Philo, a first-century Jew living in Alexandria, Egypt, writes about the obligation of children in the home to honor their parents.
“Parents have not only been given the right of exercising authority over their children… for parents pay out a and invest in nurses, tutors, and teachers, in addition to the cost of their clothes, food, and care in sickness and health from their earliest years until they are full grown. Given all these considerations, children who honor their parents do nothing deserving of praise since even one of the items mentioned is in itself quite a sufficient call to show deep respect…Therefore, honor your father and mother next to God, he [Moses] says [Ex. 20:12].… For parents have little thought for their own personal interests and find their fulfillment and happiness in the high excellence of their children, and to gain this the children will be willing to listen to their instructions and to obey them in everything that is just and profitable; for the true father will give no instruction to his son that is foreign to virtue.” 1
Philo had it right. The Bible is clear, honor your parents.
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Consider obeying the word of God in the area of giving to your parents. Sow financially into their lives.
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Question: How have you supported your parents? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Emery committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ over 40 years ago and has served as both a full-time pastor and an itinerant minister. Both he and his wife Sharon of 35 years emphasize personal growth and development through the Word of God. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is both the focus and the hallmark of their mission. Read more about them here.
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The Ten Commandments and Honor
Exodus 20:12 (ESV) — 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
- You know the Ten Commandments.
- You were taught it in Sunday School or read it on a billboard.
- Maybe you saw the movie with Charlton Heston doing his Moses interpretation.
- One of the commandments quoted here in Exodus 20:12, is ‘Honor your Father and Mother.
- Are you keeping this commandment?
- The key word to understand in this commandment is the word ‘honor’.
- But, how do you do that actually?
- How do you show honor to your parents?
- Or, how do you honor anyone for that matter?
- What about God, how do you show honor to Him?
- Here are one minister’s thoughts on what it means to honor parents.
- He said to honor your parents you need to do the following.
- Respect their position
- Love and value their person
- Submit to their authority
- Accept their discipline and instruction 2
- So, this is all good and wonderful and worthy of consideration.
- But, there is one more thing which needs to be added to this list.
- One more thing that the Bible specifically mentions.
- And, that’s what we are going to look at today.
The Law 101
- Let’s start out with understanding the nature of the Law which was given to Moses by God.
Psalm 1:1–3 (KJV) 1 Blessed is the man That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; And in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The Benefits of Meditating in the Law
- So, you can see that meditating in the law, gives some spiritual benefits.
- They cause you to be planted, firmly rooted by the rivers of God.
- The life you are able to draw because of where you’re planted makes you prosperous and causes you to be fruitful.
- Meditating in the Law of God did this for the Psalmist.
- But, what is the Law in reality?
- The Law is a written description of how to walk in love toward God and man.
- Look at what Jesus said about this.
Matthew 22:34–40 (ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The Greatest Commandment
- Note the lawyers question.
- He asked which was the greatest commandment.
- Jesus answered by quoting the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:5.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
- What is the Shema?
- The word Shema is Hebrew for ‘hear’ which is the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4.
- “The Shema” became another designation for these two verses in Deuteronomy.
- When an Israelite referenced the Shema in prayer or in conversation, the hearer knows he was referred to these two scriptures.
- The Shema turned into a scripture-based prayer prayed by every Jewish boy at night before they went to bed.
- It was also quoted during every synagogue service.
- Every Jewish person knew the Shema.
- These verses were one of the cornerstone verses of Judaism.
- Rabbi’s taught that if you quoted the Shema morning and evening, you would fulfill the meditating requirement of Joshua 1:8.
Joshua 1:8 (ESV) 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
How this lawyer was trying to entrap Jesus.
- The deal with the lawyer was all a setup.
- When asking the question ‘Which is the great commandment in the law’, he already knew the answer because every Jewish person knew the Shema.
- So, what was the lawyer trying to do?
- He was endeavoring to discredit Jesus through controversy.
- Maybe Jesus wouldn’t agree with the importance of the Shema.
- If He did then maybe His Name could be discredited.
- But, Jesus turned the tables on this religious man.
- Jesus agreed that the Shema was the Great Commandment in the Law.
- In fact, Jesus quoted it back to the lawyer.
- And Jesus did something else that the religious establishment wasn’t expecting.
How Jesus Linked the Love of God
- He added an additional verse to the Shema.
- A verse the Jews know of but really didn’t live.
- The verse Jesus added was Leviticus 19:18 and he did it with these words, ‘And the second is like unto it…’
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV) 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
- Jesus put loving God together with loving man.
- The Jews did the opposite.
- They separated loving God and loving man.
- The Jews put loving God way above loving man.
- They put so much distance between the two until loving man wasn’t really all that important.
- What the Jews kept as separate – loving God and loving your neighbor – Jesus put together.
- While doing that, He added this important piece about the purpose of the Law.
- He said that the entire Mosaic Covenant depended on these two areas, loving God and loving man.
- The Greek word ‘depend’ means to ‘hang’.
- The law hung on the principle of loving God and loving man.
How the Law Breaks Down in the Light of Love
- Jesus broke the entire Old Testament law, all six-hundred and thirteen of them, down to two commandments.
- Love God
- Love man
- All of the law hung on these two points.
- So, if a man keeps these two commandments, they can discard the other six-hundred and thirteen.
- If you look at all the varied commandments in the Pentateuch, they are all either love God or love man commandments.
The New Testament Version of Love and the Law
- The New Testament version of this is found in Romans thirteen.
Romans 13:8 (ESV) 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
- When you understand the fact that the Ten Commandments were a written description of how to walk in love both towards God and man and not a way to establish righteousness, you are on your way to knowing God a bit better.
- The Hebrew for ‘Ten Commandments’ is aśereṯ haddeḇārîm.
- It literally means ‘the ten words’.
- Here are ten words from God written in stone by the very finger of God. 3
- This particular commandment, ‘Honor your father and mother’ is one of the Ten Commandments which were written with the finger of God.
The Ten Commandments in Order
- Here are the entire Ten Commandments in the exact order that God gave them in Exodus 20:1–19.
- “You shall have no other gods before me.
- “Thou shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
- “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
- “You shall not murder
- “Thou shall not commit adultery.
- “You shall not steal.
- “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Honor to Parents is the First ‘Loving Man’ Commandment
- So, this commandment is number five in the list.
- The first four are ‘love God’ commandments.
- So ‘Honoring your parents is the first of the ‘love man’ commandments.
- Which in my mind means, if you want to love anybody, you want to love them first.
- If you want to honor someone, honor your parents first.
- The word ‘honor’ needs defining.
- If we look at it from our twenty-first century viewpoint, it means to respect or esteem in most of our circles.
- That’s how we view the word.
- But, the Hebrew word gives us a bit more.
- In the Hebrew ‘honor’ is a three letter word ‘kbd’ and it means to be heavy.
1 Samuel 5:11 (ESV) — 11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there.
- The word ‘heavy’ here in verse eleven is the same Hebrew word for ‘honor’.
- Now, look at another use of the word in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 28:58 (ESV) — 58 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God,
- The word translated as ‘glorious’ connected to the Name of God is, again, the word for honor.
- So, you can see that this is a big Bible word full of depth and meaning.
- God used a big word for one of ‘ten words’ written in stone by the finger of God.
Another Bible Way to Honor Your Parents
- But how do you do it?
- How do you honor your parents?
- This verse in Proverbs gives us a clue.
Proverbs 3:9 (ESV) — 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
- The Lord is a person, just like you.
- You are made in His image and after His likeness.
- Per this verse in Proverbs, one way you honor the Lord is by giving Him your substance.
- How do you give to the Lord?
- He’s kind of far away.
- UPS doesn’t deliver to heaven.
- Neither does FedEx.
- How do we get money to God?
Proverbs 19:17 (ESV) — 17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
- We give to Him when we give to others.
- Giving your tithes and your offerings to the local church is giving to God.
Mark 7:6–13 (ESV) — 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
- Right here in this passage of scripture, we can see Jesus telling us exactly what honoring your parents means.
- Jesus connects the word ‘honor’ with doing things financially for your father and mother.
- So, giving honor to your parents means not only respecting them, and giving them accolades but it also means giving to them.
- It means supporting them financially in their old age.
- It implies doing for them.
- What the religious hypocritical Jewish leaders did is loophole the fifth commandment with the concept of Corban.
- Corban was a vow.
- In the context we are referring to, a vow is a solemn pledge unto the Lord to do something or to behave in a certain manner.
- Vows were an integral part of many ancient Near Eastern cultures. 4
- They appear in every period of Israelite history.
- The patriarchs in Genesis 28:20
Genesis 28:20 (ESV) — 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear,
The Exodus in Numbers 21:2
Numbers 21:2 (ESV) — 2 And Israel vowed a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.”
The Judges in 1 Samuel 1:11
1 Samuel 1:11 (ESV) — 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
Kings and Chronicles in Psalm 22:25
Psalm 22:25 (ESV) — 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
Jeremiah 44:25 (ESV) — 25 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have declared with your mouths, and have fulfilled it with your hands, saying, ‘We will surely perform our vows that we have made, to make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her.’ Then confirm your vows and perform your vows!
- Even the New Testament mentions vows like Paul’s temporary Nazarite vow in the book of Acts 18:18. 5
Acts 18:18 (ESV) — 18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
Acts 21:21–24 (ESV) — 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.
- A vow was a wow to an Israelite.
- It was a big thing to them.
Corban As A Vow
- Corban is a vow from an Israelite unto God.
- In Hebrew, the word was spelled with a k or ‘korban’.
- The Hebrew word came over into the Greek as is.
- It was never translated.
- It’s just like the word ‘Christ’.
- The Greek word meaning of ‘corban’ is something consecrated as a gift for God and closed to ordinary human use. 6
- In Jewish tradition, Corban is a word for declaring something dedicated to God.7
- It started out, like all vows, as a good spiritual God thing.
- But, because the religious leaders of Jesus day were corrupt and money hungry, remember the whole money changers deal in the Temple, they turned a sacred thing into a secular thing.
- So, what the religious leaders did in order to circumvent ‘honor your father and mother’ is they would declare their land Corban.
- That is they would take those items of wealth and vow it unto God.
- In addittion, they would retain possession of it.
- So that when it came time to honor their parents by helping them out financially, they told them they weren’t able to because what they had was dedicated to God.
- “Sorry, Mom. Sorry dad, would love to help you but all our assets are tied up in the Name of God. You know how it is.”
- The Pharisees would declare their bank accounts Corban.
- The ‘supposed spiritual leaders of Israel’ would declare their possessions Corban.
- Wherever they had their money, it was Corban.
- They said their things were set aside for God.
- And, since they were, they couldn’t use them to take care of their parents.
- It’s right to take care of parents.
- Now, listen to this same concept in the epistles.
1 Timothy 5:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
- Did you hear it?
- If a widow has children or grandchildren, what should the children do?
- They should show godliness.
- By making some return to their parents.
- The word ‘godliness’ is a verb and verbs are action words.
- Godliness is not something you talk about.
- It’s something you do.
- The word means to revere properly, to show fitting and proper respect or reverence to a deity or other deserving figure.
- Here the deserving figure is Mom and Dad.
- It’s right, it’s godly, to financially support your parents.
- It is keeping the law of love.
- In conclusion, it’s honoring God, when children financially support their parents.
- That’s what the Bible teaches us is honoring your mother and father.
- Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon., vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 397. ↩
- RayFowler.com ↩
- C. J. H. Wright, “Ten Commandments,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 786. ↩
- T. W. Cartledge, “Vow,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 998. ↩
- T. W. Cartledge, “Vow,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 998. ↩
- William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 559. ↩
- J. W. DeHoog, “Corban,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 772. ↩