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What the Bible says about Parents
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:12

Why does God want us to honor our parents? The family is the basic building block or unit of society, thus the stability of the community depends on the stability of the families that comprise it. A person's response to government derives from the parent-child relationship. The lessons and principles learned from honoring, respecting, and obeying parents will result in a society stable enough to promote development of the whole person.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Exodus 20:12

Taken to an extreme, dishonoring of parents leads to anarchy, first in the family and then in society, as the decay of this basic component spreads. Eventually, a person will expend much, if not most, of his energies just surviving, effectively destroying the development of spiritual, creative, and intellectual qualities essential to his and society's well-being.

Not honoring parents also causes immaturity. Because children do not respect their parents' advice, they grow up missing the significance of much they encounter, and so wisdom comes to them very slowly. In some cases, they may never learn wisdom. Lack of honor manifests itself in self-willed and self-indulgent people who seem to simmer just beneath the point of rebellion. Their motto in life becomes, "Just do it." So they condemn themselves to learning the lessons of life through hard experience, which may be a good teacher, but a painful one.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Exodus 20:12

God wants us to honor our parents because the family is the basic building block of His Kingdom. God describes the Kingdom in family terms. He is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and the church is the Son's bride. We are called sons, daughters, and children of the Kingdom. We are created and being created as sons in His image. God also uses terms like "beget," "born," and "grow up."

Immediately after creating Adam and Eve and announcing He was creating them in His image (Genesis 1:26), God established the first institution: the family through marriage. The conclusion is inescapable. The family would play a major role in creating man in God's image. Regarding marriage, family, and divorce, Malachi 2:15 says:

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring! Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

The godly principles learned and the character built within the human family are, upon conversion, transferable into the spiritual family relationship in the Kingdom of God. Parents are His representatives, and we honor and revere the creative majesty and power of God when we keep this commandment. God expects whatever we learned from honoring our parents to transfer into our relationship with Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)

Exodus 20:12

In God's eyes—and in a small child's—a parent stands in the place of God Himself. In the physical sense, parents are the child's creator, provider, lawgiver, teacher, and protector—and sometimes even savior. A child's response to this relationship will greatly determine his later response to larger relationships in society. And it is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN to affect his relationship with God. Thus, since parents represent God, it becomes their obligation to live lives worthy of that honor. Ultimately, the responsibility for keeping this commandment falls on the child, but it begins with the parents through child training and example. If parents neither provide the correct example nor teach the correct way, they can hardly expect their children to honor them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Exodus 20:12

Life begins at home and wisdom should begin there too. The home is the primary and most vital factor in a child's development into a mature and stable member of society. Church and school play secondary roles, if only because of the amount of time spent at home and all the personal interaction that takes place there.

In keeping this commandment, the Bible divides responsibility between parents and child, even though the child eventually bears the greater responsibility. It is his responsibility to learn from his parents, not just because they are his human lifegivers, but because the parents have been what the child has not—both young and old.

Therefore, parents should have accrued wisdom from situations the child has not yet experienced. It is the parents' responsibility to create an environment in which they can pass wisdom on so that the child can learn the lessons of life more easily. And so society benefits from the resulting stability of that family unit.

If the child learns these lessons, the wisdom will be an enriching ornament, a sign of honor, and a guide to long life and prosperity. These are the fulfillment of the fifth commandment's promise. The process begun in the home then prepares the way into the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Exodus 21:15-17

The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (vol. 1, p. 133), commenting on Exodus 21:15-17, reads:

Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (ver. 15), man-stealing (ver. 16), and cursing parents (ver. 17, cf. Leviticus xx.9) were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By "smiting" of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, . . . but any kind of maltreatment. The murder of parents is not mentioned at all, as not likely to occur and hardly conceivable. The cursing of parents is placed on a par with smiting, because it proceeds from the same disposition; and both were to be punished with death, because the majesty of God was violated in the persons of the parents.

"The majesty of God was violated"! In this lies the importance of keeping this commandment. The relationship God intends within the family is an exact type of a Christian's spiritual relationship with God the Father and the church as mother.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Exodus 21:15-17

Maltreatment of a parent through striking or cursing is placed on a par with murder and kidnapping and is punished in the same way—death.

The word curse simply means "to belittle," "to make light of," "to be contemptuous of."

In the book of Matthew, as Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount, He says:

You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Raca means empty-headed; moron. It is a form of cursing, belittling, or speaking contemptuously of. The person who says this shall be in danger of the council.

But whosoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

Jesus is saying that He agrees with Exodus 21:15-17. For a child to speak contemptuously of or to consider his parents to be foolish puts him in danger of the death penalty. This is God's law, and here, Jesus Christ, our Savior, says that He agrees with it. He will be the God who judges. Cursing is placed on a par with murder, and there is a reason why: because it proceeds from this same attitude of heart. Thus, it is punishable by death.

The majesty and office of God is violated in the person of the parent because God regards the parent as His representative and as a type of Him. So, the fifth commandment is broken, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It is that simple. In terms of the penalty, it is just as wrong to curse parents as it is to curse God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens

Leviticus 21:15-17

How important to God's purpose are the parents in this mix? God records in Exodus 21:15, 17, "And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. . . . And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." To modern child psychologists, these are shocking statements. At the very least, they ought to give us pause to realize the seriousness of being constantly concerned about our child-training responsibilities!

These verses do not in any way imply a child is to be beaten into submission. They do mean that it is a tremendously serious responsibility to produce a godly child who glorifies God. Our responsibility is to follow God's patterns in child-training. He is patient and generous with His affections and mercies, yet He also gives correction in due season and in right measure.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 adds:

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city. "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.

Here, the laws given in Exodus 21 are expanded on as the Israelites are about to enter the Land of Promise. If a child were unmanageable and stubbornly disobedient, the judges had a responsibility to back up the parents. However, the right to kill was not given to the parents. This passage indicates a process of evaluation by people not directly, and thus less emotionally, involved. Interestingly, the addictions in the child are directly named. One is a drug addiction, a major problem in our time.

Does it offend us that God's standard is so stern? Do we pass it off as being of little consequence or significance? We should perhaps rethink this. Consider what poor child-training is causing in Britain and America! Does not God prophesy against "the drunkards of Ephraim" (Isaiah 28:1, 3)?

God adds in Deuteronomy 27:16, "Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt." Ephraim (Israel) is under divine punishment, cursed, because parenting and parents are considered to be so unimportant. Why is God so concerned? Notice this comment concerning Exodus 21:12-17 in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament:

Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (v. 15), man-stealing (v. 16), and cursing parents (v. 17, cf. Lev 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the "smiting" (hikaah) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case waameet would be added as in v. 12, but any kind of maltreatment. The murder of parents is not mentioned at all, as not likely to occur and hardly conceivable. The cursing (qaleel as in Gen 12:3) of parents is placed on a par with smiting, because it proceeds from the same disposition; and both were to be punished with death, because the majesty of God was violated in the persons of the parents (cf. Ex 20:12). (Vol. 1, p. 133.)

Therein lies a major reason for keeping this commandment. The relationship God intends within the family is an exact type of the Christian's spiritual relationship with God the Father and the church as mother. In the eyes of God and in the eyes of a small child, a parent stands in the place of God Himself. In the physical sense, the parents are the child's creator, provider, lawgiver, teacher, and protector. A child's response to this relationship will in large measure determine his later response to broader relationships in society and beyond that to God Himself.

By direct implication, then, if as parents we represent God, it becomes our obligation to live lives worthy of honor to Him. Ultimately, the responsibility for keeping this commandment falls on the child. However, by carrying out their responsibilities, the parents clearly lay the foundation for the child keeping the commandment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment

Deuteronomy 6:5

This is the precursor to rearing children the right way (verses 6-9): Parents have to love God this way first.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

We can dishonor our parents through stubbornness, mocking, scorning, angrily talking back to them, thievery, and violence. These will eventually be punished by death, shame, disgrace, darkness of understanding (ignorance), and destruction. Through greedy human reasoning, the Pharisees encouraged financial neglect of parents to increase the riches of the treasury, a hypocrisy Jesus condemned (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-13).

Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment

Proverbs 10:1

A son who is wise (that is, he honors his parents) gives his father and mother satisfaction by the way he lives. Solomon invites young people to consider how their actions affect their parents. Parents usually think it is their duty to make their children happy, but many proverbs urge children to bring happiness to their parents. Proverbs reveals the parent-child relationship as a two-way street; each affects the other.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Proverbs 22:6

In Muriel Beadle's book on the importance of early childhood development, A Child's Mind, she expresses her own version of this proverb: "Parents, train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will be unable to depart from it."

Beadle is a child psychologist. She has an awful lot of clinical experience in dealing with children and their parents. It is her considered opinion that, when people get older, they really never change.

Most adults understand how difficult it is to change, how difficult it is to overcome something. Beadle thinks nobody ever really changes. From her experience she is probably close to being a hundred percent accurate. There is a great parental responsibility to instill the right things in a child, because that child will carry them right through into his adulthood. Thus, God can confidently say that when you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he gets older he will live the way you trained him. If you trained your children right, they will continue, and their lives will be a success—a far greater success that it ever would have been if you had not given them the right instruction in the first place.

Beadle's comment underscores the importance of the immediate with regard to children's conduct. There are things that cannot wait, and training up a child in the way that he should go is one of them. Your time with you children is running out. It is slipping away, and God is still holding you responsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens

Proverbs 22:6

No parent trains his children perfectly because everyone is a product of the confused and derailed system the Bible calls "this evil world." Parents tend to repeat and pass on whatever this corrupt system imposes on them. Psychologists and sociologists verify that people who were abused as children often repeat that behavior when they become adults. A recent statistic, mentioned in the television program Scared Silent, says that abused children are six times as likely to abuse their own children when they become parents than non-abused children. The abused become abusers. The system gets a hold on them, and they pass the system on.

Muriel Beadle paraphrased this scripture in her book, A Child's Mind. "Today the proverb could be amended to read '. . . and when he is old, he will be unable to depart from it'" (p. xx). Her point is that an adult's hope of change is a slim one. It is extremely difficult for one to change what is ingrained in him when he is young. The cliché of a man being "set in his ways" is true.

Succinctly, the principle is that the right training produces the right results. Thus, athletic teams, ballet and stage productions, and armies train—drill, drill, drill, over and over—until all of the participants, if possible, can do their parts automatically. The skills become such an integral part of them that they perform well routinely.

Proper training will endure throughout life. This principle also applies to what God is doing in a Christian's life. People are material and mortal. But God puts His children through a training program to prepare them for eternal life. He trains them in a way that will endure for all eternity. In dealing with eternal consequences, we understand why God considers doctrine—teaching, instruction—so important.

A satirical interpretation of this verse reads, "Train a child according to his evil inclinations [let him do his own will], and he will continue in his evil way throughout his life." So either way, the principle is a true one. Training determines what a person will become. And doctrine will determine what His people will become.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

Proverbs 29:15

If a child is "left to himself," where is his training coming from? Obviously, in this case, mom and dad are not having a great impact on their child. The training must then be coming from society, most likely from the child's peers. Because "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15), a child left to himself brings shame—he is bound to get into trouble if his training is haphazard or undirected, or if he is not drilled or disciplined. The flipside of this verse says, "But the rod of correction will drive it far from him." The rod symbolizes that someone has taken an interest in the outcome of this child's life. He is giving direction, correction, instruction, to steer this child where he is to go. The training, the teaching, makes all the difference in the world.

An example from the life of David illustrates this proverb. "And [Adonijah's] father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, 'Why have you done so?' He was also a very good-looking man. His mother had borne him after Absalom" (I Kings 1:6). David was very old and was very shortly to die. His family and his close advisors probably knew that he intended to pass his crown to Solomon. But Adonijah tried to prevent that. He made a political move to grab the throne before Solomon had a secure grip on it. His ploy failed because Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, and David's faithful advisors appealed to the king, and he made it very clear whom he had chosen to succeed him.

David, though a man after God's own heart, did not take an active hand in teaching Adonijah. In this verse God states why Adonijah rebelled. In essence, David actually encouraged his son to rebel by not taking an interest in rearing him. David failed to train him in the way he should go, so that he would not depart from it. Instead, David trained him in a way that was bound to produce rebellion. This flaw of David's shows up in others of his children: Absalom, Amnon, and others. It does not matter whether one is a child of God having His Spirit or not. If a parent does not carry through with the right kind of training, then the results will surface in his children.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

Matthew 15:3-6

Behind these Scriptures is a practice whereby people excused themselves from providing for their parents on the grounds of giving offerings (not tithes) to the Temple. On the surface this may seem like an honorable practice, but Jesus condemned them as hypocrites! God wants mercy to people in need, not the "sacrifice" of an offering to God that we think might put us in better standing with Him. That "sacrifice" should have been spent relieving the parent's need!

Jesus quotes Exodus 21:17 as His authority. "Curses" implies afflicting, bringing evil upon, or causing harm or misfortune to. The person who curses a parent, even under the New Covenant, breaks the fifth commandment and is worthy of death. These are sobering words regarding a serious obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Ephesians 6:1-3

The command to honor parents applies to all of us all our lives. But here, as in Colossians 3:20, children should obey their parents in all things "in the Lord."

The apostle is not saying a child must break the Ten Commandments if a parent orders him to so. Children should obey "in the Lord," that is, obey commands that agree with the will of God. Most younger children cannot grasp whether a parental order conforms to God's will. But as they age, they need to understand that they, too, are under the authority of the living Christ.

Though parents have a huge part in starting children off on the right foot regarding this commandment, the greater responsibility for keeping it rests with the child. At some point, children need to realize that their submission to parents is an act of faith in Christ. Their required obedience is not based on any arbitrary power held by parents but on a higher law to which parents are also subject. Parents have a primary responsibility to teach their children to discipline, govern, or control themselves under God's law. Children must learn that they cannot always do what they want when they want, or have what they want when they want it.

Keeping this commandment brings great benefits, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:2, "which is the first commandment with promise." The promise of blessing for keeping it is written right into the commandment! God promises, "That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

This blessing has at least two parts. Obedience to parental admonitions, gained from years of experience living in this difficult and dangerous world, results in the building of knowledge, character, and habits of avoiding recklessness, lawlessness, violence, wrong companionships, and rebellion against authority. These often result in untimely and violent death at a young age. Virtually every year this comes to the fore when statistics show that accidents are our children's number one killer.

The second and ultimate meaning is that, in honoring our spiritual Father, God, we receive spiritual blessings far above long physical life. From the loving relationship between God and his child will arise eternal life, which God will give as a gift to a son who pleases Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Ephesians 6:4

Just because he says "fathers," he does not exclude mothers. Paul simply addresses the party with the overall responsibility.

Even though it is not directly stated, we must remember that God consistently teaches that the strong are responsible to care for the weak. In this context, the parents are strong, the children are weak. However, parents must not depend upon their size and strength to demand respect, but should strive to earn it through strength of character, wisdom, and clearly expressed love.

The Greek word translated "bring them up" at first meant merely providing bodily nourishment. Through time its usage extended to include education in its entirety since bringing up children obviously is more than just feeding a child food. "Training" is more correct than the weak "nurture" used in the KJV. The Greek word means "to train or discipline by repeated and narrow exercises in a matter." It implies action more than intellectual thought and corresponds to the word "train" in Proverbs 22:6, which means "to hedge" or "narrow in." Thus God expects parents to train their children to walk the straight and narrow way rather than allowing them to wander aimlessly about on the broad way.

Paul adds in Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged." To some degree, all children resist their parents and what they represent and teach. How parents overcome it is Paul's concern. These verses testify that many parents strive to elicit their children's obedience and respect in the wrong manner.

The wrong way provokes embittered, fretful, defensive, listless, resentful, moody, angry, or sullen children. Paul counsels not to challenge the child's resistance with an unreasonable exercise of authority. Correction is necessary, but a parent must administer it in the right spirit, counterbalanced by lavish affection and acceptance. A twig should be bent with caution.

Firmness does not need to be harsh nor cruel. Punishment should never be revenge nor dispensed just because the parent is irritated. Severity only hardens the child and makes him more desperate. If a parent does not use his authority justly, he cannot expect a child to be respectful. It does not happen automatically.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Ephesians 6:4

Parents are not to provoke their children "but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Our heavenly Father sets the example by publicly honoring His Son more than once (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Jesus preaches a heartwarming passage of the closeness He has with His Father (John 5:18-30) and the mutual respect and honor that is present in their relationship. Our heavenly Father honors His Son and expects us to honor Him also (John 5:23).

Those of us with children, especially, should take time to study this section carefully. Do we treat our children with dignity and respect due someone made in the image of God? How we treat our children can indicate how we might lead a city. Are we prepared to receive a city from God (Luke 19:15-24), or do we need to learn more about encouraging and even correcting in a way that maintains a person's dignity, self-respect, and honor?

Staff
A Matter of Honor

1 Timothy 5:3-4

What Paul says here often presents great difficulties under modern conditions, especially when young people must choose between caring for parents and furthering their ambitions or establishing a home. Paul teaches that not only children but also grandchildren have a definite obligation to live their religion by providing for their needy parents or grandparents. He bluntly states that they are to repay them for all their kindness and sacrifices. A child can never wholly repay this debt, but still he should consider it a sacred obligation to make it up as much as possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

1 Timothy 5:4

A person who has properly obeyed his parents in childhood later expresses his honor for them in a deeper appreciation of the comforts and training they provided him as a child. This honor expresses itself in courtesy, thoughtfulness, and kind deeds. Any parent, especially a widowed parent, should be repaid by his children for the care given them as they grew up. Even in His dying moments, while suffering an agonizing death, Jesus honored and loved His mother by making provision for John to care for her after His death (John 19:26-28). God our Father is well pleased with us when we obey this vital commandment (Colossians 3:20).

Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment


Find more Bible verses about Parents:
Parents {Nave's}
Parents {Torrey's}
 




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