What’s the most important responsibility you have in your life right now? Do you know?
Would you say it’s getting good grades, your part-time job, the car you just bought? None of those is quite it.
Is it your chores at home? Being nice to your brother or sister? These are getting closer….
Actually, your biggest responsibility at this time in your life—like it or not—is your relationship with your parents! More specifically, it is that you treat your parents with proper honor.
God has a lot to say about this subject. It is much more important than you probably realize! In this Bible study, we’ll learn about the wonderful benefits God promises to those who do it right—as well as the problems you can expect if you neglect this, your biggest responsibility.
Before we begin, be sure to grab your Bible, a pen or pencil and some paper. We suggest you write out and think about each Bible verse as you look it up. This will cement these valuable principles in your mind much more solidly.
What Does It Mean to ‘Honor’?
1. What is God’s specific command to us regarding our relationship with our parents? Exodus 20:12. Did Jesus Christ consider this commandment important? Matthew 15:4; Luke 18:20.
God wants families to be happy, unified and fulfilling. Children honoring their parents is so important to strong families, that God made it number five of the “big ten”—the Ten Commandments. He put it right above “Thou shalt not kill”! (Exodus 20:13). To honor means to give someone high esteem or respect, to prize or reverence. It is mingled with love and devotion.
God understands, too, that we don’t all live in ideal families. But we should still try our hardest to fulfill this command. Regardless of whether we feel our parents are deserving of honor, God will bless anyone who strives hard to obey the Fifth Commandment.
2. What does God promise if you honor your parents? Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:2-3.
What a blessing! Most parents truly care for their children and want what’s best for them. They want to see us do well and be happy, to have a better life than they did. By honoring them and heeding their instruction, we will avoid many mistakes, making our life longer and happier. God promises it!
But consider this as well: Honoring your parents shows a willingness to honor and obey your Father in heaven. Since He is our spiritual Father, we should always honor Him. And just as honoring your physical parents gives long physical life, honoring God the Father brings with it the prospect of eternal life!
3. Jesus Christ is our example (1 Peter 2:21). Did He honor His parents when He was young? Luke 2:51. (You can read verse 41-52 to see what He was like at age 12). Was He blessed because of it? Verses 40, 52. How did He honor His real Father—God in heaven? John 8:28-29, 49; 15:10. Did He honor His mother by making sure she would be looked after when He died? John 19:26-27.
Now let’s look at the situation from our parents’ perspective for a moment.
4. What responsibility has God given them? Proverbs 22:6. Does this include discipline and correction? Proverbs 13:24; 23:13; 29:15, 17.
When we were born, we knew nothing. God has placed upon our parents’ shoulders the job of teaching us, guiding us as we grow. That’s a big job!
5. Does God want us to fear our parents? Leviticus 19:3.
Understand that the word fear refers not to dread or fright, but deep respect that gives us a desire to obey them.
6. Are we required to obey our parents in all things they ask of us? Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1.
This is very important to understand. Obedience is the primary way in which you honor your parents. But the Ephesians passage says to obey them “in the Lord.” That means to obey them in whatever they ask as long as doing so complies with God’s other laws. If ever there is a conflict, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Notice, too, in the Colossians scripture, that the reason we obey our parents is that it pleases God.
It is not enough to begrudgingly do what they ask, with a foul attitude. Really honoring your parents means being quick and cheerful in obedience. It means respecting their wishes even if you feel your way is better. Follow their rules. Be enthusiastic in fulfilling their requests. Do more than is asked of you. Volunteer. Think of extra ways you can please your parents.
Of course, you realize just how much these things will probably set you apart from your peers! But think too about how much more harmonious your family will be! Can you begin to see why God puts such a high priority on the Fifth Commandment?
By doing all you can to make your home a pleasant place for everyone, especially your parents, you’ll be setting yourself up for greater success in everything you do outside your home.
7. What blessings are promised to those who truly follow their parents’ guidance? Proverbs 1:8-9; 6:20-22. What does God call someone who hears parental instruction? Proverbs 13:1. (Also notice what God calls someone who does not: Proverbs 15:5.)
8. How will it affect your parents to have you heeding their advice and making wise choices? Proverbs 10:1; 23:24-25.
Parents receive great joy when their children follow their instruction and work for success. They love to see them applying themselves and succeeding at what they do! It is within these situations that it is easiest to see what a true blessing children are for a family! Read Psalm 127:3-5.
Realize this: The same God who made the law of gravity made the commandments. They are just as binding on our lives—and just as painful if we break them! If you follow the Fifth Commandment, you will begin to see blessings for you and your family, in your relationship with your parents. That is a guarantee—even if you think it would never work in your family! If you give it sincere effort, it will!
Breaking the Commandment
Now that we have a better idea of how to honor our parents, let’s briefly look at things to avoid that would dishonor them.
1. Does living your life foolishly have any effect on your parents? Proverbs 15:20; 19:26.
Certainly “despising” your parents is dishonoring them. The word wasteth in Proverbs 19:26 means “to do violence against.” Just as working hard and living right can make your parents proud and bring honor to them, the opposite can reflect very badly on them. Your life should bring them as much honor as possible.
2. Does God curse those who dishonor their parents? Deuteronomy 27:16.
“Setteth light” is translated “dishonor” in the Revised Standard and other versions.
3. What about making fun of or “talking back” to our parents—what consequences does the Bible say we face for that? Proverbs 20:20; 30:17; Leviticus 20:9.
These very strong verses also help us understand how serious God is about us honoring our parents. Today it is common to see young people making fun of, sassing or “cursing” their parents. They do it without thinking twice. But they should think twice!
Perhaps these scriptures seem overly dramatic. But look around. Many young people who ignore guidance and otherwise dishonor their parents end up caught in reckless, violent, destructive living, which can bring upon them a host of problems—including, in some cases, an untimely death. There are always consequences for breaking God’s law. On the other hand, there are always natural blessings that come from obeying it. Remember, God promises long life for keeping the Fifth Commandment.
If you are guilty of dishonoring your parents, God will certainly forgive you if you are sorry and make sincere efforts to change. The purpose of this study is not to frighten you into obedience, but to make clear just how emphatic God is about honoring our parents. God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).
Your Part in the Family
Before we end, we need to lock in just how essential your responsibility to your family really is.
1. How important is it for families to live together in unity and harmony? Matthew 12:25.
True teamwork makes a family work. That requires the full cooperation of each member.
2. What other principles should we follow in our relationships with our family? Matthew 7:12; Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:8-9.
None of these are easy to do, especially in some cases. “Not rendering evil for evil” means being kind even if a family member treats you poorly. Remember, being a parent can be difficult. No one does it perfectly. Everyone gets tired and burned out sometimes. Our parents will make mistakes. But we need to be willing to overlook shortcomings, forgive each other. Aim to follow the principles outlined above as closely as possible. God will reward us abundantly for doing so, and will give us the help we need if we ask Him for it (Matthew 21:22; Philippians 4:13).
Take this study a few times each year to check yourself on how you’re doing. No matter what your relationship with your parents is like, you can improve it. Following the Fifth Commandment will make you a lot closer, bring more peace and love into your home and more success to the rest of your life. And remember, it’s your biggest responsibility!