What Does It Mean to Honor Your Father and Mother?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Roles of Family Members

by David Wright on January 6, 2011; last featured May 12, 2019

Jesus makes it clear that even when we move out, our responsibilities to our parents continue.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Today’s big question: what does it mean to honor your father and mother?

Perhaps many young adults, whether they are studying in college, starting a career or a family, may think this command does not apply to them. So what are a young adult’s responsibilities to his parents? As a child living in your parents’ home, your obedience to them comes right after obedience to God. Once married, the order only shifts slightly; your parents come second only to God and your spouse. Does this entail visiting every weekend and still doing the dishes and taking out the garbage? Probably not.

Jesus makes it clear that even when we move out, our responsibilities to our parents continue:

For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’—” (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7:10–13)

Taking care of parents is a priority and should not be shirked by a hypocritical donation to the church. If you would rather make a special offering than help your parents with their bills, you are actually disobeying the Word of God and following in the footsteps of the Pharisees. This is a serious offense and should not be taken lightly.

The Bible includes more about the importance of providing for your family:

Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God . . . . But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:3–4, 8)

In biblical times (and in many parts of the world today), widows or elderly parents lived with and were taken care of by their children. Back then, they didn’t have government programs to assist them in old age. Taking care of an elderly parent is not to be ignored. For Christian sons or daughters not to care for their parents shows they are not truly reflecting the love of Christ and, therefore, are denying the very faith they proclaim.

Today’s big idea: as long as your parents are alive, you have a responsibility to them.

What to pray: ask God to give you the wisdom and strength to honor and care for your parents.


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