In this series on the Ten Commandments, we have previously studied the first four commandments (Exodus 20:3–11), and we are ready to begin the second table of the Ten Commandment Law. The first table deals with the vertical relationship between God and us. The second table of the law deals with the horizontal relationship between our fellowmen and us. As mentioned in a previous article, the first table of the law came into practical application when God created Adam. The second table of the law came into practical application when God created Eve. The second table of the law is a very important aspect as we deal with our horizontal relationships.
The first table tells us how we are to worship God; the six commandments of the second table teach us how we are to treat one another. So often, religious people concentrate on the first table. Many theological discussions take place about how we are to worship God, but there are not many that make the application as to how we are to treat one another. It is part of God’s plan to regulate human relationships so we will be able to appreciate and love one another, as we love God and ourselves.
The first commandment of the second table reads: “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.” Deuteronomy 5:16.
Reading this commandment in Exodus 20, we see that it is a little bit different, just as the Sabbath commandment is a little bit different between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12. Do you see the difference? The difference is that Deuteronomy 5 says that if you honor your father and your mother, not only are your days going to be prolonged, but also it will go well with you.
In my ministry as a pastor, I have observed that a lot of fracturing is taking place in families today. Once stable and strong relationships are no longer as strong as they once were. There is a little saying, “The family is falling apart at the seams,” and, certainly, this is true.
What is the reason for this dissolution? The reason is that we are in violation of the fifth commandment. As we go through this study, we hopefully will be able to better understand what is involved with this commandment that says, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”
Respect for parental authority and obedience to parental law is the foundation of all order and organization. The fifth commandment deals with this. Another old saying that holds an abundance of truth is this: “As goes the home, so goes society, the nation, and the world.”
The family is the most important and fundamental unit in society and in government. In a speech given over two years ago, President George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States of America, emphasized the importance of the family and the home, and the significance that it consist of one man and one woman, a husband and a wife. He is determined to see that this is established and set, even going so far as endorsing a Constitutional Convention to pass an Amendment to the Constitution to establish it. This belief is in harmony with Scripture.
Families today are falling apart. I do not believe that there has been a time in earth’s history when there have been such large Social Service Departments to take care of homes that are falling apart at the seams.
Obedience to Lawful Authority
The first commandment of the second table, or the fifth commandment of the ten, is in a special position in the order of the total ten. Surely this placement is no accident, but divinely placed. Family relationships constitute the beginning of all human relationships that are set forth in the second division of God’s Law. In its broadest application, it deals with obedience to all lawful authority, in that formative part of life when characters are molded and destinies are determined.
Considering the nature of parenthood, parents, in many ways, stand in the place of God to their children until they reach the age of accountability. Then the children can transfer their accountability to God because He is ultimately the One to whom they are responsible in the final end of all things. Yet, there is still the force of the commandment that says to “Honor your father and your mother all the days of your life, so it will go well with you.”
In the earlier years of a child’s life, the parent is to that child what God is to the parent—the Lawgiver, the Overseer, and the Provider. The fact that the attitude of the child toward the parent determines his attitude toward God in later years gives the fifth commandment a double significance.
A Broader Application
When the home life is Christ-centered, the children are almost certain to fulfill both tables of the law and to respect both divine and human authority. This commandment has not just a literal application to mom and dad, but it has a spiritual application that forms the attitudes and the characters of how people relate to life from childhood to adulthood.
If children are brought up in a home where proper parental authority is exercised and where good and righteous commandments from the parents are handed down to the children, they will incorporate those into their lifestyles. They are going to relate to all other issues of authority in their lives in the right way.
This is why the commandment says, “Honor thy father and thy mother, so that it will go well with you.” Not only will it “go well with you,” but also your days will be prolonged. This is a promise from God! This is the first commandment with a promise.
Another evidence of the importance of this commandment is the fact that parenthood is a co-partnership with God in the work of creation. Reproduction is a form of creation. What greater honor could God bestow upon human beings than to share with them the power to perpetuate His creative works? If you stop and think about this, you realize that parenthood is an awesome responsibility. This is something that is not being taught to young people today.
Holy Function of Parenthood
One of the reasons, I personally believe, that God called the Seventh-day Adventist Church into existence was to bestow upon its members insights and situations where they could teach their children how to become better parents. It had to start at some point in time.
If you actually look at what was transpiring in the days when God called the Seventh-day Adventist Church into existence, you will see that parenthood and the kinds of relationships between fathers and their children that would give a right example to the children was almost nonexistent. So the children grew up with a very warped understanding of what it meant to be a parent.
So God gave counsels for us so the next generation, having exercised those counsels, could put them into practice and be better equipped to be parents. If the fifth commandment was understood, as God wanted it to be understood, not only would it affect children, but it would affect parents as well.
The realization of the holy function of parenthood will place marriage on a moral elevation that is seldom recognized in this world of sin. It will give sacredness to family relationships that will ennoble and dignify the marriage institution.
While the law is divided into two tables of Ten Commandments, it is really still one law, the Law of God. Even though the second table deals with human relationships, its commands are nevertheless the commands of God, and we need to understand that the commands of God do not deal with just the first four commandments. They deal with the last six commandments also.
When we are called to give an account in the judgment, according to Matthew 25, one of the questions that will be asked is, “How have you related to those around you?” This commandment establishes that on a firm foundation.
Whole Duty of Man
Since this command is the command of God, it carries the same penalty for violation. Violation or transgression of the Law of God, the Bible says, is sin, and the wages of sin is death. (1 John 3:4; Romans 6:23.) Anytime we sin against man, we also sin against God who created man. Our ultimate responsibility, then, is to be obedient to God as defined in these ten principles.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.” If we could really understand the first commandment and the fifth commandment, our lives would be revolutionized. We would have greater insight. We would have greater courage. We would have greater determination in our service to God and in our service to our fellowman. This is the whole duty of man.
A Matter of Being Perfect
Because the true relationship between parents and their children is based on the relationship between God and the human family, children should honor their parents, who symbolize God to them during the earlier years of their lives. While no parents in this world of sin are entirely perfect, they are usually more perfect than their children, if for no other reason than maturity. If parents are not a notch above their children in terms of maturity and righteousness, they have disqualified themselves as parents. They should always be better than their children because they have to set an example to their children.
Under most circumstances, parents are usually more perfect than their children, and that is a reason they deserve respect and courtesy from their children. Children owe their very existence to their parents. I have heard children say, “Well, I did not ask to be born.” No, they did not, but if they can ever get beyond this stage of development, they will appreciate life for what it is. They will find meaning and purpose in service, not only to God, but also to their fellowman.
My father once told me, “If you can just get a child past 17 years of age and keep him or her stabilized, he or she will usually come out on the other end pretty well.” There is a lot of wisdom in that.
One of the best ways to keep a child stabilized is to be an honorable parent. It is quite a responsibility, but a number of people do not even understand what it means to be a parent, let alone an honorable parent. In spite of this, children still owe their very existence to their parents; they are made in their image, inherit their characteristics, and depend upon them for things that sustain life.
Included with Honor
How could there be a more binding obligation of honor than that which children owe to their parents? Honor involves much more than just being obedient and doing the parent’s will. It includes affection as well.
Do you realize that there are many residents in nursing homes who never have a visitor? Oh, how I wish that was not the case. I wish that every child who has a parent in a nursing home would go to visit him or her on a regular basis.
Honor includes affection. Honor includes respect. Honor includes human reverence. Honor means to hold in high esteem because of recognition of superiority. Can you see how God placed these concepts in this commandment?
Magnify the Law
Jesus came, the Bible says, to magnify the law and to make it honorable. (Isaiah 42:21.) In the days of Jesus, there was no honor, no recognition, and no reverence of parents when they became old. They were just put away. There was given no high esteem or recognition of superiority.
Parenthood has been established by God and is, therefore, divinely ordained. He has placed this command concerning parents in the Ten Commandments because it is something that God foresaw as a need for the human family.
As God’s representatives, parents are given divine authority to rule the family government.
Many people have problems with the Federal Government or their State Government. They do not want this or any other authority over them. Do you know why? Because they never had the proper government at home as a child. They were never taught the proper relationship to authority at home.
The lack of regard for authority, whether parental, civil, or divine, is the greatest evil of this modern world. One reason for this is the fact that ministers have preached for so long that the law was nailed to the cross. The prevalent message has been, we do not have to keep the commandments anymore; they were nailed to the cross. Now, after decades and decades of time, people believe this message, and we are reaping the results of this erroneous preaching.
There was a time when the Ten Commandments were strongly upheld and believed by the Protestant world. Every missionary sent out to other lands had the desire to not only present God but also to present the plan of salvation and God’s requirements of His people. They taught that the Ten Commandments were binding upon every soul in the world because that would be the standard of the judgment.
Then Seventh-day Adventists began to preach that the law is still binding, and specifically so as it is centered in the fourth commandment that says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” When the Protestant preachers, who had been upholding the law all these years, heard this preaching and felt the guilt and condemnation that came from their breaking the Sabbath day, they began to search for an answer, some solution that would soothe their own conscience and allow them to continue on as they always had. The only solution, the only answer, they had was that the law has been done away with, nailed to the cross. Truth was replaced with error. And as this philosophy began to be accepted, we can see that the next generation began to slip, and the words of the apostle Paul rang out loud and clear: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, . . . .” 11 Timothy 3:1, 2. In what time are we living? We are living in the last days.
We must guard ourselves very carefully that we do not find ourselves beholding and becoming like the maxims of the world, following the world’s traditions where we are taught that God’s Law no longer makes a difference; we should just do the nice thing. Situational ethics reign. We must guard ourselves against that, so we do not fulfill the prophecy we just read, given by the apostle Paul.
Respect for All
While the fifth commandment applies primarily to the honoring of parents by their children, in a broader sense it includes respect for all that are in positions of leadership and authority. Children should be taught to respect their schoolteachers. This is something that is on the skids today. The teachers know it, and the children know it. When children at large get into trouble at school today, they tell their teachers that they do not have to mind them because this is what their mothers tell them.
What example is shown to such a child? What is the home setting of such a child? This is the child that will ultimately find himself or herself incarcerated behind bars. Any sociological investigation will reveal that most individuals are in prison today because they have had faulty parental guidance in their formative and early years. They have not learned to honor authority and respect the laws.
Children should be trained to respect their teachers because, in fact, the teachers stand in the place of the parents while they have the children under their tutelage. Teachers also have superior knowledge and experience in thought, speech, attitude, and conduct. Honor is to be shown to whom honor is due, which includes all who are superior in position, in experience, and senior in age.
The Bible speaks of the hoary head, the white hairs. “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I [am] the Lord.” “The hoary head [is] a crown of glory, [if] it be found in the way of righteousness.” Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31. There is something that comes with white hair—more than wrinkles. There is wisdom that comes just by virtue of length of life.
Children need to understand this, but in many instances we do not see this concept being practiced in the world. We do not see it being taught in the school. We do not see it being worked out in business, in government, or in the church. Instead, there seems to be an “anything goes” policy. No honor is given to anything or anyone.
Much of the music that young people are allowed to listen to today is music that incites rebellion against not only parental authority but also any authority. That is totally contrary to the experience that God desires to bring into the lives of people.
Music with words that incite rebellion is usually accompanied by a rhythm that thrills the flesh. Many of the young claim that they do not listen to the words; in fact, they cannot even hear the words, but they do like the music. Do not think for a moment that the devil is not at work. He is attacking the fifth commandment because he knows that if God can get His point across, if He can successfully bring a reformation in the homes and in the families through the power of His Holy Spirit, the devil’s power is broken. The devil knows this, so he is working overtime and double time against the two commandments that bridge the law between the divine and the human—the Sabbath and the home.
If importance of the commandments could be rated, these two commandments should have more importance than the others because with these two there, the others are going to be naturally and automatically understood and obeyed.
Home government is the cornerstone of all government. The peace and prosperity of all people depend upon the recognition of all constituted authority, and this comes through the proper discipline in the home. There are times that a child needs to be told no and under no circumstances should it turn into a yes.
You know of situations, as do I, where a child is told no, but the child whines or cajoles until the parent finally changes it to, “just this once,” or “okay, under these circumstances.” This is the very worst thing that can ever happen.
Parents, even if you have made a mistake in saying no, you had better bite the bullet and let it remain no. If you give in to your child, your position of authority drops down a notch or two in your child’s mind. The honor your position deserves has been compromised. Do not think for a moment that the devil will not take advantage of such a situation. When you say no, mean no!
Power of Example
Parents should remember that a good example is always more powerful for good than just saying yes or no. The honor parents receive from their children depends to a large extent on their own conduct and their own discipline.
Through His messenger, Ellen White, God has given counsel to parents on the raising of children in books such as, Child Guidance and Fundamentals of Christian Education. The Adventist Home was also given as counsel for the adult sector. God has shown how we are to order our lives so that the whole movement can move together. That is what God intended should take place—reform not only from the standpoint of the young people, but also from the standpoint of the older people.
Parents need to remember that they must provide a proper example. The more honorable parents are, the more honor they will receive from their children.
Train up a Child
The promise is given, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. This text not only has a positive promise, but it has a negative promise as well. If you train up a child in the wrong way, when he is old, he is not going to depart from it either.
Statistics show us that the greatest time of reaping for souls is when people are young. The older an individual grows, the less likely it is that there is going to be any change because they become so set in their ways. This is why we are told that today is the day of salvation. (Luke 19:9.)
If you train up a child to go in the right way, when he is old, he is not going to depart from it. I have seen children who have been raised in God-fearing homes go over “Fool’s Hill.” Sometimes, years later, the Holy Spirit is able to draw these wanderers back to the path of salvation because their roots are in God’s Law. I have seen it happen over and over again.
On the other hand, I have watched undisciplined children who have been allowed to grow up as wild animals. They have not been disciplined or taught how they should relate to people or have respect and honor for their teachers and people in positions over them. When these children go out into the world, many of them will be lost to the kingdom because they were never taught how to respect or to honor anything or anybody but themselves. They have no roots in the law that the Holy Spirit can draw upon to bring them back into the fold.
It takes hard work to love and to train children. Nobody knows that any better than God does. In an effort to provide the right kind of foundation for our homes, He wrote His Law on tables of stone with His own finger and said, “These principles are going to last for eternity.”
Heaven on Earth
In this age, when nothing seems secure and love is empty, parents need to make the home as attractive, secure, and filled with God’s love as possible. The home can be a little heaven on earth when its atmosphere is filled with love and fellowship. This is why the apostle Paul concludes, in 1 Corinthians 13—that we are instructed to read every day—“The greatest of these is love.”
When love is the controlling principle in the home, it will be the most wonderful place in the world, and the children will delight to honor their parents, not only as they are being raised by them but as they enter into their elder years as well. The promise will be sure. It will be fulfilled as they move down through the years that if you honor your father and your mother, it will go well with you.
A retired minister of the gospel, Pastor Mike Baugher may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.