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14 January 2010 (Sheshi/Kippur)
Honour Thy Parents
Honour and Obedience Contrasted

    "Honour your father and your mother, as Yahweh your Elohim has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you" (Deut.5:16, NKJV).

    "[Yah'shua/Jesus] answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of Elohim because of your tradition? For Elohim commanded, saying, 'Honour your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'" (Matt.15:3-5, NKJV).

What does it mean to "honour your parents"? Does it mean to do whatever they tell you? Does it mean we can disobey the commands of our parents? Does honouring our parents mean obeying them all our lives? Or are we only to obey them as children? Do we cease obeying them when we become adults or when we become married? At what age do we become an adult?

    "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Master" (Col 3:20, NKJV).

To begin with, 'honouring' and 'obeying' are not synonymous. To honour your parents does not mean to obey them. We are commanded to honour them all our lives but clearly we cannot obey them in the same way as adults as we did when we were children. Yet surprisingly many Christians do confuse the two, especially what I call 'ultra-patriarchy'.

Clearly there is no age-limit in honouring your parents. Yah'shua rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for not honouring their parents in our second opening passage today. But neither are we to obey them unconditionally as adults. For it is written:

    "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household'" (Matt.10:34-36, NKJV)

There are some Christians who think that obeying their parents comes before obeying Yahweh. This saying of Yah'shua proves otherwise. In fact He clearly states that one of the consequences of following Him will be domestic strife between parents and their adult children. Though it is the opposite of what He wants, it is the consequence of taking spiritual sides in an issue. So if we are following Yah'shua and our parents are not, and they order us not to, what shall we do? Follow them or Yah'shua? The answer is obvious.

And yet no scripture tells us to stop honouring our parents. Quite the opposite. If we are at war with our parents over the Gospel, we are still to honour them. What, then, is honouring our parents? Let us take our counsel from Scripture.

    "You shall rise before the gray headed and honour the presence of an old man, and fear your Elohim: I am Yahweh" (Lev.19:32, NKJV).

We are to show respect to our elders, whether parents or not and to do so because we fear Yahweh. This does not necessarily mean that we are to obey them, though.

    "Then [Saul] said, 'I have sinned; yet honour me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship Yahweh your Elohim.' So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshiped Yahweh" (1 Sam.15:30-31, NKJV).

Honour quite simply means respect. To honour someone is to show them respect. If honour and obedience are synonymous, then marriage would be matriarchal as well as patriarchal (in otherwords co-headship):

    "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7, NKJV).

If honour is the same as obedience, or conformity to the will of another, then a husband should obey the will of his wife. Indeed, we should obey everyone if we believe scripture!

    "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another" (Rom.12:10, NKJV).

And if we really want to that this honour equals obedience doctrine to its logical conclusion, then we must obey the parts of our own body:

    "And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honour; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need" (1 Cor.12:23-24, NKJV).

In actual fact, we are supposed to honour all true believers as a Christian character trait, that is, showing respect for fellow recipients of salvation, because that is a fruit of the grace that comes from being IN Messiah.

    "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another" (Rom.12:10, NKJV).

Should we honour those who are not necessareily believers too? Definitely:

    "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour" (Rom.13:6-7, NKJV).

Indeed, the whole of humankind is actually to be embraced in the mandate to show respect:

    "Honour all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear Elohim (God). Honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17, NKJV).

Now obviously this does not mean we are to honour or respect every single human being. You don't give honour to murderers and rapists, that would be patent nonsense. What is clear though is that honour and obedience are not equatable otherwise Samuel would not have honoured Saul as King by attending a sacrifice when the latter was yet disobedient. This distinction is very important.

We are told not to honour fools (Prov.26:1,8).

    "As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour" (Eccl.10:1, NIV).

What if we have a foolish parent? Or even an evil parent? Do we cease honouring them? No. Then what can the Scripture mean when it commands us to honour parents at pain of death? In what are we supposed to honour them unconditionally irrespective of their behaviour?

This is an important question. We honour our parents as the ones who gave us life and dedicated a quarter of their lives nurturing us, sometimes involving great personal sacrifice. We can respect them for that. Does that mean that a grown woman who was sexually molested by her unrepentant father should honour Him too? Definitely not! Though he has given life in one respect, he has stolen it in another. But doesn't that contradict scripture? No, because a father who rapes his child has committed incest and that falls under Yahweh's death penalty. That person should be dead. If the law of the land fails to execute justice and the offending parent still lives, that does not mean we should honour or respect that parent! A parent whom Torah says should be dead because of a capital offense against a son or daughter must NOT be honoured by that son or daughter. A woman who honours and respects an abusive father out of some twisted understanding of Scripture - a father who ought to be dead - is, as one writer puts it, "binding a stone in a sling and flinging it with certainty of it returning and hitting her in the head". But what if a parent who has abused a child genuinely repents? Then honour/respect should be given only when honour/respect has be earned.

How, then, should we rightly honour our parents if they are not guilty of any sin leading to death? These are the things the Scriptures tell us to do to honour them:

  • 1. By never cursing them (Mt.15:4);
  • 2. By financially supporting them when they can no longer support themselves (Mt.15:5);
  • 3. By taking care of them when they are in need (Mk.7:12).

In a wider sense, applicable also to others in positions of responsibility and authority, houring our parents is accomplished:

  • 4. By being kindly affectionate (Rom.12:10);
  • 5. By seeking their good (Rom.12:10);
  • 6. By respecting their office or position which is ordained by Yahweh (Rom.13:7); and
  • 7. By bestowing more honour than their level of gifts suggests (1 Cor.12:23).

So at what age does a child become an adult and no longer under the government of parents if that child chooses to leave home? The bible says at age 20. Exodus 30:14, 38:26, Leviticus 27:3 and Numbers 1:3 all say that manhood is reached at the age of 20. However, bear in mind that in the Hebrew system we are aged differently. When a Hebrew was born he was considered to be one, as this was his first year. So a boy became a man when he turned 19 using our system of calculating age. If a man leaves home at 19 he is no longer under the government of his father, except when he comes to take his first wife. Therefore when a youth turns 19 he is no longer obliged to obey his parents in "all things". Does this mean he has no obligations toward them? Not at all, he must continue to honour and respect them in the manner prescribed all the days of his life.


Acknowledgements

[1] Michael & Debbie Pearl, Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families

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