Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I understood the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” to mean to obey and respect them, not to talk back to them or make fun of them. But “honor” means more than that – it also means to cherish, to prize highly, to treat as precious and valuable.
Like most kids, though, I didn’t appreciate my parents until I became a parent myself. Then it was too late. Dad died when I was 20, and Mom suffered from Alzheimer’s disease until she died 15 years later.
My parents’ generation fought World War II and the Korean War. Many didn’t even finish high school because they wanted to do their part. After the war, they married, raised families, supported their churches, and built communities.
My generation fought a war, too – the Vietnam War. Some of us lost our lives and our loves over there. Those who returned, returned to a nation in tumult: abortion on demand. Assassinations. Riots. They returned to war protesters, flag burners, draft dodgers, and Hollywood actresses siding with the enemy and making them feel ashamed for “doing their part.” They returned to “flower power” that was little more than a façade for crumbling values and moral decay.
So where are we with “honor your father and mother” today – now that we of the flower power generation are of retiring age? Forbidding prayer in schools was only the beginning. Now, headed by the media, the government, and lawyers who claim to fight for what they call “civil liberties,” society is doing its best to stamp out any reminder of God.
The greatest empires in history were not conquered from without, but crumbled from within. And it all started with moral decay. How do we reverse this downward slide? It all comes back to the fifth commandment, which Paul explained to the Ephesians: “Honor your father and your mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth – (Ephesians 6:2-3 NIV, emphasis mine).
The first commandment established the ultimate authority: God. The fifth commandment established authority in the home. There’s nothing said of government in the rest of the commandments. No other laws but to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as yourself (Matthew 22:36–40).
Fourteen hundred years after God gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the apostle Paul described the last days: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1–5 NIV).
Where did this all start? One Bible commentator wrote, in commenting on the fifth commandment, “Not only in Israel, but in all nations and individual lives, the destruction of the home marks the beginning of the end” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary).
So how to reverse the trend? It all starts in the home. First, put God where He belongs – in first place. Then build strong homes founded on God’s Word, honoring our parents and teaching the next generation to respect the authority God Himself established.
“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.” – Proverbs 10:1 (NIV)
Father, when I look at the world around me, I feel only despair. How far we’ve come from what You planned for us to be! Help us to get our lives back in line with Your Word. Amen.
(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.