I was intrigued by a story I recently read which spoke to what it meant to honor your parents. We all have heard the verses, but it was surprising to me how different the narrator took those words to mean than I did.

I asked around to a few other people and got as many more additional interpretations of what these verses meant. I think the only similarity I could muster out of what I heard was that people know how they would like to be treated when they are old, so they assume the answer for the how they should treat their parents must be the same. It is good to follow the golden rule for sure, but is it enough just to treat others as you would like to be treated? Is that always the honoring thing to do?

I checked in on what a couple of the “experts” said on the subject, but their opinions didn’t leave me with a clear picture either, so I decided to take a fresh look at the topic myself. Maybe the best place to start is with a simple definition.

The word “honor” in Greek appears to directly translate into three common English words: revere, prize and value. Let’s take a look at each one separately.

To revere someone is not a very modern concept. It makes me think of the days when kings were absolute rulers and you revered them because if you didn’t you were unlikely to survive. Maybe it is modern thinking that is off now, instead of the other way around, but I don’t see much “revering” going on today. In the Old Testament are many stories of how the blessing of a father set the course of a child’s lifetime. Is this still the case, and we are just not connecting the dots anymore; or has somehow things changed in how much power a father has over his offspring? Could it still be in the spiritual world, that these relationships are like the absolute rulers of old, which used to be revered for their power? I am reminded of the power that Noah had over Ham and his descendants, now that was absolute power.

To prize talks to the value we place on a relationship. I can’t think of very many modern day children who would use this word to describe how they feel about their parents. Most parents are content if their kids show them some level of tolerance. The normal thinking is that parents are out of date and there is nothing that can be gained from them. Does this then effect families without them realizing it?

Value is a more modern concept that most of us can easily relate to, but it does not mean that it is how we see our parents. To me value speaks to something we do out of self-interest, it is done because there is a benefit to us. This might be the one that most of us would still use to describe our relationship to our parents. If it isn’t, what benefits are lost when we don’t value our parents?

Well for one, we know from Exodus 20, that longevity is one of them. This one alone should be big enough to motivate us, but are there others? What about wisdom? Who is more in tune with our background, our temperament, and our family history than our parents?

For those who grew up in the church we have heard many times that we should honor our parents, but have you ever stopped and thought about what that should look like? If not, I encourage you to spend some time to think about the relationship you have with your parents, and whether you need to make some adjustments.

It may be in your own best interests to do so.