Lord’s Day Thirty-Nine

Question 104

The commandment refers specifically to honoring father and mother but extends far beyond the confines of the home and its relationships. Of the three God-ordained institutions (family, church, and state) family was created first, it is the first relationship into which individuals enter. The family relationship provides the setting for training up proper behavior in the other two areas of life.

The concept of honor according to TWOT means: “giving honor or glory is to say that someone is deserving of respect, attention and obedience”. The idea is that the one honored has value or a position of authority over another; that politically incorrect notion of superior and subordinate and the proper relationship between the two. When God requires children to honor their parents, he at the same time requires that parents discharge their duty in such a way as to be worthy of that honor; the same is true of those exercising authority in every other sphere of life.

The promise attached is also a principle – if the family is the basic building block of society, then the society is healthy as long as the family is healthy. The society would have the strength and fitness to thrive “in the land”; the blessing is not merely long life for the individual but for the society/culture as well. Once the family structure and performance of its training and discipline duties began to break down, the society as a whole became vulnerable to outside forces that would subjugate it.

Expected characteristics of superiors

  1. Parents should:

    1. meet their children’s physical needs – Matthew 7:9-11

    2. provide for the safety of their children – 1 Timothy 5:8

    3. see their children are properly educated – Deuteronomy 6:6-9

    4. govern their children so they learn submission to authority – Proverbs 19:18

  2. The civil authority should:

    1. encourage conformity to God’s law – Romans 13:1-7

      1. encourage and defend those who obey

      2. punish those who disobey

    2. enact laws consistent with God’s law for maintaining civil order

Expected characteristics of subordinates

  1. They should:

    1. show love, honor and reverence

      1. recognizing God has placed superiors in their position of authority

    2. obey those in authority

      1. as they would the Lord

    3. show gratitude for what they provide

      1. promote the interests of the superiors whenever possible

    4. practice forebearance

      1. bearing with faults and infirmities

Expected characteristics of both

  1. act justly – Romans 13:7

  2. be diligent in labor – Ecclesiastes 9:10

  3. show gratitude for benefits received – Proverbs 17:13


Matthew Henry (Vol. V, 211) reminds:

The sin of cursing parents is here opposed to the duty of honoring them. Those who speak ill of their parents, or wish ill to them, who mock at them, or give them taunting and opprobrious language, break this law. If to call a brother Raca be so penal, what is it to call a father so? By our Saviour’s application of this law, it appears, that denying service or relief to parents is included in cursing them. Though the language be respectful enough, and nothing abusive in it, yet what will that avail, if the deeds be not agreeable? It is like him that said, Z go, Sir, and went not. ch. Xxi. 30.

God had placed reverence for parents on the same level with Israel’s national and personal holiness and in context with the sanctity of the sabbath and with the proper worship of God. (See Lev. 19:3f.) It is because the majesty of God, violated in this disrespect for the persons of the parents that the sin of cursing them is made punishable with death. All of God’s representatives are to be served with honor and fear, because in this commandment lies the foundation for order in the whole social realm. Here God teaches us to acknowledge rightful authority by showing proper reverence in thought, word and deed. Out of this understanding of the true positions of father and child grows our appreciation of, and demand for, good government and, consequently, our grasp of the Kingdom of God. This relationship is so fundamental, because it gives moral character and stability to a nation, and prosperity and well-being to its people. Thus, the failure adequately to value this parent-child relationship, especially through the grown son’s refusal to support his aging parents, is direct evidence of a fundamental moral decline in appreciation for the majesty and authority of God. Not only is the image of God in the parents no longer kept sacred, but the Word and authority of God are also ignored. This is why refusal to support one’s parents in their helplessness and senility is a sin worthy of capital punishment under the Mosaic system.

College Press, Gospel of Matthew, Vol. III, pp. 339-340


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