Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord you God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).
Here’s a bit of Bible trivia: This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that has a promise attached. The breakdown of the verse is that by honoring your parents, your lifetime will be prolonged.
What does it mean to honor our parents? The word “honor” comes from the Hebrew word “kabad,” which means “to be heavy, be weighty, or to glorify.” The word “days” is a Hebrew word that refers to “lifetime.”
This means that we treat our parents with respect, even when we might feel like they don’t deserve it. We are to give considerable weight to the wisdom and experience of our parents, to honor and glorify them.
I remember one particular instance when I didn’t honor my parents: it was my senior prom. In the weeks leading up to prom, I got very sick. Knowing that prom was coming up, I kept my illness hidden from my mom as well as I could.
At first I thought I only had a cold and it would be gone by prom night, but I just got sicker. My mom could see that I wasn’t getting any better, so she suggested that I stay home from my senior prom and go to the doctor instead. Stubbornly, I said I would go to the doctor only if she made the appointment for the day after prom. I went to prom anyway.
Here’s why I should’ve honored my mother by listening to her: I got sick in the middle of getting my hair done that afternoon; I was miserable; I took the worst pictures of my life that night; I only stayed at the dance for about an hour; and I didn’t dance at all! The next day, we went to the doctor. I didn’t have a cold–I had a severe case of tonsillitis.
We may be tempted to dishonor our parents in the following situations:
- Our parents tell us we can’t do something but don’t provide a reason why
- We are angry about getting in trouble for something that “wasn’t a big deal”
- We think that our parents won’t understand or listen to what we have to say
- A parent has embarrassed us (intentionally or unintentionally)
- We’ve had a particularly bad day
The reality is that our parents were teenagers once and they remember what it was like. It’s true that the world was a different place when our parents were growing up, but they still dealt with feeling rebellious, boy-crazy, confused, depressed, and frustrated with their own parents.
Honoring our parents doesn’t mean that you always agree with them. It means that you treat them with respect. It means that you listen when they speak. Have you ever been in a situation when your parents gave you advice, but you disregarded it and did something that you thought would be better? Was it? Or did you discover that it might have been wise to have listened to your parents?
For most of us, our parents have known us since the day we were born. They know our personalities and they’ve watched us grow up and develop into the people that we are. Our parents are full of wisdom. When we seek wisdom from our parents and God, we make better decisions and are less likely to engage in activities that will harm us. That is how honoring our parents prolongs our days.
How do you show honor to your parents?
Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck (Proverbs 1:8-9).