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  Honouring Your Parents


Exodus 20:12 reads as follows:


"Honour your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you" (NIV).


Many of us think this command says that if a child honours his parents he will live a long life, as some say the Apostle Paul alluded to in Ephesians 6:2 and 3.  Paul said:


"Honour your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth" (NIV).


Paul's intension was not to present an exhaustive teaching on this command.  He simply inserted it to encourage children to honour their parents, because, when children honour their parents the wealth of knowledge and wisdom honourable parents pass on to them provides the foundation for them and their generation's good social well-being.  When children fail to honour their parents; when their generation rejects the wisdom of the previous generation, that generation fails to learn many lessons of life, and thus their culture suffers.   


Note the words "the land the Lord your God gives you" in the command.  In context, this command was directed to a specific generation of Jews to whom God promised a specific parcel of land.  If that generation honoured their parent's generation that vowed to obey the Lord, and if this honour was duplicated down through future generations, the generation of Jews who would eventually receive the land would be a blessed generation because it would have learned life's lessons from previous godly generations.  They would in fact live long in the land given to them, as the command states.       


The idea of Jews living a long time in a blessed land is seen elsewhere in Scripture.  Deuteronomy 5:33 says this:   


"Walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess" (NIV).


Deuteronomy 4:40 says this:


"Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time" (NIV).


The above two verses, and others like them, speak to Jews living a long time in a blessed land because of their obedience to God, which included honouring the previous generation.  I believe there is a Biblical principle here that crosses cultural and historic boundaries.  When a generation respects the previous honourable generation, that generation will be blessed in its land.  When a generation fails to honour the previous honourable generation as seems to be the case in our culture today, that generation loses the blessing of God in the land in which it lives.


Leviticus 13:32 is interesting in light of this.  It says:


"Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD" (NIV).


Showing respect for the elderly is linked to reverencing God in this verse.  Respect for the elderly is becoming a lost godly characteristic, something the Apostle Paul said would be widespread in the last days.  2 Timothy 3:2 states:


"People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy" (NIV).


I think Exodus 20:12 is referring to more than a child obeying his parents so he can live a long life.  More importantly, it speaks to a generation living a long and blessed life in the land God gives it because it honours God by honouring the previous honourable generation.    


When generational honour falls apart life's lessons concerning family, community, and culture are not learned.  The resulting broken families with broken children provide the atmosphere for gun violence, sexual promiscuity, and other cultural ills that prevail in the West today.  When disrespect replaces honour, social ills replace blessings.  Our culture is losing, or perhaps has already lost, the blessing of God because it has rejected our Biblical influenced heritage passed down to us from previous generations.  It is our responsibility as Christians to be the countercultural community of blessed and obedient people of God in the midst of what the Apostle Peter called a "corrupt generation" (Acts 2:40).  Let us be that community of people.


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