To honor your mother and father is the fifth commandment in the famous Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12). It is different from all of the other commandments in one way, and set apart from 8 of them in another way. First, it is the only commandment that comes explicitly with a promise (Ephesians 6:2). If you honor your parents, you will have long life. Although the bible doesn’t say it here, you also generally will have a blessed life. Giving us parents, and expecting us to honor them, and then to bless us with a long and generally healthy life is one way that God mirrors man’s relationship with himself and his expectations regarding that relationship.
However, the second way that honoring one’s parents is set apart from most of the others is a bit more curious. Eight of the other commandments are negative. For instance, in most of the other commandments, we are charged with a “thou shalt not . . .” So instead of saying to us “don’t do this,” in the fifth commandment, God tells us to take action. We are to live our lives in such a way that our parents are honored, revered, set apart, or recognized for our behaviors and actions. The way that we do this honoring, chiefly, is by obeying them during those times in which we live under their direct authority. However, that, by far, isn’t the only way that we honor them. We honor them by living Godly lives and being functional members of our communities. Our parents are to be recognized, not so much by our successes, but rather by our goodness. Further, we honor them by loving them – that is by being committed to their wellbeing in all of those ways that we are able. It means being committed to their mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing by calling them, visiting them, being there for them, and by showing them that we love and appreciate them. All of these are active “thou shalt do” behaviors.
Finally, one of the most important ways that we honor our parents is by taking care of them when they no longer are able to do so on their own. Of course, this makes sense. After all, they took care of us when we were too young to do so for ourselves. Reciprocation seems more than fair. The bible puts very great importance on it. For instance, consider Paul’s discussion of the topic to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 5:3-9 Paul is training the young pastor on how the church should manage widows. In the context of that discussion, he says that a person who doesn’t take care of the relatives in his own household is “worse than an unbeliever.” Paul recognizes that children should take care of their parents when they are able, rather than the church, and that if one doesn’t do so, then one’s standing with God might be in question.
So respect the 5th commandment, and take care of your parents in an active way. Love them and honor them with your life. Doing so is a reflection of your relationship with God!