“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the
LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
By Todd Alexander
God’s fifth commandment, to honor our father and mother, is the only commandment that is confirmed with the blessing of long life. Obedience is the proper response to God’s gift of life, and will be the strength of our families and our Ecclesias.
God’s justice requires that we honor our earthly parents who have helped and cared for us. It is a pattern proven throughout the scriptures. We have positive examples in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. We also have negative examples in Adam, King David’s children, and the children of the Priest Eli and Prophet Samuel.
God created us to have healthy families. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [fill] the earth’” (Genesis 1:28). Families which honor this commandment, in letter and in spirit, will flourish as they grow closer to God. This shared bond of a collective godly intent and life purpose will be the strength of the family. It is a key principle that God set before the children of Israel to help them grow and flourish as one nation before God.
God created the human race to be a part of His family. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). By creating mankind in His own image and providing them with a beautiful earthly home, He showed them the value of His life by giving them the ability to appreciate their own.
Strength of Families
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).
There is great wisdom in asking God to help raise our children. Honoring God in this way comes with many blessings. The Apostle Paul teaches that when we obey this commandment, we can reasonably expect a peaceful and united home. He also admonishes fathers to be a godly influence in the training and development of their children. The family unit will take on the color of these godly principles, and the development of the children’s minds will depend on the mutual honor received from their parents and the honor the children return to them. A strong family will have God as their shepherd, protector, refuge, and strength (Psalms 23, Genesis 15:1, Psalms 46).
While godly families live in the natural world, they are to be led by the spirit of God’s word. This commandment is vital to the strength of the family since human children are born helpless and need 24-hour parental care to survive. It is natural for those children to learn to honor their father and mother when they are young, and so dependent upon them. Afterward, they honor their parents by caring for them in their old age. When parents honor the Ten Commandments in the home, it develops the good ground for the gospel seed to grow in the hearts of their children.
Regarding the spirit led life of that same family unit, it is important for the father and mother to provide training and care for their children in the knowledge of God. One way wise parents teach their children is to honor their Heavenly Father and demonstrate how they are inspired to follow God in their own lives.
This commandment also holds true as an essential principle in the collective Church of the Gospel Age. Humility before God is necessary for working with our brethren and for the health of an ecclesia. It is one of the three human virtues demanded by God in Micah 6:8 and it helps us to become “self-aware” of our progress in all other virtues.
In the early church, the Apostles guided the church’s collective mind which in turn guided their feet about where to go and their hands about what to do. Each ecclesia should operate as one body, a microcosm of the entire body of Christ. God’s Ten Commandments provide principles to develop the mind of each ecclesia member in righteousness and, if followed, will naturally promote a healthy collective mind and body of the ecclesia (Ephesians 4).
“Honor thy father and thy mother” is a foundational rule that offers far reaching benefits to all who obey it. In the ecclesia environment this means to honor those who have traveled the consecrated road for many years. Their experience and wisdom should be appreciated and recognized for the benefits they bring to the brethren. As these individuals continue to be guided by godly principles, their example brings stability to the younger ecclesia members. It is vital that the older, more mature brethren not speak down to the younger members, but treat them with love and respect. This good influence will likely be copied, creating a greater bond among the spiritual family we meet with.
Important for Youth
The second grouping of the Ten Commandments (which describe human relationships) begins with this fifth commandment as its basis. The last six commandments relate to honoring and respecting others. That process begins with the fifth commandment.
Honoring our father and mother is an essential rule for people of all ages, but especially for the young. Due to the neuroplasticity of the human brain (where neural pathways are developed through repetition), obeying this commandment when one is young will develop a “virtual highway” which benefits them for their entire lifetime. In a sense, they provide their “future selves” with the gift of early obedience to God and enjoy the “psychological rest” of faith in their later years.
Perhaps the larger benefit of following the Ten Commandments is that doing so trains our spiritual senses to receive the meat of God’s word. It follows God’s process of informing and then mentoring us. He first provides us with the tools, and then encourages us to use them.
The Rich Young Ruler
When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered that among others things, he should “Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). When the young man replied by professing obedience to these commandments, Jesus then sharpened his focus and told him, “sell that thou hast, and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21). Jesus was showing him how to expand his obedience and be driven by mercy toward his fellow man — the path to become an Israelite indeed.
The rich young ruler was driven by a set of rules, the Mosaic Law. However, Jesus was gently shepherding his spirit toward being driven by the higher principle of mercy into loving his neighbor as himself in a practical way.
With this interaction, Jesus indicated that the Ten Commandments were steppingstones to higher spiritual insights into the underlying principles and a better understanding of God’s character. The man’s heart needed to be in the right place to see these things.
The Apostle Paul
The Apostle Paul benefited from obeying this commandment when he was young, under the guidance of Gamaliel. All the hard work he put into learning and obeying God’s Commandments became an investment for his future work as an Apostle. In essence, the Apostle Paul followed the path that Jesus recommended to the rich young ruler by giving away his wealth (his Jewish social stature) to help the poor in spirit (the Gospel Age church).
The Ten Commandments provided the Jews with the tools they needed to come to God and be nurtured by Him as their husband under the Law Covenant (Jeremiah 31:32). Obedience to these commandments would benefit individuals, natural families, spiritual families, and the nation of Israel.
The Ten Commandments demonstrated God’s justice to Israel and mankind. But in a sense, they act as “software” for the human mind, downloadable at God’s request. They are an instruction manual which helps mankind develop their mind and character in righteousness, and in the process, gain insights into the character of God.