"Honor your father and your
mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your
God gives you" (Exodus 20:12)
We are continuing to look at the “Ten
Commandments,” the Lord’s revealed will for our
thoughts and actions. Today our focus is on the Fifth Commandment, also
seen in Deuteronomy 5:16. We are to regard our parents with respect and
love, even if it seems they may not deserve it. It may seem impossible
for some to do this, but both the ability to respect others and the
power to love them are gifts from the Lord. We remember Jesus on the
Cross, who was being killed by the very “lost” people He came to save. How He
felt about His persecutors is summed up by His statement, “Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When
we consider a love so deep and recognize that He brings the attributes
of God into our hearts and lives, we begin to understand that we do not
forgive or give respect in our own strength, but in His.
It’s astonishing to read the words of what is
called the Fifth Commandment of God and then look out into
today’s world culture. It is common just about everywhere for sons
and daughters of any age to have very little regard for their parents.
It’s been going on for a long time that young people somehow feel they
know more about life than those who have gone before. Older people know
regret and many would go back in time if they could try life again
from a better perspective. The young have the opportunity to get it
right the first time, and they are helped immensely if they listen to the mistakes and
those who have gone before them.
In all too many cases these days, parents can be
immature and little can be gained from them. But we can learn because
the failures of our parents can teach us.
The young are indeed good at discovering flaws in their parents, but when such
errors are found as they always are, children tend to become disgusted
and reject their parents as “hypocrites.” The ability of younger people
to learn from the past becomes stunted at that point and they begin to
trust in no one but themselves.
My father failed to go to college, but he took night
classes and became a successful aerospace engineer in charge of 500 men.
I saw him study correspondence courses at night, but he seemed to be doing fine without
an extensive education. He said I should study harder in school and
wanted me to attend college. I did not see the relationship between
education and success in life and declined his offer. I had no respect
for his ideas and did not listen. The week I turned 18, I joined the
Air Force without his permission and lost the opportunity he offered.
My father had an interesting career. He worked in a
shipyard in the northeastern United States, but somehow also became a
golf pro at the Augusta, Maine, Country Club. He went on a pro golfing
tour, ending up broke in Augusta, Georgia. He had a wonderful voice and
was the announcer and singer on a radio station. My mother played the
piano on that station and that’s how they met and fell in love. During
the Great Depression he became a barber for several years, earning
enough for us to live. We then went to California and he became an engineer.
My dad was a terrific chess player and a scratch
golfer. Interestingly, those are two pastimes that I have consistently
avoided. He would have taught me everything about chess and golf, but I
refused to learn anything he was good at. If anything, I was quicker to
pick up his bad habits such as smoking cigarettes for 23-years after
learning to smoke by sneaking them from packs in his dresser drawer. I
have wondered, what if I had “honor(ed)” my
“father and… mother”
instead of resisting them? I would have made mistakes anyway, but I also
could have had an education and the skills that were
offered. I still completed college, but it was done much later in life.
The “land” as in today’s Scripture, the opportunity offered by God
through my father would have been better than my choice to reject his
Those who grow up without parents or with a mother
and/or father they cannot “honor,” are much more likely to
become involved in destructive behavior. If you have a parent you can
trust, listen to and can safely follow their advice, you are much less
likely to become an alcoholic, drug user or a promiscuous person, actions leading
to destruction. Harm done is very real and all too
many valuable young people have ruined their own lives.
An increasing problem, shared by millions of people,
many of them pre-teens, is a terrible activity called “cutting,” in
which a person deliberately cuts, scratches, or burns themselves. These
self-inflicted injuries range from cuts that heal quickly to serious
wounds that leave permanent scars. It’s very common. The late Princess
Diana once admitted in a television interview that she intentionally cut
her arms and legs and had thrown herself down a flight of stairs more
A related activity is the pulling out of eyebrows and
hair. I have wondered about all the tattoos and body-piercing so popular
in today’s world – is it a form of self-mutilation similar to what is
called, “cutting?” Are those outward marks a sign of inward pain?
"Cutting,” as reported in places like
www.essortment.com/articles/self-injury is common among a lot of
younger people, numbered, it is estimated, in the millions. Many were
abused or molested as children, and all too many are survivors of
incest. “Cutters” often say they use self-harm to feel “calm,” to be
“in-control” or just to “feel something,” anything instead of merely
being emotionally numb. Those who are unable to “honor” their parents
lash out, trying to find power in lives that have spun out of control.
The phrase about “Your days (being)
prolonged in the land,” as it says
in today’s Scripture, is much more than just physically living in Israel
or surviving for
a long time. This verse, Exodus 20:12, the Fifth Commandment, is about
SATISFACTION in life. Whether life is long or short, everyone seems to
understand that a good life is better than merely a long one. And being able to
respond with a positive attitude toward the people God has placed into our
lives is better than endlessly resisting them.
Paul the Apostle quoted our verse for today in
Ephesians 6:1-3. It’s not only parents who are to guide, direct and love
children, but children also have partial responsibility to help heal the
division between the generations. "Honor your
father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land
which the Lord your God gives you" (Exodus 20:12) means just what
it says. We are to find wholeness, restoration and peace through
forgiving and honoring our parents, but how can we do it? How do those who have been
injured forgive the unforgivable? - By looking to the Lord.
And by the way, if your parents are wonderful and
are everything you might have ever wanted, thank the Lord every day. And if
your children are simply great, then thank your God for He is good. 1
Peter 2:17 gives us good advice in the words – “Honor
everyone.” Life is better when we do.
Father, most of all we love and honor You.We praise Your Holy Name.Help us to love, honor and respect those You have placed in our lives.
Help us to forgive.
In Jesus Name.Amen.