“Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:2-3
When Paul quotes this commandment in Ephesians he is teaching the Ephesians about relationships most notably the relationship children should have with their parents. He starts off with verse 1.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1
Children are to obey their parents. But children have to be taught obedience. When you see a newborn baby it is hard to believe that he or she will ever have a sinful nature. They are sweet and precious. But before that child gets to be two years old the sinful natures come out naturally. We don’t have to be taught how to be selfish do we? When the child learns the word “mine” we can see that sinful nature begin to play out. Children have to be taught obedience. They have to be taught how to share and how to control themselves when they don’t get what they want. This is the parent’s job to teach obedience. The command sounds so simple but it takes work on behalf of the parents to teach the children how to obey.
The next verse, our focus verse is really talking about adult children. As children grow into adulthood, obedience to their parents changes to honor. We are to honor our father and mother and this comes with a promise of a good and prosperous life. Paul is quoting this verse from the ten commandments, the commandments that God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites. The first four commandments all point to God, but this one the fifth commandment begins the shift in how to treat other people, starting with parents. But it also comes with a promise from God that when we follow this commandment we will have a good life and a long life. For that reason the honor we give our father and mother can be looked at as a duty toward God more than people.
Honoring your father and mother can look many different ways. It can be how we speak to them. It can mean speaking to them at all. You may have parents in nursing care and you have to visit them now. Those visits are a good way to honor them. It can be calling them, just to check on them. It can mean not forgetting them on holidays and significant events. And it can also just mean praying for them and if they are not with you anymore just speaking highly of them. You want to be sure that one day when they are gone, you can say you loved them well.
Now I hesitated to talk about this verse because I know many good people who did not get the opportunity to live a long life here on earth. And that bothers me. I know a lot of parents who have had to bury their children and these children were not dishonoring to their parents. This is one of those questions I think I will have ready when I get to heaven to ask God about. But what I do think is that there are blessings that come when we treat our parents with honor and respect. That when we reach adulthood there are still ways that you speak to them and treat them that will bring about blessings from God.
Now I do want to go further here to mention that Paul does go on to talk about how parents have to raise their children.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
We have all seen the news and seen parents who were abusive and did not deserve the place of honor and respect from their children. But this commandment does not say honor your father and mother if they deserve it. It says honor them. Period. The truth is we do live in a fallen and sinful world. But as christians we have to do our part to do what God’s word says.
I don’t have the opportunity to honor my parents with a phone call or a visit anymore. But I can tell you this, they were not perfect people but I am grateful that God gave me to them. They loved me and they did the best that they knew how. I regret the times I maybe didn’t show them honor and I ask God to forgive me for those times. I pray that when all is said and done that I loved them well.