The Ten Commandments: Honor Your Parents

   Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land that the Lord your God has given you-Exodus 20:12

   Personally, as a grandparent, I think there should have been a whole commandment just for us. Something like, "Thou shalt take the grandchildren to see Papaw and Nana at least once a week, that your days might not be filled with crazy text messages demanding to see the babies."

   In fact the first commandment on the second tablet (history suggests) is the first commandment with a promise attached to it according to the New Covenant commentators. The fifth commandment gets repeated twice more in the Old Covenant and we read it five times in the New Covenant, perhaps six, though the sixth is a little shaky for my taste.

   Alvin Toffler predicted what he called modular relationships. Modular relationships, Toffler thought, would replace long lasting, internal relationships within family structures, isolating small familial units in the midst of social structures working against the family rather than in cooperation with family structures. The modular relationships would be with various service providers, media and "urban families," far from the influence of parents, grandparents and the culture in which they live.

   There is this scene in the film "Bridget Jones Diary," to illustrate. In the scene, Bridget Jones lolls in bed with her beau. The phone rings. She answers the phone, gives her name and refers to herself as a "wanton goddess." She has another word in there but this is a family post.

   In the next instant, she sits bolt upright on the bed and begins to backtrack, saying, "Mum (mom), Mum (mom), no, I wasn't expecting you. I was joking. Um, Um, how are you?"

   The joke, you see, is that Mum would not approve. Mum has a higher standard in mind for her daughter. Imagine. Mum does not want her daughter sharing her bounty with anyone who happens along, knowing, as Mum knows. the fellow who happens along can just as quickly move along.

   Moms and Dads usually want what is better for their boys and girls. In fact, they usually know what is better for their sons and daughters.

   People who succeed in life generally learn to listen to those who really, really love them. People who succeed in life understand the better information they may get will probably come from someone who has their best interests at heart.

   You don't live longer just because you honor Dad and Mom. You honor Dad and Mom as you follow their example and advice. God, it seems, demands in the fifth commandment that parents give their best efforts for their children. God, it seems, insists offspring will benefit from this relationship of unconditional love.

   Humans have a long gestation period (nine months, give or take an epoch, it seems). After birth, humans have a long period of dependency, requiring a social structure to protect and provide for mother and child. If one imagines this culture as a plant, the ones with the deeper roots would be most prosperous.

   Still, you have to define prosperity or success the way God does. The "promise" of the fifth commandment includes the "land God gives you." The land is the place of promise to the wandering Semitic tribes of Abraham. The land is a place to live, to marry, to raise children, to bury grandparents and parents and ultimately to be buried oneself, leaving the land to the next generations. This promise is not available in Toffler's modular relationships.

   Shifting sand is not a good place to build.

   One other thing is to be noted here before we close with the Fifth Commandment. Like all things to do with the religious conscience, obeisance to the Fifth Commandment will be judged rigidly because it is rated in comparison to an absolute standard. Further, our obedience to the Fifth Commandment is more rigorously judged because it is two-edged in its personal application. That is, to fail the Fifth Commandment is to fail God and Man, to fail in the present and then to fail for the future.

   Simply put, the Fifth Commandment is fraught with the benefit/bain of religious expression. That is, the injunction to honor parents (follow their instruction/emulate their example, speak respectfully of and to them) is fraught with moral potency. Succeed and you are blessed to a thousand generations. Fail and you fail God, man, father and child..

   This is not an injunction wherein one may flop and flitter.




3 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments: Honor Your Parents”

  1. Following a thread by pulling on a string here…
    I think Toffler’s views of family and society are couched in Ferdinand Tonnie’s definitions and juxtapositioning of the terms: Gemeinschaft/Gesselschaft–essential will/arbitrary will–Self fulfilling/Goal oriented–Community/Society–Family or neighborhood/City or state. Interesting tools for describing the relationships in which we find ourselves.
    Is the professional minister, then, a Pastor or a Preacher?

  2. What if the parents neither give good advice, nor do they live a life worth imitating?
    One the way back from an outing with the elementary school aged children from our church, I heard a saddening conversation. One of the little girls was having a conversation with one of the sponsors. She mentioned a movie she (the little girl) had seen. Apparently it was fraught with foul language. The sponsor said, “I hope you don’t grow up to talk that way.”
    The little girl responded, “Oh no. I don’t want to be any thing like my mom.”
    Tis a true story my friend, happened within this past week.

  3. Tim,
    You bring up an interesting point. In the context of the time it was written, parents who did not do their duty were, apparently, not tolerated. There was an order and cohesion to the social order.
    Perhaps we should practice less tolerance.

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