Exodus 20:12. Honour your father and your mother…
This is my final word on this commandment and will be a little longer than usual.
The Bible indicates that in the normal course of events, although elderly people by virtue of age or infirmity may no longer hold any civil post or spiritual office in the church, they are to be respected as part of society. We read in Leviticus 19:32:
‘You shall rise before the grey headed and honour the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.’
It is interesting to note how God ties together respect for the elderly and reverence for Him. The Bible knows nothing of a generation gap. Elderly people may have good experiences to share. Some elderly people have walked the Christian road for a long time. Is all that wisdom to be lost? Is it all to be given up? Do they have nothing they can share with us who are younger?
This commandment encourages a healthy respect for the aged, not necessarily in their capacity as civic or religious leaders or even family leaders, but because they are part of our society or family. They have lived long lives and their Christian journey may have much to teach us.
It is sadly true that sometimes elderly people can be a real disappointment in spite of their long lives. It is a fact of life that some people do not grow old and wise, but rather old and foolish. But we should not let such people discourage us from caring for and valuing the elderly among us.
This commandment also encompasses the authority of our employers. Naaman was an employer. He was a high official in the army. When he went to look for a cure for his leprosy he took his servants with him, all of whom received wages, and when they needed to talk to him, they addressed him as ‘father’.
Thus an employer is another authority under which most of us live. Employers are called upon by God to act as fathers to those whom they employ. This is beautifully illustrated in Matthew 8 when the Roman centurion came to the Lord Jesus to seek healing for his servant. How anxious he was that his servant be healed, so anxious in fact that he, the employer, who could have sent any one of his servants to go and seek out Jesus the healer, went himself to plead for his employee.
That’s the way in which employers act as ‘fathers’. Employers need to remember that they themselves are under authority.
In Ephesians 6 Paul writes to employers concerning their servants, ‘You masters, … your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him’. This commandment encompasses the area of employment and the way in which we deal with those over whom we have authority in the market place. It also refers to our behaviour towards those who employ us. We are called to work diligently, faithfully and righteously.
When we talk about authority, God is ultimately leading us to live in submission to him. How do we honour God our Father in Heaven? We honour Him by obeying Him and promoting His cause. Does your home promote the cause of your Father in heaven? Does your life style and your conversation promote His cause or detract from it? We ascribe honour and praise to them by being willing to live for Him in all dimensions of life.
The common thread in this commandment and its application is not merely parenthood. The common thread is authority as mentioned, there are many kinds of authority in this world but the basis of all authority is that of the family. The family derives its authority from God and if the battle for authority is lost in the home it will finally be lost in the nation. That is what this fifth commandment presents to us – a law which is the basis of all social order.
That’s why the home is so important to God and any attempt to break it up is viewed with great disapproval by God.
The most fundamental authority of all, of course, is the authority of God Himself. Obedience must first be rendered to God. But we learn to do this in the family. Ultimately we will discover that our resistance to authority is rooted in our sinful natures.
We need the Lord Jesus Christ – not only to change our hearts but to give us grace and wisdom to understand the laws of God and to give us the desire and the power to obey Him.
Authority can easily become authoritarianism. There is a big difference between the two. Pray for true authority in our land, our homes and above all let’s make sure we ourselves live under the authority of the Almighty God.