Honor Thy Parents

To whom is the Fifth Commandment speaking? You or your children?

Last time, I wrote about the relationship I have with my folks, especially how it has bloomed in the past decade (read Your Relationship With Your Parents). In my 20s I didn’t think much of my parents, but through my 30s and now in my 40s, I think the world of them. I have a deep thought that I’d like to share with you on this.

What comes to mind when you read Exodus 20:12?

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Parents typically read it to their children to remind them who is boss. It carries a much different perspective when you read it with YOU as the child. I hear God saying this verse like so,

“Chris, at 42 years old, honor your mom and dad who live 800 miles away. They put at least 20 years into your life, and they continue to do so even though you’re all grown up and a father of children of your own. Don’t blow them off now. Don’t think poorly of them. Don’t knit-pick at how they treat your children. Don’t you dare judge them. They have done you good, and they are part of who you are. Give them the honor they deserve. You’ll live long and be a better man if you do.”

As I explained in the last post, it was sometime in my 30s that I started to realize that my parents are pretty great people. I wasn’t estranged from them or anything, but I started to desire spending time with them. I started to seek out opportunities to “just hang.” Over the past decade, we have had several of the best times of my life.

  • I invited my dad hunting, and he took me up on the offer. The few times we hit the mountains were the best hunting trips of my life – even better for my kids.
  • We haven’t spent our vacation seeing sites; instead, we have vacationed to Minnesota. Not for special events like weddings or funerals, but for our special family vacations. They have become the most treasured experiences for my family.
  • Recently I got the chance to travel to St. Cloud on business, so I flew out a few days early to stay with my folks. Those three days were most precious.
I post about this because, sadly, I see friends (perhaps you?) struggle – as adults – with the relationship they have with their parents. When I share with them the blessings I have with my folks, they will admit they wish they had the same kind of relationship with their folks. But they quickly fall into criticizing their parents. They’re drunks, they used to be abusive, they’re not Christians, they get angry easily, etc. The list is sometimes (but not often) pretty brutal. Therefore, they conclude that they’d rather not hang with their parents. “I wish I had folks like yours,” they say, “but I just don’t.”

Are you there? Do you think your parents aren’t worthy of honor? I challenge you to rethink that, to take the Exodus 20:12 commandment seriously and give your parents honor – no matter how weak or faulty they are or have been in the past. You’ll be surprised at how good life can be with a relationship with your parents.

Be honest. If you are estranged from your folks, you have issues. I don’t care how bad your parents are or were, or how much you think you have broken the chains of dysfunction. You have a chip on your shoulder. Chances are you carry the same character traits you despised in your own parents (you drink, you throw your kids around, your faith is weak, you get easily angered, etc.). You expect grace from your children – or at least you will when they are adults – yet you are too stubborn to extend that grace to your living parents in their sunset years.

Hear me when I say to you, “Your life will be better if you reach out to your living parents and love them.” Oh, wait, those aren’t my words. God made that one of his Big 10 – the fifth of the great commandments – the only one with the promise that life would be much better if obeyed (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Perhaps the 5th Commandment isn’t solely speaking to underage children. Come to think of it, the Commandment doesn’t come with an age limit. God may be talking to you on how you honor your parents. Perhaps this is a key reason life isn’t going well for you. It’s time to reach out, give your mom or dad a call, and start honoring them.

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.

  • Emily Accavitti Klakulak

    I used to think my parents were unbearable, but really, I was just plain old in the wrong. Now we have a great relationship and it is a good thing too, because my dads health is failing and if I was still being stubborn, I would be missing so much.

    • Yolanda

      Sometimes, unbearable parents *are* really unbearable, and it only gets worse with time.

      In other cases, like yours, things improve.

  • CindeeN

    This makes me think of something I read many years ago. “Raise your children in such a way that the command for them to “Honor their parents” will be a joy rather than a duty.”  In MY 20’s that command felt more like a duty.  Since I’ve married and had (soon to be 6) children my perspective has changed considerably!  I suspect that the reasons for my duty-attitude lie both in my own heart and also in the way I was treated as a child.  It’s been my goal to have respect for my children, to love them, honor them, and train them up in the love and admonition of the Lord so that (among other reasons) for them to honor me will be a joy to them.  I’m so glad that I grew up and now have a rewarding relationship with my parents… I just wish I hadn’t missed out on that for a decade or so.

  • Sheila (UK)

    Hi Chris,
               As I said yesterday, it is so important to build bridges, forgive and have a good relationship with our parents. If nothing else they are the reason we are here, they gave us life.
                I spent a lot of years in a difficult relationship with my mother and now, with effort on both sides, we get along really well. I never really fell out with my father but I didn’t see him on a regular basis until just over a year ago. My brother is estranged from him and I tried to help bring them together. It didn’t work but we became so much closer through a horrible time. I learned more about him as a person, his childhood and his feelings about things that we had never talked about.
               I now look forward to seeing my parents and love and respect them more than ever.
                It is also good to think about how we would like our own children to treat us when considering how we speak about and treat our own parents.

  • Bonnie

    My husband and I have no living parents.  By 8 years into our marriage all had passed away.  I always try to remind others in our season of life (with lots of precious little ones !) to never take for granted having grandparents around that love your babies….it is hard for us to be on this journey without them! Always thank God for your parents! When they’re gone you’ll miss…no matter how rocky the relationship was!

  • Ninabi

    Sometimes, sadly, it’s the other way around.  My father was a wonderful dad growing up.  But when he divorced my mother and remarried, he lost all interest in his old family.  We talked on the phone regularly.  I went to visit.  But despite offers of free plane tickets to come see us, he enjoyed his new family and his new life more. He was not angry- quite the opposite- very happy, funny, well liked man.   He died last year without ever seeing his only two grandchildren as teenagers or adults.  My siblings and I are scratching our heads over it as he was not a cruel guy.  
    We have to love and accept the imperfect.  Wish things could be different but I take the advice of my husband’s aunt and uncle to heart (they were like grandparents to our kids)- Cherish the loving relationships you DO have in your life.  And we do!

  • Una

    Some grandparents are abusive to their kids, and their grandkids. Since you have not experienced abuse, I think you should not dismiss it so quickly.

    What about Sydney Simpson, the daughter of OJ? Should she let a sociopath go near her kids? The man murdered her mother. What about her own mental health? Does that matter?

    Some parents are toxic and dangerous. You have not experienced it, so you do not know. The Bible says “Honor” — that’s it, just honor.

    And, frankly, the fact that you visit your parents once a year does not seem all that loving, to me. A

    • Chris Jeub

      I’m speaking to common examples like mine. Extreme examples of the Simpsons shouldn’t be used to justify discontent or ill will toward our parents. Of couse “toxic and dangerous” examples are on a different level, but that’s not the level I’m talking of here.

      What I fear is that some use petty reasons to alienate their parents, or they exaggerate their parents’ behavior to justify the alienation.

  • Cat B

    Do you believe that to honor is the same as obey? If not at what age is a ‘child’ no longer have to obey their parents- at 18, 21 when they leave home, when they get married?

    • Chris Jeub

      Honoring and obeying are two different things. I think this is rather obvious, but I’ve heard people try to equate the two. “You’re not obeying, so therefore you’re not honoring me.” The adverse isn’t any prettier: “I’m gonna honor you as my parent, but sure as heck not gonna do what you say.” What do you think?

      Your question about age is tough to answer. I suppose 18. That’s what our culture has deemed adulthood. However, I’ve known 14 year olds more mature than some 24 year olds. What to make of that? So my conclusion is similar to that turtle dude on Finding Nemo: “When you know, you know. You know?”

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  • Chris Jeub

    I posted this on my Facebook this morning:

    “Honor your father and your mother.” I cringe when I hear people say that to their children. Yeah, I get that it’s biblical, one of the Big Ten, but it’s usually directed toward snot-nosed children in an attempt to earn their obedience. Instead, think of your parents and how you honor them. It changes your perspective of the only command with a promise.

    Here’s my take. All of us are the next chapter in a greater story. The chapter before us — that of our parents — aren’t ours. We can only read it and learn from it, but we can’t change it. Some of their chapter caused us pain, and though it’s tempting to think their story is about us, it’s not. It’s their chapter, and we’re the next.

    This is where the honoring part comes in. We can honor and attempt to understand our parents’ story, or we can judge it and hate them for it. When we do the latter, their pains become our own. Their dysfunction ends up written in our chapter, the chapter being written now, the one we’re allowed and privileged to write ourselves.

    But the former — that of honoring your parents — is not only respectful, but epic. We have the opportunity to break chains of dysfunction and overcome sins that enslaved our ancestors. What a turn that would be in the Greater Story, wouldn’t it?

    In fact, you could, if your parents are still alive, help your parents write their conclusion. This isn’t possible without first honoring them, respecting their chapter for what it’s worth. I guarantee you — in fact, I can promise you this — that if you honor your parents, no matter how evil they are or how bad they were to you growing up, your chapter of the Greater Story will be much, much better.