhappiness, and the general decay and disintegration of the home.

        Consider the words of the Fifth Commandment carefully.

        First, every human being of whatever age is commanded to honor his parents! This command is not restricted to children. What is "honor"? It is "high regard or great respect given, received or enjoyed.

        One of the great curses upon our peoples today is that too many parents do not strive to deserve or to retain the "honor" appropriately due them from their children!

        Make no mistake! Two wrongs do not make a right. Dishonorable parents - parents who mistreat and abbuse their children, who do not properly provide for them, teach and educate them, give them the love, attention and affection they need - are acting dishonorably. Neverrtheless, even though the parents may be breaking God's laws toward their children, even disreputable conduct does not give the children "license" or "permission" to dishonor their parents!

        The word "honor" does not connote servile obedience! It does not carry with it the requirement for children, especially when grown up to adulthood, to blindly and docily be subject to the authority of their parents for their entire adult life!

        Almighty God explains this when He says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh."

        Naturally, at the point of marriage Almighty God intended that a new and separate family unit be established. The head of this new household is no longer dependent upon his parents; no longer under their tutelage and instruction; but is now the head of his own household, and his own family.

        Yet, even though he is not now required to render servile obedience to every suggestion or desire of his parents, he is under the lifelong obligation to show them honor!

        Can one show one's parents honor even if they are in disagreement?

        Consider this in the light of Jesus' prophecy concerning families. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

        "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

        "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

        "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:34-37).

        But is Jesus advocating that such individuals show their parents dishonor?

        Absolutely not!

        This scripture proves that a son and a father can be completely "at variance," and even "against" each other for the sake of the work of Almighty God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet the command to "honour thy father and thy mother" still remains!

        Jesus said such "variance" would reach into other, more distant family members, such as "daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

        Later, Jesus said, "And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

        "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first" (Matthew 19:29, 30).

        Interestingly enough, only a few verses earlier in the same chapter, Jesus repeated the Fifth Commandment to the young man who asked Him of the key to eternal life.

        He said, ". . . If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

        "He saith unto Him, which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness,

        "Honor thy father and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 19:16-19).

        Even though one may have to forsake brothers and sisters, father or mother, or even one's own spouse, for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the gospel, Jesus still says one must honor his father and mother!

        Thus, it becomes obvious "honor" is seen as distinctly separate from servile obedience, agreement in all things, or "being in subjection" for an entire lifetime.

        The apostle Paul, writing of these family commandments, says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right.

        "Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

        "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Ephesians 6:1-3).

        Notice Paul urges children to obey their parents "in the Lord." An obvious exception would be when parents are not "in the Lord." Many young people have had to face this bitter choice. Any number of young people have been called into the precious knowledge of God's truth while their parents were not.

        Immediately, a major family conflict occurs. The parents believe the son or daughter may have taken up with some "strange religion," and use every parental influence possible to dissuade their youngster from studying God's Word, coming to "strange," new conclusions which seem to unsettle and disturb the parents.

        Many cases of record show parents have attempted to order their children to quit listening to God's truth, quit reading articles or booklets published by God's work, and obey the parents by discontinuing all contact with a church organization the parents feel is wrong.

        In such cases, the admonition of the apostle Peter that we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) applies. Though the children may (lamentably) find themselves in disagreement with their own parents, and be forced into an adversary situation because of parental insistence they abandon their newfound beliefs, the children are always required to honor their parents!

        Obviously, then, the requirement to obey the Fifth Commandment; that each living human being must always HONOR his father and his mother - honor them throughout his youth, throough his adult life, and even honor their memory after they are gone - does not mean that every parent is due complete agreement, servile obedience or slavish acquiescence from the child throughout that child's life, even up into middle age!

        Consider a few extreme cases: Many of the criminals in society are, of course, parents! What if the murderers of whom you read have families? If a man who is a parent kills, robs, cheats, lies or steals, is the child to honor those acts? Of course not!

        Yet, no matter what evil or illegal acts a human being may commit, God's laws make no provision for the child to dishonor the parent!

        A parent may act in the most dishonorable manner imaginable, and it is always the responsibility of the child to honor his father and his mother! It becomes plain, then, that there are occasions when a person must show that honor to a parent in spite of what the parent has done or what the parent stands for, not necessarily because of parental acts or deeds.

        But do the parents have any responsibility toward their children?

        Are parents required to be honorable?

        Yes, they are! However, even if they do not measure up to God's commands, even if they are acting dishonorably, the child is still required to show them honor.

        God says, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

        Naturally, God's laws are not suddenly "suspended" because one party or the other breaks one of the commandments!

        The Fifth Commandment is a multifaceted, multilateral commandment! It embodies a broad command having to do with the relationship between parents and children, therefore including a minimum of three parties! It includes both parents and at least one child! Looking at the broad principles of God's Word, the spirit of the Fifth Commandment and not just the letter, we can see that this commandment, like all the Word of God, is a "two-edged sword." It is not a command aimed only at children - commanding children to be in slavish subjection to parents no matter what! It is a command to all parties; commanding parents to be honorable, and commanding children to honor their parents.

        Two wrongs do not make a right. If parents are not honorable, their children are nevertheless required to honor them!

        If children refuse to honor their parents, parents have no license to act dishonorably!

        Again, however, what is "wrong" with this Fifth Commandment?

        Why should any church organization assume this great law of God is "done away"?

        A family relationship is the very essence of the Kingdom of God. God is a family of persons; the Father and the Son, a governing, ruling family, or KINGDOM, into which we must be born!

        This great Fifth Commandment carries with it the obvious analogy of the requirement of all of mankind to love their heavenly Father, and to highly honor Him!

        Think what the world would be like if mankind obeyed this commandment!

        There would be no such thing as divorce. Honorable parents, teaching their children God's ways and God's laws, and in return being honored by their children, would mean tight-knit family groups, God-defined family roles, a warm, loving, mutually supportive and firmly grounded family and home environment in which children could grow up, be nurtured and taught.

        Since the family is the very building block of civilization, the cornerstone of society, obedience to this commandment would virtually eradicate a monstrous amount of evil! Divorce, abandonments, desertions, family feuds and fights, parents murdering their children, children murdering their parents, husbands and wives engaged in stabbings and shoot-outs, juvenile delinquency and violence, teenage drug abuse, venereal disease, illegitimacy, runaways, the incalculable, multibillion-dollar waste and the tragedy of millions of shattered lives as a direct result of breaking the Fifth Commandment would be gone - erased - from the face of our nations!

        The Fifth Commandment, if obeyed, would bring fabulous economic blessings; a stable, God-fearing, virtually crime-free society, and incalculable blessings from Almighty God!

        The flagrant breaking of this commandment has virtually destroyed family life among many peoples.