What Does It Mean to ‘Honor Your Father and Mother’?
The Bible’s answer
The commandment to “honor your father and your mother” appears often in the Bible. (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:2, 3) It involves four key actions.
Appreciate them. You honor your father and mother when you are thankful for all they have done for you. You can show your appreciation by valuing their guidance. (Proverbs 7:1, 2; 23:26) The Bible encourages you to view your parents as your “glory,” that is, to be proud of them.—Proverbs 17:6.
Accept their authority. Especially while you are young, you honor your father and mother when you recognize the authority God has given them. Colossians 3:20 tells young ones: “Be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” Even young Jesus willingly obeyed his parents.—Luke 2:51.
Treat them with respect. (Leviticus 19:3; Hebrews 12:9) This often involves what you say and how you say it. True, some parents at times act in ways that make it hard to respect them. Even then, children can honor their parents by avoiding disrespectful speech and actions. (Proverbs 30:17) The Bible teaches that speaking abusively of one’s father or mother is a serious offense.—Matthew 15:4.
Provide for them. When your parents get old, they may need practical support. You can honor them by trying your best to make sure that they have what they need. (1 Timothy 5:4, 8) For instance, shortly before he died, Jesus arranged for the care of his mother.—John 19:25-27.
Misconceptions about honoring one’s father and mother
Misconception: To honor your father and mother, you must let them control your marriage.
Fact: The Bible teaches that the marriage bond takes priority over other family relationships. Genesis 2:24 says: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife.” (Matthew 19:4, 5) Of course, married couples can benefit from the advice of their parents or in-laws. (Proverbs 23:22) However, a couple may rightly decide to set boundaries limiting the involvement of relatives in their marriage.—Matthew 19:6.
Misconception: Your father and mother have ultimate authority.
Fact: Although God gave parents authority within the family, all human authority has limits—it never overrules God’s authority. For instance, when a high court ordered Jesus’ disciples to disobey God, they replied: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29) Likewise, children obey their parents “in union with the Lord,” that is, in all things that do not conflict with God’s laws.—Ephesians 6:1.
Misconception: Honoring your father and mother requires you to follow their religious beliefs.
Fact: The Bible encourages us to test what we are being taught to see whether it is the truth. (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1) An individual who does so may eventually choose a faith that differs from that of his parents. The Bible mentions a number of faithful servants of God who did not follow the religion of their parents, including Abraham, Ruth, and the apostle Paul.—Joshua 24:2, 14, 15; Ruth 1:15, 16; Galatians 1:14-16, 22-24.
Misconception: To honor your father and mother, you must share in traditional rites of ancestor worship.
Fact: The Bible says: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Luke 4:8) A person who worships his ancestors is displeasing to God. Moreover, the Bible teaches that “the dead know nothing at all.” They are not aware of any homage rendered to them; neither can they help or harm the living.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Isaiah 8:19.