“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’— which is the first commandment with a promise — ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”
While I am an adult now (that’s what they tell me, anyway) and have the responsibilities and difficulties of adulthood, it was not that long ago that I would have been considered a “child”. In fact, my memories of childhood are still fresh and vivid at this point in my life. I can remember the moments I obeyed my parents, and I can remember many moments where I chose not to. Of course, this usually did not go well for me. I was the child that, if I got away with something, usually turned myself in in tears. No disobedience went unpunished and no lesson went unlearned. For the most part, however, particularly in my later years of childhood, I was consistent in obeying and following my parents’ instructions, even if and when I didn’t fully agree.
I’ve heard plenty of kids question this teaching, arguing the same thing we might against “submitting to governing authorities”. That is, “What if my parents tell me to do something wrong?” Clearly that is in the eye of the beholder, in this case the child, but it’s not much of an argument. Peter says boldly in Acts 5, “We must obey God rather than men!” This would include our parents, but how often are our parents trying to command us into sin? Perhaps some people deal with this more than others, but the fact of the matter is that this teaching, “Obey your parents”, is straightforward and easier than we often make it to follow.
However, the next similar but different command seems to me to be a bit more complicated. “Honor your father and mother.” Honoring carries much more weight than just “to obey”. Honoring is to think highly of them, to care for them, to show respect for them, and to obey them. It might be easy to simply follow orders while grumbling and complaining and fighting the whole way. Yes, we are obeying. But are we honoring? Our parents deserve more than just our obedience. They deserve our honor. Not only because they’ve earned it, but because God has required it.