March 08, 2024

Honor Your Father and Mother

Sinclair Ferguson
Honor Your Father and Mother

There’s a reason why our relationship with our parents is highlighted in the Ten Commandments right after our relationship with God. Today, Sinclair Ferguson discusses our loving obligation to honor our father and mother.


We began this week of podcasts by asking the question, If your pastor announces he’s going to preach a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, do you think, “Oh, great,” or “Oh, groan”? If it’s the latter, “Oh, groan,” then I suppose that means that we are tending to think about the law the same way many of us think about police officers. They tend to make us feel on edge and fearful that we have done or might do something wrong. And yes, of course, the Ten Commandments do function that way. They show us our sin for what it is, and that can be a very unpleasant experience—but a necessary one. But the police officer doesn’t exist simply to make people feel guilty. He or she is there for the protection of the public, isn’t that true? And in the same way, the Ten Commandments function like a well-trained divine police force to protect us from moral harm and from making shipwreck of our lives.

And one of the things in the fifth commandment—“Honor your father and mother”—is a kind of genius of where it is placed in the commandments. The first four commandments are essentially about our relationship with God, the next six are about our relationships with one another, and the first of them is about our relationship with our parents. We are to honor them. And I want to comment on a couple of things here.

First of all, I think we should notice God doesn’t say, “Obey your parents.” He says, “Honor your father and mother.” Now, there’s a reason for that. We are always to honor our parents because they gave us our life and they nurtured us. When we’re young and at home, that honor takes the form of obedience. When we’re older and perhaps married with our own children, we’ve begun a new family group. We’re no longer under the authority of our parents the way we once were. We have left that family structure and started a new one. That’s why the Bible never says to adults, “Obey your parents.” But we’re still to honor them.

Sometimes, I think, both parents and children can give themselves problems by not understanding that. The Christian parent who doesn’t understand it may turn out to be a real problem to his or her children. And the husband or wife who doesn’t understand it may become a real problem to their spouse. So this is an important distinction. Always honor your parents no matter what age you are. And when you are young, that means obey them as a way of pleasing the Lord and blessing them.

But before signing off today, I want to mention something else that I’ve always thought rather wonderful. After the four commandments dealing with our relationship to God—our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord—there are these six commandments about dealing with each other. And if you’re only seven, that’s quite a lot to take in: no murder, no adultery, no stealing, no lying, no coveting. But you see, the way the fifth commandment works for a youngster is this: especially if my mom and dad love the Lord, and if I honor them, then these other commandments will naturally fit into place almost without me thinking about them. It’s as though commandment number five is like a very tall, kindly disposed police officer whose special job is to guard our children from sin and spiritual danger. But then there’s this: If you are a mom or a dad, then you will make sure you’re worthy of being honored, won’t you?