The Fifth Commandment: Honor

The Ten Commandments were given to Israel as a standard for living as the people of God. The fifth of these commanded the Israelites to, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving to you” (Exodus 20:12). Strong family units are not built without honor. In strong families, God must be honored (Deut. 6:4-8), marriages are to be held in honor (Heb. 13:4), and parents are to be honored (Eph. 6:1-2). God evidently knew that strong families are the building blocks of strong nations (something America, as a country, seems to have forgotten).

Biblically speaking, “honor” means to, “weigh another down with worth, prestige, respect, and value.” Often, we burden other people with criticism and negativity; but what if we “burdened” them with respect and prestige? To do so would be to honor them. Let us consider the implications of honor for our lives:

Honor is a duty — Scripture is clear that Christians are to be concerned with honor. God, government, employers, teachers, elders, marriages, and parents are all subjects associated with the word in various passages. In other words, honor is the duty of all serious disciples of Jesus Christ. Some seek to escape their duty to honor others in the name of righteousness. The Pharisees, for example, wanted to appear “super-spiritual” so they neglected their duty to take care of their parents under the pretense of giving more time to God (Matt. 15:4-6), a practice which Jesus condemned. When it comes to weighing others down with respect, prestige, worth, and value, God will accept no substitutes. Christian, your duty is to honor those God has commanded you to honor!

Honor shapes character — But someone will ask, “Why is honor so important?” The answer, in a word, is character. God places various systems of authority over us from the day we are born until the day we die. Parents, teachers, governments, employers, and many others all exercise some kind of authority over us at different times and under different circumstances, and all authority is intended by God to mold and shape our character into Christlike maturity! God gave Israel the Fifth Commandment so that Jewish children would grow into mature, responsible adults. Likewise, as Christians willingly and humbly submit to God by honoring those in authority (even authority that is sometimes difficult or inconsistent), our character becomes more like Christ’s.

Honor is a priority — Civil disobedience is often advised when authority seems abusive or wrong. However, disobedience to any authority for the sake of righteousness is always to be a last resort for Christians. For example, what if a mother told her Christian daughter she could no longer attend church services? The daughter needs to keep in mind that Ephesians 6:1-2 is still in the Bible without compromising her commitment to the Lord. Several questions need to be considered here. For example, has the daughter displayed a rebellious attitude toward her mother previously? Contrition and asking forgiveness may go a long way toward changing the mother’s mind. What are the mother’s intentions in commanding her daughter not to attend services? Is there any alternative that would honor those intentions without compromising the daughter’s faith? The point is that honoring others is a priority with God, and we should not be too quick to excuse ourselves from that commandment. Do you weigh others down with respect, prestige, worth, and value? Do you truly honor authorities in your life? The answer may well decide your eternal destiny! —JB