The Fifth Commandment

“Honor your father and mother, that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

This is the first commandment most children learn – the one they can most readily understand and apply to their own young lives. It’s also the first to emphasize the blessings and rewards that come with obedience.

When we’re children, honoring our parents is as simple as obeying them. Whether we like their rules or not, whether we agree with them or not, whether we want to or not – we respect the authority God has given them and we obey. Learning to trust and obey our parents teaches us to trust and obey God.

But as adults, we are no longer obligated to live by our own parents’ rules. We answer (for our choices, attitudes, and behaviors) directly to God. So how now do we apply this passage of Scripture?

Well, honoring our parents means treating them with compassion, kindness, and respect. It may also mean looking out for their best interests, caring or providing for them — especially if or when they can no longer care for themselves.

It can be a challenge at times, for anyone whose parents aren’t perfect (Let’s face it – none of them are.) But what if our parents really – and I mean really – don’t deserve it?

In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

The harsh reality is that sometimes our enemies are the members of our own families. God calls us to love them anyway. Forgive them, whether they ask us to or not. Treat them with courtesy and respect, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Regardless of whether or not they treat us the same.

By doing so, we’re choosing to imitate our Heavenly Father, instead of our earthly parents. And we will receive from Him His blessing and reward.