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The Weight of Honor

I have established the importance of acknowledging truth within relationships and the past. However, it is factual that there are times when the truth of something is so hideously ugly and shameful that our initial tendency is to shrug away some of the dark details and accept or present a slightly "enhanced", more palatable version.

This inhibits healing.

Today I would like to discuss one reason why I think it is natural for us to do this, and why it is so difficult to overcome.

We all have different degrees of abuse, hurts, and painful memories; we each are on very personal journeys in life with various degrees of "progress", for lack of a better term. For those of us raised with a strong Biblical foundation, fresh on our minds at all times--further twisting the guilt and struggle--is the concept and command to:

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:“that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Eph. 6


How can we honor our parents while still acknowledging the truth of our pain and taking necessary steps to correct it?

April Lorier has written a very insightful article regarding honoring those who abuse:

How Do You Honor an Abusive Mother?
Today is Mother's Day and I've been thinking about the years of struggle I experienced as I tried to find ways of honoring my mother (who never wanted to be a mother). She was, after all, an abusive and self-centered mother, thanks, in part, to her own upbringing.

What honor is not

Many--parents, even--think that to honor is synonymous with to obey. This is simply not the case; and Paul makes the distinction between obedience and honor in the beginning of Ephesians 6. I find it very interesting that Michael Pearl has written upon this subject in his article Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families, part 2: [It is well known that I do not endorse everything written by the Pearls but find this excerpt pertinent to this discussion.]
Honour your father and mother.
Men and women ranging in age from 18 to 80 are asking, “What does it mean to honor my father and mother?” The Patriarchal movement has capitalized on the misperception that honor means obey. The Scriptures are clear, there is no age limit on honoring your parents. In Matthew 15, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for not honoring their parents. But nowhere in the entire Bible is honor synonymous with obedience, and nowhere does the Bible even suggest that an adult should obey his parents. It speaks quite to the contrary.
Jesus said very plainly, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:35–37).
The Bible viewed in its entirety—not cherry-picked—throws a lot of light on the subject of honor to parents.

Foundational Passages.
The word honor (honour) is found in the Bible 146 times.
Following are the two Old Testament accounts of foundational passage on honoring your father and mother, and the New Testament reference and affirmation of the commandment.

Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Ephesians 6:2–3 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

God promised the Jews that if they would honor their parents (no age limit), they would continue to live in the Promised Land, but if their society failed to honor parents, they would be cast out of the land.

What it means to honor.
Leviticus 19:32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
1 Samuel 15:30–31 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

Honor is Respect Due to a Person
Based On Any Consideration.

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

If honor implies obedience, or conformity to the will of the other, then a husband is to obey his wife.

Honor all men.
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
1 Corinthians 12:23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
1 Peter 2:17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

We know we are not to obey all men, but we are told to honor all men, so honor and obey are not synonymous. If honor were to equate with obedience, Samuel could not have honored Saul with his presence at the sacrifice.

Inappropriate honor.
Proverbs 26:1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
Proverbs 26:8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool. [It will come back and hit you in the head.]
Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. [An otherwise honorable person who commits folly stinks.]
“Honour to whom honour,” but no honor toward a fool, even if it is a parent. You honor your parents as the ones who gave you life and dedicated one fourth of their lives to nurturing you, but you shouldn’t lie and cheapen honor by being blind. A grown woman who honors a father who molested her and has never repented and sought restitution, that woman is binding a stone in a sling and flinging it with a certainty of it returning and hitting her in the head.

Jesus on honoring your father and mother.
Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Jesus gives us a clear example of what it means to honor your parents. He was speaking to grown men in positions of spiritual leadership who found a loophole in the Jewish law which permitted them to abdicate their responsibility to care for their aging parents. They took their savings and, as it were, put it in an account labeled: “Dedicated to God.” Having done that, they couldn’t access it to spend on their needy parents. No doubt after the parents were dead, the money would be transferred to a retirement account for themselves.

Not honoring is:
• Cursing parents (Matthew 15:4).
• Withholding financial support (Matthew 15:5).
• Not doing for them when they are in need (Mark 7:12).
There is no mention of descendants obeying their parents—never.

Honor is:
• Being kindly affectionate (Romans 12:10).
• Seeking the good of the other (Romans 12:10—“preferring one another”).
• Respecting the office or position of a person (Romans 13:7).
• Bestowing more honor than their level of gifts suggest (1 Corinthians 12:23).

Bottom Line.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, [Those being brought up—Ephesians 6:4] obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2 Honour [Obedience and honor are separate issues.] thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. [Children, the ones who are to obey their parents, are being brought up—not yet adults.]
5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters [Parents are not masters; they are mentors, and children are not servants.] according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Obedience and honor are separate issues.
We know this to be true because:
• The words are spelled differently.
• They are never used interchangeably.
• The context in which they are used demonstrates a clear distinction.
• A distinction is made the only time the two words appear in close proximity.
(Ephesians 6:1–5). Children who are being brought up are to obey their parents (6:1). All are to honor their fathers and mothers (6:2). And servants are to be obedient to their masters (6:5). Different words, different meanings, different applications. It is all in the Word of God, but kept carefully separated and distinct from each other.
1 Peter 2:13–14 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
The language used here when commanding us to submit to government is conspicuously absent in those passages addressing the honoring of one’s parents. --Michael Pearl, No Greater Joy

Understanding that honor is not blind obedience means . . .

  • we are not bound to obey every word of our parents,* nor follow every doctrine to which they prescribe.
  • because we are called to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, it is my humble belief that this gives us the responsibility to be proactive in seeking God's heart and will for each of us, individually. Often this will take us in a different direction than which we were raised. This is not to say that our parents did not have anything of value to offer or to instill within us; however it does grant freedom to seek God directly to determine His will for our lives. I have known many women who are frozen by guilt and shame, thinking they are disobedient and rebellious towards God merely by questioning their parents. How sad this is, for often it holds us back from truly being the women He wants us to be!
  • we should consider what a huge responsibility we are under, to seek God directly! We answer to God alone for our souls; we cannot rely upon our parents for this! We do not have an excuse for the theological errors of others. With this is mind, think about how honoring it truly is for you to be actively pursuing a relationship with God through Christ; seeking truth and wholeness through the finished work of Jesus! What a testimony to your parents this is!
This brings up my point: just because some--parents or others--may not believe you bring honor through your life, doesn't mean that you are not. I exhort you to examine your heart and seek wisdom from God for His direction and leading. Many people have a preconceived idea of what honor is and yet unfortunately, sometimes they are incorrect.

I submit to you that:
serving God brings honor to your parents . . .
loving and obeying God brings honor to your parents . . .
living a life in accordance to His leading, brings honor to your parents . . .
loving your husband and others, brings honor to your parents . . .
seeking truth and wholeness brings honor to your parents . . .
. . . even if they disagree. Even if they think you are in error. Even if they look at you as though you are the lost sheep, keep you from your family, and speak ill of you.

You answer to God. May your life be pleasing to Him.

This does not mean that we do not need counsel and accountability. This does not mean that we cannot hear or receive the words given to us by others. My contention is that we are not under obligation to follow and live our lives according to the doctrines of others, but to take what we are given before God and to discover from Him that which we should keep, and that which should fall away. I am saddened when so many are held captive by the traditions of men, while our Heavenly Father offers so much! I am grieved when I see others who are oppressed by guilt and shame thinking they are rebellious for seeking the voice of God; when His voice sounds differently than their fathers, leaving tender souls spinning in confusion, agony, depression, and darkness.

1 John 3:20-22 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

Regardless of the hurts and mistakes committed by the humans who brought you into the world, they have helped shape you into the person you are today. God can redeem and sanctify everything that you have experienced and your life can be a testimony to Him. I venture that at the heart, most patriarchal parents would say that their desire is for God to be glorified through their children. I believe that the difference comes through a disagreement over what exactly glorifies and honors God? Perhaps a difference in values, or Scriptural interpretation? Yet God is able to determine what brings Him glory; let Him be your guide.

In conclusion: is acknowledging truth a righteous thing to do, especially when truth leads to God's glory, and healing, even when truth hurts?

Are we called to live righteously before God?

For offspring to live righteously, is this not the utmost in honor for a parent; even when the parent does not agree with choices or decisions their child has made? God is the one who justifies. Let God determine what brings Him glory.

*It is assumed that my words are directed to, and read by, adult women.


  1. thats quite a read. i think you have spoken rightly in noting the difference between honor and obedience. honor has to do with every person being created in the image of god. so i honor them as image-bearers. i will not desecrate the image of my god.

    when it comes to how this looks between my parents and i it must be reflected not in obedience but in respectful interaction. i may disagree with my parents and make a different decision but i must do so with grace and humility before them.

    remembering ever that as we do to even the least of these - we do to jesus also applies to family..

  2. Thank you. This is key to unlocking some of our own mental "bondage" and freeing us to truly follow the Lord's leading in our lives.


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