Honoring Our Parents – Exodus 20

The Lord gave Moses the following commandment:

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 (ESV)

Some of us were raised with ideal parents or step-parents.  This type of upbringing makes this commandment very easy to follow, as we learn over time to show them the honor and respect they deserve. Most of us do give our parents a hard time at one time or another, but if our parents showed us love, they are relatively easy to treat well in return (or at least to tolerate despite their idiosyncrasies).

Others have had a very different kind of experience growing up.  Perhaps their parents were unloving or intoxicated, absent, or present but filled with anger and rage, even having a tendency for violent outbursts.  Some were hostile and cruel, belittling us with painful words, inflicting insecurity and fear. Intentionally or not, some parents created a living hell for their children, the very ones they need to encourage, build up and protect. 

Some parents or step-parents abandoned us, and are no longer there to demonstrate the love, attention and kindness that we all so desperately needed. 

Most parents are a blend of generosity and kindness mixed with a dash of imperfection and ignorance in their speech and actions towards us.  Despite good intentions, even some of these less harmful types can leave their children with scars of low self-worth or self-doubt.

Whatever the circumstances, difficult or not, God still expects us to honor our parents.  In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul highlights the benefit that accompanies this commandment:

6 Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESV)

We can all agree that raising children is an extremely difficult, demanding and tiring endeavor. Babies are helpless and their needs must be met on a twenty-four-hour basis.  Toddlers need constant watching, and the chores of feeding and cleaning up after children of all ages are never-ending.  All these tasks need to be juggled alongside other simultaneous demands, such as earning a living or just getting sufficient sleep.

From the moment of a child’s birth, a parent’s attention needs to be focused on the well-being of their child.  For many parents, this focus is present throughout each day, whether the child is physically with them or not, through each stage of life.  This is by the design of God, who also watches over all of us each moment, be we awake or asleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. Psalm 121:5 ESV

A keeper never rests and is always focused on our well-being.  If the sun bears down on us in the heat of the day, the keeper is there to provide shade and protection.  If we are hungry, the keeper helps to provide nourishment.  God understands and lives out the role of a loving parent each moment of our lives.

Because we are human, there will always be flaws and imperfections in parenting skills and occasional strains between parent and child. But if we seek to honor God by honoring our parents, despite our circumstances, God will bless us.  With a healing touch, He will often step in to mend, repair or at least pacify torn parental relationships, no matter the history or nature of those relationships.

A friend once said, “Maybe I was not the daughter I could have been, and he was not the step-parent he could have been, but God has healed our relationship.  Now I do the shopping for him when he cannot go out.” 

What if we despise or hold a deeply-rooted resentment against a parent? How is forgiveness and honor even remotely possible in such circumstances? If we take a small step of willingness, God’s power will often allow us to move forward towards a true forgiveness and freedom, with healing, and peace.  We can begin to forgive and pray for our “enemies”, even if that enemy is one of our own parents.

What if we are currently separated from our parent, be it through geography, alienation or death?  Some have written letters of reconciliation to separated parents.  If a parent is deceased, some have gone to grave sites or some other symbolic location to read them a letter offering love and forgiveness and receiving healing in return.

May the Lord bring us peace and, if needed, healing today as we seek to honor Him by honoring our parents.


What attributes of a good parent are the most difficult to demonstrate?

What can we do today to honor our parents, be they nearby, far away or deceased? 

If currently alienated from a parent (or child), how can we start the process of healing to begin mending that broken relationship?

Let us pray:

Lord, we lift up our parents (or children) to You. Help us to honor You by honoring them. Bless them wherever they may be, and bring healing and wholeness to any divisions or hurts that are between us. We are willing – use us to help bring reconciliation. We ask this in the power of Jesus name, Amen.

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