The Fourth Commandment

The Fourth Commandment marks a transition from the first four (which have to do with our relationship with the LORD) to the following five (which have to do with our relationship with others). The commandment to honor our parents is therefore basic to all other social relationships and is the foundation for decent human society.

Our parents resemble the Creator, since they were God’s partners in creation of the child. They also represent God in the life of the small child, functioning as primary caregiver and teacher. A person should recognize that his parents are the cause of his life in the world and it is therefore proper to love and respect them.


The LORD intended that the family would picture His relationship with us. Just as He created both man and woman in His image (Gen. 1:27), so children are to regard their parents as divinely ordained and truly significant.


The word “honor” means to fix a value on something, to consider it a prized possession. Like the man of God, held in honor by the people - I Samuel 9:6


Ephesians 6:1 - Paul tells children to obey their parents and proves his point by quoting the command that says to honor your parents. Therefore honoring your parents means to obey them. Such obedience is pleasing to God - Colossians 3:20 It means listening to their teachings and applying them to our lives - Proverbs 1:8-9 Even when being disciplined, children are to pay attention - Proverbs 15:5 A child is to be grateful for what his parents have done for him - Proverbs 30:11 Honoring your parents means that you do not mock them or treat them scornfully, even with a look - Proverbs 30:17


Honor is shown in our body language - Leviticus 19:32 Slouching in a chair and saying, “Hi pops!” is not honor, though I know many parents who take what little acknowledgment they can get. It means having a bit of fear or reverence for them - Leviticus 19:3 A child must not curse his parents - Proverbs 20:20, Exodus 21:17


This doesn’t just mean not to use profanity at them. To make light of them, to treat them with contempt. A direct application of this law is that a child must not strike his parents - Exodus 21:15 It means they are not someone to overrun and think nothing of it - Proverbs 28:24 The idea of honor includes seeing to their needs - I Timothy 5:3,8,16


Your parent is the person who has raised you or is raising you.


The fourth commandment affects everybody. Every person has parents. This holy law commands parents to be honorable. And it says that children must obey (in the Lord) their parents, and honor them even if they are not honorable. Even if your parents are despicable, they can be a object lesson to you as how NOT to act, causing you to act much better. There is an old saying, "Like father, like son." It is often true that children who are abused often turn around and abuse their own children. Only with the Holy Spirit can we break this vicious circle and change to the right ways.


“This commandment is not qualified. It does NOT mean: Honor only if the person is personally perceived as deserving, Honor only if the person always reciprocates, Honor only if it is pleasing to you to do so, Honor only if you get compliments for doing so, Honor only if it “feels right”, Honor only if other people also do so.”


Consider I Samuel 24:10-11. This takes place when Saul is trying to kill David by hunting him down with an army. Saul is David’s father-in-law, but notice how he addresses Saul. Even when the man is trying to kill him, David treats him with respect.


A parent’s authority is granted by God. If a parent violates the laws of God, a child must follow the higher authority. Respect for a parent must not exceed our respect for God - Matthew 10:34-37


Interestingly, while there are several passages which command parents to love their children, such as Titus 2:4, there is no equivalent command requiring a child to love his parents. Perhaps it is because such love is naturally given. Perhaps it is because the required discipline makes love difficult at the time of correction.


While honoring your parents is not dependent on your parent’s behavior, there is implied in this command obligations on each parent’s part.


If a child honors his parents by listening to their instructions, then a parent must give instruction and that instruction must be in accordance with God’s will. Ephesians 6:4 - Instructing them in the Lord. Deuteronomy 11:19-21 - A constant reminder of what is right.


If a child is to respect his parents, that respect must be expected of him. Foolishness is in the heart of a child - Proverbs 22:15 If you truly love your child, you will discipline him - Proverbs 13:24. A child doesn’t necessarily have respect unless a habit of respect is instilled in him.


When a child is taught to respect his parents, it is the beginning of a greater perspective on the world. Young children are notorious for their self-centered view of the world. By respecting his parents, a child begins to see there are others worthy of consideration. It is the beginning of eventually loving your neighbor as yourself.


As with each of the Ten Commandments, there is more to God’s law than what appears on the surface. It is not just a command to children, but also to their parents. As with all commands of God, the following benefits each of us. This command comes with a promise of a longer life. But following the commands of God also leads you to the living waters of eternal life.