"Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Deuteronomy 5:16
"Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise-- Ephesians 6:2
Last weekend as we celebrated Father’s Day, I got to thinking as a father and grandfather myself, about the lasting imprint left on me by my father and grandfathers. As I look back I can appreciate the mark they made on who I am today.
The apostle Paul reminds us that the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother…”, is the first commandment with a promise: "so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land".
A long time ago when as a kid a Sunday School teacher asked me what that verse meant, I can faintly remember saying something like, "I better do what my parents say or they'll kill me." Though there may be some parents who would not dispute that understanding, I don't think that's what Moses in Deuteronomy or Paul writing to the church at Ephesus had in mind. "That… you may live a long time in the land" is not a guarantee of extra years of life to individuals who honor their parents. It is a promise to preserve the social order that respects preceding generations.
These commandments were given by God after Israel exodused Egypt and before they entered and occupied the Promised Land. These people were a brand-new nation so God gave them laws and a covenant to show them how to live well together. History has proven to us that good individuals may die young, but cultures in which people honor the aged, endure with stability. It is disheartening to see that the older I get, the less respect I see being given to parents and grandparents.
I believe one of the of the reasons that the Chinese culture has survived thousands of years through many political and social revolutions is that through it all, they continued to value the honoring of parents and grandparents. They didn’t do it because it was spoken by God through Moses, but simply because it was wise. The notion of "that you may live a long time in the land" is not a tempting bribe to good conduct, but a statement of fact about nations and for that matter, families in which honor is found.
Remember, the Bible doesn't say who is to honor you, but whom you are to honor.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,