“As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to those of his household.” (Martin Luther)
By way of introduction, isn’t it a remarkable privilege that you were born into a Christian family? From the moment of conception you were swaddled in warm love; for nine months your mother protected you from carcinogens and pathogens; she nourished you with her own blood. God used your mother and father to splice together your unique genome sequence, making you an individual never before seen on Earth.
The Fourth Commandment
You shall honor your father and your mother that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God that we do not despise nor anger our parents or superiors; but we should honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.
Mom and Dad appreciated that you were a special gift from God to them; they welcomed you into the human family—and when you entered God’s family through Baptism-adoption, He turned you over to Mom and Dad’s tender, loving care.
How were you brought to appreciate God—if not through your parents? How were you brought to understand that your childish anger or envy or other sinful passion was due to your natural, human sinfulness? Who then helped you in your need for Jesus by laying Him into your repentant heart? Who watched over your spiritual ups-and-downs, steering you around the pitfalls of childish ignorance and hovering over you during your turbulent teenage years? Who deserves your thanks for both gentle and tough love?
You get the point.
Your Christian parents have earned whatever thanks you can find in your heart to give them. That’s why the commandment,“You should honor your father and your mother” is not a cliché but half of a contract. Since your parents have kept their part of the contract, have you kept your part by honoring them? God is giving you a wonderful privilege; don’t let your opportunity languish.
Note: In the Fourth Commandment God shifts from the vertical dimension of our relationship with Him to the horizontal dimension of our relationships with humans.
Did you also note that in this commandment the tone shifts from threat to promise? In contrast to the appalling threat that “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7), in this commandment our heavenly Father offers an appealing incentive.
For the first time in the roster of the Ten Commandments God offers a generous incentive for our compliant obedience. Following directly upon our marching orders comes this stimulus: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-4). As much as to say: “When you honor and obey your parents, I will see to it that you get loaded with high-quality personal and national blessings for your earthly pilgrimage.”
God is so generous! Besides asserting that compliance is right in a qualitative way, God adds His promise to reward compliance in a quantitative way.
What does this mean? It means that God intends to load His dear children with layers upon layers of physical, emotional, moral, and social benefits during our lifetime on Earth—largely dependent on the way we treat our parents. God uses the Christian home to nurture the next generation to Christian maturity.
Conversely, our country is in a mess because of the demise of the Christian home. When parents defect from God, their sinful lifestyle is absorbed as normal by their children, and then each succeeding generation becomes more habituated to living in unrepented sins. Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t get that way by happenstance—but rather by children learning a lifestyle from their parents.
“What goes around comes around” reflects the sobering reality that God is “a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5). Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind, indeed (cf. Hosea 8:7)! And that’s really scary.
What’s to be done for our nation? Since God is not finished with humanity yet, we are banking on His promise to show “mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:10). The way we figure it, His remedy will start in Christian homes as godly parents raise godly children.
And that, in turn, depends on godly attitudes between spouses. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:18-19).
This godly commitment of spouses to one another will be carried over into the way they treat their God-given children: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21); “but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
It comes full circle; when spouses love and serve each other and love their children, then the children are brought to love and honor their parents as God’s representatives, and then God rewards with blessings during their tour of duty.
Dear Father in heaven, we pray that Your will be done with us (and through us) in the Christian family that You have given us; through Jesus, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.