We had a caller on the New Life radio and TV Program several weeks ago who asked, “How do I honor my parents?” Sounded like an easy question, but then the caller went on to say that her mother was a practicing alcoholic, and that she had been married three times–each one a disaster.
Then she said that her father had been in and out of jail most of his adult like, and was homeless at this point. He wanted to be homeless–it was a lifestyle he had chosen. So now, the caller asked again, “How do I honor parents like that?”
I jumped in and said the problem is compounded by the word “honor.” What does it mean? Go back to Exodus 20:12, where it says, “Honor your father and mother. Then you live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Here the word that is translated “honor” means in the Hebrew is “to give weight to what is weighty.” Sounds circular, doesn’t it. But it is really clear.
I told the caller this, and then I said, “You can translate the “give weight to what is weighty” into “give honor to what is honorable.” God never expects us to honor what is not honorable. It would be absurd to honor your mother for being a practicing alcoholic, and for part in her three disastrous marriages. It would also be absurd to honor your father for being so irresponsible. God never intended that with the fourth commandment.
“What God meant,” I continued, “was that there is always something in our parents that we can honor, and that alone is what we honor.” The caller understood, and said there really wasn’t much to honor in her parents. She basically raised herself and her younger siblings.
But I suggested that maybe all she could honor was that her parents gave her life. Her mother didn’t abort her and her father didn’t disown her and deny she was his. She could honor them for that.
Regardless of what our parents were like, there is always something we can honor that we see in them. And when we do that, the promise of that fourth commandment is in effect–we will live a long, full life.
What do you honor in your parents?