Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

tenThe Ten Commandments are a pretty good guide for life, even if you’re not a believer.  The adultery and coveting things are pretty much ignored these days, but it’s hard to argue that either should be encouraged.

When I was a kid, I thought the fourth commandment (yes, I know that there are two numbering schemes) was aimed at us youngsters. “Honor thy father and thy mother” seemed to say “Do your chores! You’re your bedroom clean! Don’t sass your parents!”

As I’ve gotten older, though I realized there was far more to it. When you read the Ten Commandments, first are the commandments referring to God Himself. The very next one is to honor your parents. How could it be more important than “Thou shalt not steal” and Thou shalt not commit murder”? Those are pretty nasty things, especially murder.

But why such an emphasis on honoring our parents when growing up is pretty much defined as the point at which we move away from our parents?

I’ve come to believe that the commandment is not meant for when we’re in grade school, but for later. Just as God created us, looks after us and loves us, so it is with our parents. Those of us who are parents know how, no matter how old are children are, we still worry, we still advise, we still care. We love them at least as much, if not more, than we did when they were little. This is probably true of all of our parents.

When we were children, we had little choice about respecting our parents. However, once we’re grown that changes. We no longer live under their roof and their rules. We often no longer live in the same region, much less the same town. It may take an effort just to stay in touch with them.

Honoring our parents is an active requirement, not avoidance of a negative.

Do something in that spirit.

One response to “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

  1. You’re absolutely right, Steve: Honoring our mom and dad is not about what we don’t do, rather what we do. It’s like wellness: It’s not just the absence of sickness, it’s energy, goodness, savoring life, living, being, and doing. Wellness is about love, which includes honoring our father and mother—whether they are alive or passed on. Each time we remember our loved ones, they live forever.

    I loved my mom. She was an angel. She had to be: She was married to my rough and tough Mexican farmer dad—who I loved and enjoyed speaking with and listening to, especially about the Bible. He was not formally educated, yet he was a “learned” man. I believe he knew not only scripture, but God. For my dad, God was not “out there,” God was in us.

    Now dad’s wisdom and conversation used to freak me out when I was about 7 or 8 years old—especially when he was drinking with his friends and he would call me over to listen. The Commandments were his favorites, but before explaining them to his “Board of Directors” (his booze hommies), one day he said to us: “All heaven is interested in the Cross of Christ, all hell terribly afraid of it, while humans are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.”

    There are many of us who need fear-driven motivation to do the right thing. Otherwise, for example, there would be no need for stop lights, or police, or a commandment to tell us “Thou shall not kill.”

    Dad, however, believed in God’s goodness and ours. And so, he would engage us by asking: “Do you believe the purpose of God’s Commandments are not to punish us but to protect us from ourselves, and to prepare and guide us for the road He already knows we are going to walk?”

    Regarding the 4th Commandment, dad never believed he was going to get old, let alone lose the respect of his kids, or worse–be cared for in his later years by his kids. Dad even came up with his own saying: “When a father gives money to his son, they both laugh; but when a son “lends” money to his father, they both cry.”

    Dad always said a parent’s love is for their children; the children’s love is for “their” children. I agree. At the same time, I think it’s important for us to always remember: A good father somehow always makes things better for his kids. This is essential to recall when we call out to our Father in heaven.

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