Summary: God has established relationships of authority in our lives and we honor God by respecting these relationships of authority.
Our generation is more cynical about authority figures than any other generation in our nation’s history. There was a time in American life when we thought we could trust the major social institutions, but those times are long gone. At one time confidence in our federal government soared, but then came the 1973 Watergate scandal. In our own day we’ve seen our own president publicly shamed. No wonder so many don’t vote, because people have grown callused with cynicism. There was a time when the police were looked at with respect and honor. But then came the Rodney King video, re-played hundreds of times on television. More recently we’ve seen the corruption scandal sweep through the LAPD. Now many people look at police officers with distrust bordering on contempt. There was a time when we thought we could at least trust the church to live with integrity. But in the mid-1980s we saw the moral failure of Jimmy Swagart and Jim Bakker. We’ve seen the public confidence in religious institutions steadily decline since the 1960s, and there’s no indication that decline is going to reverse itself any time soon. That generation of people born between 1946 and 1964-—the baby boomers—-has become more distrustful and suspicious of institutions than any previous generation in American history (Roof 85).
This has led to an overall decline in respect in our culture. These days when we use the word "respect," we usually don’t mean our respect for someone or something else, but we mean the respect we demand from those around us. So the direction of respect has been reversed, away from the others, and toward ourselves. This overall decline in respect has led to a culture that thrives on put-downs and sarcasm, a culture where our families bear a striking resemblance to The Simpsons. Perhaps the most significant decline in respect has occurred in the family.
We’ve been in a series through the 10 commandments called LANDMARKS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM. Today we’re going to look at the fifth commandment together, the commandment about honoring our parents. As we explore this command to honor our parents we’re going to try to answer three questions: What does it mean to honor our parents? Are there any limits to parental honor? And why does God think parental honor is so important?
1. What Does It Mean To Honor Our Parents?
You might remember that the 10 commandments divide into two natural groupings. The first three commandments deal with our love for God, giving us specific, tangible ways for us as followers of Jesus Christ to express our love for God. The last six commandments deal with our love for other people, giving specific, tangible ways for us as followers of Jesus to show God’s love for others. The fifth commandment shows us how love for others works in the parent-child relationship.
Let’s look at this commandment together: "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Deu 5:15 NIV).
Now in the context, this commandment, like the other nine commandments, is addressed to adults (Miller 84). Now obviously it applies to children of any age, but the context suggests that adult children of parents are in view here. Now in the context of the nation of Israel, the way God’s special covenant relationship with Israel was passed on from generation to generation was through the family. It was the responsibility of the mom and dad to teach their kids about who God was and what it meant to follow God. If the parents failed in this task, then the children wouldn’t honor Israel’s special covenant relationship with God, and life in the promised land would fall apart.
The Hebrew word translated "honor" here means to "make heavy" or "weighty" (NIDOTTE 2:577). The word picture is weighing down someone with esteem and respect. The opposite of "honor" is to take someone "lightly," by withholding honor and respect.
Notice this command applies equally to both the dad and the mom. In fact, in Leviticus 19:3 this command is restated but the mom is named first, so there’s no priority here of one parent deserving more honor than the other.
Now a parent isn’t necessarily the person who gives you your DNA. A father is whoever "fathers" you as you grow up, and a mother is whoever "mothers" you. So even though my biological dad contributed my DNA, he choose to forfeit his right to be my dad when he abandoned my mom and I when I was four. So this command really applies to my relationship to my mom and adoptive dad—-who adopted me when I was 7 years old.