Is it just me, or is honor an almost forgotten character quality in today’s world? You don’t have to watch the evening news or read the daily paper for very long to recognize that a healthy dose of honor is desperately needed in every part of our society. No one wants to take responsibility for the situation, but doesn’t the problem ultimately come back to the family unit? After all, doesn’t honor begin in the home?
John MacArthur, an author and pastor for whom I have great respect, says:
“A person who grows up with a sense of respect for and obedience to his parents will have the foundation for respecting the authority of other leaders and the rights of other people in general. Children who honor their parents will build a society that is ordered, harmonious, and productive. A generation of undisciplined, disobedient children who do not honor their parents will produce a society that is chaotic and destructive.”
A “society that is chaotic and destructive” — sound familiar? Yes, to our shame, it accurately describes our contemporary world. But this is not God’s desire! No, I can tell you with great confidence that honor — particularly as demonstrated by children toward their parents — ranks very high on God’s agenda.
Just look at these verses. In Exodus 20:12, commandment number five in the “Top Ten” says: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Two books later, Deuteronomy 5:16 demands the same of us. And lest you think that honor is merely an Old Testament principle, Ephesians 6:2 drives home the message: “Honor your father and mother . . . so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”
Clearly, honoring our parents is very important to God. But what does it really mean? Well, the Hebrew word for “honor” literally means “a heavy weight.” You could translate it, “Lay it on your parents.” While the phrase “laying it on” is often used to convey an insincere form of flattery today, the Hebrew concept is heartfelt and substantial. It’s the idea of weighing down with respect.
Dennis Rainey, in his excellent book The Tribute, defines honor this way:
“Honoring your parents is an attitude accompanied by actions that says to your parents, ‘You are worthy. You have value. You are the person God sovereignly placed in my life. You may have failed me. You may have hurt me and disappointed me at times. But I’m taking off my judicial robe and releasing you from the courtroom of my mind. I choose to look at you with compassion as people with needs, concerns, and scars of your own. I choose to honor my parents.’”
If we are to take the Bible seriously, then we must recognize that (1) teaching our children to honor their parents and (2) finding a way to honor our own parents — regardless of who they have been or what they have done — is a very serious matter.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who honored their parents and succeeded, and also of those who did not honor their parents and failed. So what’s it gonna be? As for me, I’m doing what I can to be part of the first group.