Honor Your Father and Mother
“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
The first four of the Ten Commandments address our relationship to God. We will have no gods before our God, we will not make idols, we will not misuse the name of God, and we will keep the sabbath day holy. The remaining six commandments address our relationships with each other. Commandment number five is to honor our mother and father, so our days will be long. As a child, I interpreted this to mean that if I obeyed my parents, they would allow me to continue living. If I did not obey…well, you get the picture (see Leviticus 20:9). To honor someone means to hold him or her in high regard or esteem. I confess I did not always do this, either as a child or as an adult. I was probably too quick to see the human frailties of my parents, although that was likely a result of my high expectations of them. Certainly, today, I continue to reap the blessings of two loving parents, and I grieve for those who are not so blessed.
However, I believe this commandment goes beyond our relationship with our parents. Our responsibility to care for the elderly is a common theme throughout scripture. Our parent’s generation, as well as the generations before them, laid the foundation on which we live today, both spiritually and physically. We have a responsibility to assure our predecessors are cared for, with love and respect.
However, I believe this commandment goes beyond caring for the elderly. It is interesting to consider the setting in which the Ten Commandments were given. The Jewish people, recently exiled from their slavery in Egypt, were living for an extended period in the desert, awaiting admission to the homeland God had promised. There was restlessness among the people, some of whom were making the case to return to slavery in Egypt as a better alternative than waiting, in limbo, in the desert. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I suspect the Israelite parents, who spent their lives as slaves, were not among those making a case to return to Egypt.
An important and practical part of honoring our parents and elders is learning from them. As a child, I often thought the ways of my parents and grandparents were old-fashioned. As I have grown, I appreciate the wisdom of their ways. There is value in the traditions of those who have traveled these roads before us that we do best not to ignore. We honor those generations by learning from their lives in a way that respects their struggles and experience. By utilizing their wisdom and experience, we build upon that which has already been learned, thus helping assure better days ahead.
Come home to church this Sunday. Learn from the saints of the church.
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator