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What Does the Bible Say About...Honoring Parents?

God says that your life will be long if you respect your mother and father. I don't. Am I going to die soon? And how do I change my ways? I want to but it is not working out. I have no reason to be disrespectful, it is a habit.


The passages you refer to are Exodus 20:12, which says, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee;" and Ephesians 6:1-3, which says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." Both are quoted from the King James Version.

Neither passage says that you have to respect your parents. Both say you have to show honor to them, even if you don't respect them. The difference can be shown by something I was taught in the Navy. The first time a sailor sees an officer during the day he is supposed to salute him. This shows honor. He may not respect the officer, but he is still required to show honor. It might be more pleasant to salute an officer he respects, but the salute has to be rendered anyway. So the requirement of the scriptures is to show honor to your parents whether you respect them or not. This means treating them the way you would like to be treated, whether or not they treat you that way. It means not talking back to them or disobeying them. It means not saying bad things about them to another person. Under the Law of Moses a person could be executed for striking his parent. It may not be an easy command to follow, but it may fall under the category of loving your enemies. You may not like them, but you are still supposed to think of their highest good, which is what is meant by love. It isn't based on emotion, but on action.

One way to start following the command is to pray for them. Who knows; that may result in their changing their actions and attitudes. Even if it doesn't, pray for God's help in changing yours. Also try to actively do good to them, and treat them with honor. It's amazing, but that alone has been know to change people.

You also ask whether your disrespect will lead you to die soon. The passages don't say that. In the command to the Jews in Exodus it says to show honor to parents in order that the nation would live long on the land God would give them. That is, if the nation as a whole were to stop honoring their parents that would show a lack of honor to God which would result in their being taken captive off the Holy Land. This indeed happened when Assyria and Babylon removed them from the land and took them to foreign captivity. The passage in Ephesians, quoted above from the King James Version, may not address long life at all. It may be more proper to move the closing parentheses to the end of verse 3. This would make it read, "Honour thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the land)." Read this way, it would mean that the promise was to the Jews, but that the rest of us are also required to honor our parents. Even if it is talking to individuals, long life would be a general principal, but short life would not necessarily result. This doesn't mean, though, that you can ignore the command without consequences. It just means the consequences may not be immediately apparent.