The Fifth Commandment: Honor thy Father and Mother


Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12)

What does it mean to “honor”? It means to show respect and due reverence. This commandment dictates that we should honor our fathers and mothers.

What would this mean? Ask anyone from East Asia and they can give you a long list of things you can do to honor your parents. Although I believe in some things they take it too far, in general, they have the right mindset.

Your parents gave you life. They sacrificed a part of their life—a very large part—so that you can live and have the things you have. Even if your parents are not worthy of honor, the only thing we can do is honor them regardless.

If we honor our parents, we need to honor their parents. Thus, we should show respect for and carefully pay attention to what our ancestors have said just like we should do with our own parents.

If we honor our parents, we love the things they love. The thing they love is their children, our brothers and sisters. So we should love our own family, even our extended family.

I suggest several things we can do to honor our parents.

First, we can get to know who they truly are. Find out about their history. Find out about their hopes and dreams, or what they used to be. We can learn a lot about life just by studying our parents.

This of course, involves spending time with our parents. Let us keep the holidays as a time to get together with our parents and families. After we’ve grown up and left home, there is nothing they want more than to hear back about us, our successes and failures. Life is so empty when your children leave home.

We can, of course, obey them. This can be taken to extremes, of course. I wouldn’t obey my parents and commit a crime, for instance. But for the most part, when parents ask us to do something, it’s hardly ever because of their vanity or because they want to hurt us. Rather, it’s the opposite.

We can speak reverently about our parents. Yes, everyone has faults and failures. We don’t like our dirty laundry being spread for all to see, so let’s keep the failures and mistakes of our parents where we’d like our dirty laundry kept. No matter how many faults a person has, there is doubtless something good and redeeming we can share with others.

The promise about our days being long in the land is understood well by my Korean in-laws. See, when my brothers in law show reverence for their dad, who has passed away, and his ancestors, they are modeling the behavior of their children. That way, when they grow old and weak, their children will do the same for them. If you want to live a long life, teach your children to honor their parents by example. When you get near the end of your life, your life will be extended by their charity.

But there is also a plea for turning back the clock on moral issues here. If the family is strong, then the morality of that family will not waver. You will find families who seem to be stuck in the 18th Century when it comes to their attitudes on marriage and religion. This is because their ancestors from the 18th Century honored their parents, and they honor theirs. It creates an unbroken chain of righteousness.

8 Responses to “The Fifth Commandment: Honor thy Father and Mother”

  1. Jeffrey Liakos Says:

    What if you have parents in some cases who are absentee and abdicate their responsibilities to the children that they have? What if both parents are emotionally and psychologically abusive or have substance abuse issues? Would that lead to children who are not electing to honor the Fifth Commandment to be thoroughly justified in their views?

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Those are crimes, same as if someone robs a convenience store or commits murder.

      Regardless of what your parents have done, the office of parent is sacred and deserved honor. It may be wise to find new people to stand in the place of the biological parents when the people who are the biological parent have proven themselves incompetent and dangerous.

  2. Jason Gardner Says:

    Any society that does not hold parenthood and family sacred will not be around for long. There is a reason almost every long lived and even basically functional culture honors some version of the Madonna / Child archetype and their ancestors.

    If I don’t honor reproduction and motherhood then reproduction will decline and the society will be replaced. (Duh. See the Shaker religion for an example.) Similarly, if a society doesn’t honor it’s ancestors and keep the essence of their biology and culture around then they too will disappear and be replaced.

    For example, if two societies mix breed then the result will not be a continuation of the two old societies but a new society. For example, if the Jews didn’t honor their father and mother and bred with the Canaanites instead of conquering them and staying away from them sexually they would have disappeared.

    Bible was pretty clear about that with the Jews. Kill them, destroy them, have your own kids, no intermarriage.


    “and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.

    Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.

    For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.…”

    Pretty clear, but mostly ignored by Christians. If you intermarry you will lose your culture. Again, duh. Honor thy father and thy mother.

    In summary… If we equate two homosexuals having anal sex to reproductive sex between two healthy heterosexual adults committed to parenting then we won’t be around long as a culture. If we have reproductive sex outside of our culture we won’t exist for long.

    There is no choices here. Adhere or disappear as a people. This is common sense, nature and duuuuuuuuh.

    Seriously, does nobody read biology books? A species that doesn’t reproduce or reproduces outside of its kind.. Do we really expect that species to be around for long? How is this a surprise?

  3. Jason Gardner Says:

    Honest question… Has your God ever said no to you on something important? Was there ever something you really, really wanted to do that your God forbids that you didn’t do?

    You say Honor they Father and Mother is a commandment, so it should be followed quite closely if one were a Christian, no? But, you didn’t follow that commandment when you made your decisions in family formation. You didn’t listen to mom and dad, or the grandparents or even esoterically honor your ancestors in choosing your wife. You just did whatever you wanted to do. Commandments be damned because they were not telling you what you wanted to hear, no?

    So are you still a Christian? That’s a big question for me…. Can you just do whatever you want and still hold yourself as a Christian?

    Honestly, I never see the Christian God have any standards. People just do whatever they want then use the Bible to justify what they wanted to do. I mean you can murder or molest a bunch of kids and the Christian God seems cool with it, as long as you believe. It’s kinda bizarre to be honest. Kill someone? Not a problem! Lazy and indolent? Welcome aboard!

    I’ve see women have sex with 50-100 dudes, find Jesus and then consider themselves virgins (what???). Of course, they do this once they are too old to be attractive to every Tom, Dick and Harry and want to settle down. I see Christian men being the most passive, lazy and ignorant men the planet has offer and use religion to justify their laziness. “I’m not lazy, I’m meek and I’ll inherit the earth!” That kind of crap.

    Does the Christian God have standards at all? What are they? Apparently they aren’t the 10 commandments… So what are they?

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Yes, and it happens a lot.

      Regarding my personal marriage, I didn’t get any opposition to it from anyone in my family. My dad cautioned me and warned me what I would face, but he never opposed it. Had he opposed it, I would have a very difficult decision to make. She wasn’t opposed by her family either.

      Regarding what the commandment means by “honor” — we can be lawyers all day long, but I think it is clear that you can disobey your parents but still honor them.

      Regarding Christianity and the law, that gets to the heart of the matter now, doesn’t it? Christianity is the worst sort of religion because it doesn’t really say you have to do anything except apologize for the things you did wrong. In terms of proscription, there is very little one must do to be considered Christian and saved. The rules we do follow, we do it because we love God, nothing more. If something good happens to us, praise Jesus. If something bad happens, praise Jesus. There is a lot of similarity between Christianity and stoicism, and even cynicism (go look up Diogenese, who I think is a good example.)

      The 10 commandments are what Christians might call the law. The law, as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount, goes way beyond this, reaching deep into your heart and soul. Not only is it wrong to commit adultery, he says, but even to think of it — that is wrong too. At the end of the Sermon, he tells us that we need to be perfect, perfect like God. What hope is there in such a philosophy?

      But to Christians, the law is death. That is the thing that condemns all of us to die, to be stuck and caught in hell. Nothing we can do can spare us the wrath of a righteous and vengeful God, who rightfully rains down upon us misery and disaster. Those who think they have done something worthy of God’s love and reward are mistaken on one or both of two fronts. Either they are ignorant of the law, or they believe they can lie to God. Either way, that is no excuse.

      Christ is life. He is the answer to the age-old problem of “What do you do about disobedience?” I am sick with, let’s say, Diabetes. Why? Because I drank orange juice and ate cookies all day for twenty years. Now I need insulin to live, woe is me, woe is me! Yes, I brought it on myself; if not entirely my fault, then other mortals are to blame, and if I can’t find a specific cause, let me blame Adam, who ate the fruit and condemned us all to death.

      But through Christ, we can be made alive.

      I can employ the “No True Scotsman” argument here, but what’s the point? The reality is this: No matter what we do, we can repent. And repenting, our hearts can be changed. We can become reborn as new creatures through Christ.

      Christians walking around, murdering, sexing, pillaging, etc… and then asking Christ for forgiveness — what have I to do with them? Perhaps God will save them. Perhaps he will forgive their sin, perhaps he will change their heart. It’s not for me to decide who gets to be saved and who dies. I know my state before Christ. I know what he wants me to work on next. (Enter in stoicism.)

      Regarding the laziness that Christianity spreads — I cannot deny that. Certain people, perhaps all people, will take Christ’s grand gift and say, “Well, I’ll just go on vacation for the rest of my life, as my salvation is sure.” But these are the ignorant ones, who didn’t pay attention when Christ taught that if you’re not doing good works, and bearing fruit, you will be cut off. Peter had these words for people like that: “God forbid!” Paul had stronger words. Any preacher worth his salt will know where to go to condemn this sort of thinking.

      As for me, I have a duty. I have a duty to expel members of my church who commit grievous sins. I have a duty to kill the murderer. I have a duty to protect life. Yes, this comes from the law, that law that is death, but my Christ, he says “Having repented, go thy way and sin no more” — in other words, now that we’re square, stop sinning, and start obeying the higher law.

      So I lusted after a woman. I broke the higher law. What do I do? All is not lost; repent and stop it. Do good instead.

      That is Christianity. Stop living in the past. Stop with the hopelessness. Move forward, doing better tomorrow than yesterday.

  4. Jason Gardner Says:

    I appreciate your honesty. Well put answer.

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