“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Exodus 21:15, 17
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.”
“Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.”
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
And [Jesus] said to [the scribes and Pharisees], “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Questions to Consider:
1. Keeping in mind the context of the Ten Commandments passage (God was setting Israel apart as His own special people and establishing them as a nation.), why would it have been important for Israelites to honor their parents? In a practical sense, how would honoring one’s parents have promoted law and order and contributed to the stability of this tribal and patriarchal society? In a spiritual sense, how would honoring one’s parents have been a reminder and picture of honoring God as Father? How might the honoring of their parents have been a witness to the pagan nations surrounding Israel?
2. What does the second half (“that your days…”) of Exodus 20:12 mean? Which land is this verse referring to? Why would Israel’s “days be long” in this land if they honored their parents (hint: consider your answers from question 1).
3. Examine the Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 21 passages. How do these passages describe the types of disobedience that are punishable by death? (15, 17, 20) How do these passages demonstrate the seriousness with which God views honoring one’s parents? Do you notice that these are some of the “thou shalt nots” of honoring parents compared with Exodus 20:12’s “thou shalt”? How do these passages point to the seriousness of, and eternal consequences for, dishonoring God the Father?
4. Compare the Ephesians and Colossians passages with Exodus 20:12. Is there a difference between “honoring” and “obeying” one’s parents? Do adult children still have to obey their parents? What about considering their wisdom and experience if parents strongly advise for or against something? Compare the reason Exodus 20:12 gives for honoring parents (“that…”) with the reasons Ephesians and Colossians give for obeying parents (“for…”). How do these reasons demonstrate that obedience to God is both for our good and for His glory?
5. The Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ephesians, Colossians, and Mark passages generally assume that both the parents and the child are God’s people/believers (OT- Israel, NT- church/believers). It should be easier for believing children to honor believing parents since the mindset of all should be to honor God, but what about honoring and obeying parents who are not believers? What about parents who are abusive or instruct a child to do something sinful? How could a believing child honoring and obeying unbelieving parents be a witness to them?
6. What lesson is Jesus trying to get across to the Pharisees in the Mark passage? (13) How does He use the fifth Commandment as an illustration of this point? Though it’s not the main point of this passage, what can you infer about Jesus’ thoughts about honoring one’s parents?
7. What do the Luke and Matthew passages say about the believer’s relationship with her parents? The Mark passage makes clear that Jesus wants us to honor our parents, but the Luke and Matthew passages say that believers will “hate” and be “against” their parents. Is this a contradiction, or are these passages addressing two different issues? How can Matthew 10:37 help us understand Luke 14:26? How do the Luke and Matthew passages emphasize the preeminence and priority of Christ in our lives and our affections?
8. Can you think of any Bible characters who were good examples of honoring their parents? How?
Write your parents (or someone who is like a parent to you) a “letter of honor” this week, thanking them for the ways that they have blessed, encouraged, raised, and provided for you.
Or, think of another way to proactively honor your parents in a way that would be especially helpful or meaningful to them.