If you had siblings, then you probably have one who was the “good child”, the favorite. At least it seemed that way from your perspective. If you have more than one kid, you probably see better, but that’s not a given. I have only one, and my Master knew she was all we could handle. That’s a lot to wrap up into one kid, but she excels in living out a mixture of her mother and I.
But, is that what it means to “honor” your parents? Is it only living out the mixture of the two that makes up your “nature” part? I hope not. Unfortunately, there are so many who should never have had kids, never wanted them, and have taken little or no interest in them. For some parents, the kids are only a means to more government assistance. It’s sickening. And yet, this commandment isn’t conditional.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”Exodus 20:12 NASB
You would think that there would be something here about parenting. Shouldn’t there be? Yet, it all falls on the kids. Honor your parents. It isn’t until Paul that there’s more guidance for parents, “Don’t exasperate your children. As if that’s not going to happen.
It’s possible that our Creator acknowledges that parenting is hard. Regardless of the child, regardless of the circumstances, parenting is difficult. Parents know nothing about it until the first one comes along, and they simply do the best they can (or, are supposed to do the best they can). Children are to honor their parents for the difficult job they were given, regardless of how well the kids think they did it or not.
This law comes with a promise, or a “carrot” in a sense. As Paul points out in Ephesians 6:2,3, this is the first law with a promise. The promise is long life in the land of promise. Paul applies it to long life anywhere. The truth is that honoring parents, perhaps learning from them, does give one important life-lessons that will prolong life on this earth. It’s important.
But what about when the parents don’t parent, aren’t interested, leave their kids behind, abandon their responsibilities, and leave a trail of empty broken kids behind them? What about those parents? How can those children honor such parents?
I don’t know. I haven’t been there, experienced such parenting, or lived with such pain. I hope that, in such cases, living better, being a better parent, and rising above the pain is the honor due. In such cases, honor may need to live alongside pain, anger, and frustration.
Regardless of how good or bad a parent was, every child has to wrestle with forgiving them. It’s right, but more, it’s healthy for the child. It may make little or no difference to the parent, but it will free the child. Perhaps this is the most basic and important element in honoring parents.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation