Honor Thy Parents

by Steven R. Bowen

Originally published in
The Christian Informer

TO UNDERSTAND HOW important it is for children to honor their parents, consider the importance the wisest man places upon it. In laying the foundation for the book of Proverbs, Solomon sets forth two principles upon which all wisdom is based:

One, fear God. "The fear of the Lord," he says, "is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7).

Two, honor the instruction of parents. He says, "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck" (Proverbs 1:8,9).

It is upon these two premises that Solomon builds volumes of wisdom and instruction, and those themes emerge repeatedly throughout his writings. "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22).

Listen to him again: "My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Proverbs 6:20-23).

I'm not sure we can find any better instruction than that to share with our children. There are positive benefits--both physical and spiritual--for children who bind their parent's teaching "continually upon their hearts." "Honour thy father and mother," Paul writes to Ephesus, "which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Ephesians 6:2,3). If you want to know the secret of long life--surely all would like to!--consider those words by the apostle.

I suppose there's no way to overstate the importance of the command to honor our parents, a command (not a suggestion) handed down by numerous inspired writers of the Scriptures. There is no better way to judge the character of a young man than by the respect he shows to his parents. Children who fail to respect their parents will have a difficult time respecting God, because it is by learning to respect their parents' instructions that children learn to respect God's law. To fail to teach children to honor their parents is to fail to teach them to honor God. The two premises upon which the book of Proverbs is written are inseparable.

Honoring parents goes beyond children's attitude or the way they speak to their parents (although those are some clear indications of children's respect). But honoring parents also involves the way they live. If children want to dishonor their parents, there is a surefire way to do it: by failing to live a Christian life. That is the surest way of all. If you want to see a dishonored father, look at the father in the Lord's greatest parable as he watches a dissatisfied son gather his possessions, pack his bags, and head out the door and down a long, dusty road until he is no more than a speck in the distance. There is a dishonored father.

Look at David as he ascends Mount Olivet, weeping as he goes, his head covered and his feet bare. And all the people with him cover their heads, too, weeping as they go. It is a sad day in Israel when David's son Absalom takes rebellion road. And it is a sadder day when the road ends, and David goes up to his chamber, this time alone, as he cries out perhaps the saddest words in all the Scripture: "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

That is a picture of a dishonored father.

Solomon was nearby to observe his dishonored father; and I am sure the visions of the wearied, heartbroken singer of Israel never left Solomon, prompting him years later to pen these instructions: "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother." That is sound advice to children today, even as it was thousands of years ago.

We would all do well to take time to share that advice with our children. It is the kind of advice that can keep us from losing our children; and it is the kind that can spare us from ascending Mount Olivet with the psalmist, weeping as we go.

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