I wrote earlier that parents are literally their children’s creators. This is a position of intrinsic honor. Therefore, scripture commands children to honor their parents even when they steward their roles imperfectly.


Honoring parents is so important to God that it is the first of the Ten Commandments He gave for how human beings relate to one another (Exodus 20:12). Further, He connected it to personal and national lifespan and blessing (Deuteronomy 5:16). It is not even a slight exaggeration to say that the survival of a nation depends on Christians’ willingness to honor their parents since Christians are a nation’s spiritual gatekeepers.


Correspondingly, Romans 1 lists disobedience to parents as one of the signs that signal the final breakdown of a civilization given “over to a depraved mind” and against which “the wrath of God is revealed.” Likewise, 2 Timothy 3:2 lists disobedience to parents as one of the primary sins of the last days that contributes to the times being so difficult. Finally, Malachi 4:6 says the breakdown of relationships between fathers and children brings a curse on the land.


Movies and television today encourage children to rebel against their parents. They instill the mindset that parents are stupid, their boundaries are oppressive, and their counsel is worthless. A large portion of the upcoming generation has been indoctrinated with this reasoning. Because parents represent God’s authority, this also teaches children rebellion toward God. It is no wonder the Bible lists phrases like “ungrateful”, “without understanding”, and “haters of God” alongside “disobedient to parents” (2 Timothy 3).


The command to honor parents is so important that New Testament writers directly quoted it six times (Matthew 15:4, 19:19, Mark 7:10, 10:19, Luke 18:20, Ephesians 5:2), more than any other commandment. One practical way to honor parents the Bible delineates is in the area of financial provision. Jesus harshly rebuked the Pharisees for promulgating a tradition of prioritizing offerings over helping one’s parents (Mathew 15:3-6). Likewise, Paul stated that anyone who does not provide for his own household (the context specifically highlights elderly widows) has denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8). Other ways to honor parents include asking their advice, including them in our lives, thanking them for what they did well in raising us (either verbally or through writing), and forgiving them in our own hearts for where they fell short.


It is not an exaggeration to say that an older person knows more than a younger person can possibly imagine. This is because in life there is no replacement for firsthand experience. A child cannot possibly understand everything an adult knows. A single person cannot understand everything a married person knows. A childless person cannot understand everything a parent knows. An entry-level professional cannot understand everything an accomplished retiree in the same field knows. Someone who has never experienced a severe illness, divorce, the death of a loved one, or the estrangement of a child cannot understand everything that is known by someone who has.


Therefore, a practical way to honor parents is to ask them what they’ve learned. They have been there before. They have learned by trial and error. They have made mistakes and they have had successes. They may have wisdom we never thought of. They may see pitfalls we never considered. We don’t have to agree with all their perspectives or share all their beliefs, but they still have valuable insight to impart simply by virtue of experience.


A Dream
Once I went through a painful disagreement with my parents. Afterward, I felt very critical of them for not understanding me or the situation we disagreed about. I struggled with anger and criticism every day for months.


Then one night I had a dream. In the dream, I became sick and was about to die a premature death. The Lord put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back of an ambulance to take me to heaven. I was filled with peace and joy. I couldn’t wait to arrive.


Knowing my thoughts, the Lord acknowledged my excitement, but then gave a word of warning about what I would experience when I stood before His Judgment Seat, saying, “However, you will be judged for the grief you caused your parents.” When He said this, I suddenly felt immense grief. I realized I was about to experience the pain I had caused them and deeply regret some of my choices. Then I woke up.


As I processed the dream with the Lord, I felt Him show me that even though they had been partly mistaken about the situation, they had also been right about some things. I also felt Him show me that our disagreement had been more painful for them than it was for me. This is because the love they felt for me was greater than I could imagine since I did not have children at that time. Even though they did not interpret the situation completely accurately, they were pure in their motives.


This experience helped me overcome my struggle with criticism. Also, dreaming about dying prematurely was a sobering reminder of the connection in the Bible between honoring parents and living a long life.

Biblical Examples of Needing the Father’s Blessing

There are many, many examples in scripture of men and women needing the blessing, covering, or provision of their parents (both biological and spiritual) in order to fulfill their calling. Here are a few:


·         In Genesis 26, Isaac needed to unstop the wells of his father Abraham before he could be established and fruitful in the land God had given him. The wells in this passage symbolized spiritual wells or living water. Unstopping them symbolized Isaac recovering the spiritual legacy Abraham had passed down to him.


·         In Genesis 27, even though Jacob lied about his identity, God still anointed Isaac to bestow a prophetic blessing on his son’s life, thus honoring his role as Jacob’s father. Jacob, in turn, blessed each of the sons of Joseph before he passed away (Hebrews 11:21).

·         Moses was possibly spared from premature burnout because he listened to his father-in-law Jethro’s counsel in Exodus 18.


·         Ruth fulfilled her destiny in God by honoring her mother-in-law Naomi and remaining by her side through a bleak and desperate season.

·         Solomon’s wisdom and the greatness of Israel under his rule were all built upon the foundation that David laid for him.


·         Elisha walked in a powerful anointing only because he received a double portion of his spiritual father Elijah’s mantle.


·         God equipped John the Baptist for his calling by entrusting him into the hands of righteous Zacharias and Elizabeth.


·         Jesus was prepared for His destiny through Mary and Joseph’s stewardship of Him. God also honored Mary’s role in Jesus’ life by essentially letting her determine the timing and setting of the beginning of His supernatural ministry (John 2).

A Warning from Noah’s Life

Genesis chapter 9 contains an example of how serious the issue of honoring our parents is.

Noah’s sons heard him preach righteousness and prophesy judgment for many decades and then they saw the prophecy fulfilled. They knew he was God’s chosen man to repopulate the earth. Their father was not perfect, but they knew God’s favor was with him and he deserved their honor.


Sometime after the flood subsided, Noah planted a vineyard, made some wine, became drunk, and fell asleep naked. Aware of what his father had done, Ham looked upon his father’s nakedness, and then told his two brothers, Shem and Japheth. By contrast, Shem and Japheth refused to look on their father’s nakedness, but walked into his tent backward and covered him with a garment. These were all symbolic actions. In his heart, Ham wanted to expose and accuse his father’s failure, while Shem and Japheth sought to honor Noah by covering over his sin.


When Noah awoke, he declared a prophetic blessing over Shem and Japheth and a curse upon Ham’s son Canaan, who went on to father one of the wickedest civilizations of the ancient world. Ham dishonoring his father echoed through his family line for generations to come. The same principle can affect our lives and family lines. How we respond to our parents’ mistakes can impact the extent to which both we and our descendants are either cursed or blessed.



Sometimes we must honor our parents even though we cannot follow their counsel. In the next chapter, we will learn what scripture has to say about situations like this.