Few commandments in the Bible strike more fear into teenagers than, “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). To make matters worse, God gives us this command new fewer than eight times throughout the Bible! This is especially difficult for those of us who have parents who, frankly, don’t seem to deserve much honor. My father was an atheist and was not a good husband to my mother. When I was in high school, his actions led to my parents getting divorced. How was I supposed to honor a man like that?
Honor vs. Obedience
One of the mistakes I made when I was growing up was to confuse honor with obedience. I thought that as long as I was obedient to my parents, I was honoring them. There were many times that my mother told me to clean my room, and I would do it, but in my heart I was grumbling and complaining. Was I being obedient? Yes. Was I honoring? No. Learning to obey your parents with a happy heart (honor) is essential practice for your entire life ahead of learning to obey God with a happy heart.
This may be hard to hear, but one of the best tests of your spiritual maturity and your commitment to Christ is how well you honor your parents. Here are three important ways you can show honor to your parents and improve your relationship with them.
Honor with your eyes
Often times our eyes reveal the attitude of our heart. Consider Proverbs 30:17.
The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley.
I can remember a time when I was in junior high and I had some friends over to the house. My mom was serving us dinner and she was talking to my friends while I was standing behind her. I thought that what she was saying was “dorky” so I looked at my friends and rolled my eyes behind my mother’s back. Using only my eyes, I had mocked my mother in front of my friends.
God wants you to use your eyes to communicate honor to your parents. One of the best ways to do this is by looking them in the eye when they are speaking to you. Take off your headphones. Turn off the screen. Close the book. When your parent is speaking to you, look them in the eyes and give them your full and undivided attention. This honors them and pleases God.
Honor with your words
Another way I frequently dishonored my parents when I was growing up was speaking to them with a disrespectful tone of voice. Many times I would “say the right thing” but the way I said it was not honoring. I imagine you have done this too. “Yeah, mom.” “OK, dad.” The words are good, but our tone says, “Whatever!” and “Get off my back!”
If you want to honor your parents, ask God to help you speak every word to your parents with a respectful and gentle tone of voice. You may need to say hard things. You may need to disagree. You may need to express difficult feelings. Say what is right to say, but do it with a respectful tone.
I want to give you four power packed words of honor. If you use these words, mean them from your heart, and act on them, I believe they can transform your relationship with your parents. Ready? The next time your mom or dad asks you to do something here are the four words to say, “Yes mom/dad, right away.” Then, with a positive attitude, do what they asked you to do. You may not believe me when I tell you that these words are powerful. Try them out. See what happens.
Honor with your heart
In Proverbs 23:26, a father writes to his son and says, “My son, give me your heart!” One of the ways that I sometimes dishonored my parents when I was growing up was by keeping secrets from them. My mom could tell that something was wrong and she would ask me what was bothering me. There were times I lied rather than opening my heart to her.
Let your parents in. Give them your fears. Give them your hopes. Confess your sins to them. Share your dreams. One of the devil’s strategies is to tempt you to keep your heart from your parents and give it only to your friends.
I know it is uncomfortable to talk with your parents about some personal things. That discomfort comes from spiritual attack! The devil does not want you to honor your parents with your heart. He is trying to break your relationship at all costs.
In some situations, it is not safe for a teenager to be vulnerable with their parent. If you are in any danger at home, tell one of the pastors at your church.
In Ephesians 6, God says that “honor your father and mother” is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” God is not saying that if you honor your parents you will live to be 100 years old. Instead, this is a promise to the faith community – to the church. If parents will honor and follow God, and children will honor and follow in their footsteps of faith, then the people of God, the church of Jesus Christ will live long in the land. If your parents are believers in Jesus Christ, you can advance God’s Kingdom in the world by honoring them!
Honoring your parents will likely be your greatest spiritual challenge in your youth. Take a moment and pray right now for the Holy Spirit to supernaturally empower you to honor your parents with your eyes, with your words, and with your heart. Your parents will be blessed, your family will be strengthened, and God will be glorified.
Dr. Rob Rienow has been married to Amy since 1994 and they have been blessed with seven children. He is a pastor at Gospel Fellowship Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, author, and founder of Visionary Family Ministries. His books include Visionary Parenting and Visionary Marriage.
Connect with Rob at www.VisionaryFam.com
Twitter – @visionaryfam