God tells us to honor our parents, but what does this actually mean, and why should we do it?
“‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise:
‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.'”Ephesians 6:2, 3)
What God is telling us with this command is so much more than the English word “honor” implies. The Hebrew word translated “honor” is “kabad,” meaning “to be heavy…to make weighty…be heavier, lay heavily…” The honor we are to give our parents is not to merely be superficial, like remembering to give our mother flowers on Mother’s Day, but real and deep-seated. It means we are to give great weight to what our parents tell us, to their teachings–rather than shrug them off like many children are inclined to do as they reach their teen and young adult years.
And there is a reason why we are to do this. It is so that things may go well with us in life, and that we may have a longer lifespan than we would otherwise have had: “My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8, 9 NLT)
A parent’s warnings, when taken seriously, can save us from much grief. Imagine, for example, the countless admonitions mothers and fathers have give their children about avoiding alcoholism, drug addiction, and smoking. Each of these behaviors shortens and diminishes both the quality and duration of life for those who engage in them, and many lives, as well as promising careers, have been cut short and even genuinely ruined by them. A parent’s concerns are not the fretting of a silly old man or woman, but the wisdom of someone who has been around long enough and seen the harm they can do, motivated by a love for their child that they not meet a similar fate.
Positive counsel also blesses those who honor–who give great weight to–them, and do it. Admonitions such as remaining faithful to God, working hard to finish your education so you can have a better life than your parents did, waiting to begin a serious relationship with someone until your education is completed so that you are not distracted, choosing a mate who is equally committed to honoring God so they don’t pull you away from Him, saving a nest egg for the rainy day that eventually comes to all, and various others are brought forth from the foresight that having lived a certain period of time and experiencing things gives.
Sometimes it seems grievous–difficult and burdensome–to stick with what your parents tell you. Sometimes you might not see the wisdom in what they are advising. Yet, if you remember the counsel of God’s Word and not treat their admonitions as the words of doddering old people, He will eventually bless you because of it:
“…Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center she makes her speech. In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out: ‘Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn? About face! I can revise your life. Look, I’m ready to pour out my spirit on you; I’m ready to tell you all I know. As it is, I’ve called, but you’ve turned a deaf ear; I’ve reached out to you, but you’ve ignored me. Since you laugh at my counsel and make a joke of my advice, How can I take you seriously? I’ll turn the tables and joke about your troubles! What if the roof falls in, and your whole life goes to pieces? What if catastrophe strikes and there’s nothing to show for your life but rubble and ashes? You’ll need me then. You’ll call for me, but don’t expect an answer. No matter how hard you look, you won’t find me. Because you hated Knowledge and had nothing to do with the Fear-of-God, Because you wouldn’t take my advice and brushed aside all my offers to train you, Well, you’ve made your bed—now lie in it; you wanted your own way—now, how do you like it? Don’t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots? Carelessness kills; complacency is murder. First pay attention to me, and then relax. Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.'” (Proverbs 1:20-33 MSG)
Countless people have thought themselves wiser than the other guy, able to resist temptations others haven’t been able to and do what others could not, only to find themselves laid low by their arrogant refusal to listen. The peculiar thing about life is that you need to take the good advice you’re given as it comes your way. Once you’re already in trouble it’s too late. Certainly God forgives, but you suffer the consequences your lifestyle has accrued. People who have committed crimes for which they’ve ended up in jail have to serve their sentences, addicts have to deal with the physiological repercussions of their addiction, relationships have to be reconstructed, and it is difficult to get lost years and wasted money back.
“My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.
Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths. They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. Their actions are crooked, and their ways are wrong. Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman, from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman. She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God. Entering her house leads to death; it is the road to the grave. The man who visits her is doomed. He will never reach the paths of life.
Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous. For only the godly will live in the land, and those with integrity will remain in it. But the wicked will be removed from the land, and the treacherous will be uprooted.” (Proverbs 2:1-22 NLT)
Help us to honor–to give great weight to–the counsel of our parents, that it may be well with us and we might live long on this earth. Amen!