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How Do We Honor Our Parents: 6 Practical Ways to Obey God

how do we honor our parents

How do we honor our parents? Children all of ages may ask that question. God’s commandments are perfectly clear in what they say and, broadly, in what they require. Yet practically implementing those commandments in the nitty-gritty of life can be challenging.

Obeying and knowing how do we honor our parents can take thought, prayer, and creativity. This is exactly the case with the fifth commandment—“honor your father and your mother”—especially for adult children.

Young children honor their parents through their obedience. But what about adults? How do we honor our parents in ways that are fitting?

I’ve deliberately taken a long time to get to this point in my series The Commandment We Forgot. Our tendency is to skip over foundational matters to get straight to the practical stuff. Just give me the list of things to do and I’ll do them!

But the deepest change to ourselves and the most appropriate honor to our parents will come when we first ensure we understand God’s commandment—what it means, why he gives it, why it matters so much. So let’s consider practical ways we can honor our parents.

Give Honor to Whom Honor Is Due

Honoring parents is a form of honoring all authority, including God himself. As Tim Keller says, “It’s respect for parents that is the basis for every other kind of respect and every other kind of authority.” This commandment has no ending point. We are to honor our parents in childhood and adulthood. After all, we owe them a debt of honor that never ends.

How do we honor our parents, according to God? I’ll offer six broad suggestions, though certainly we could come up with many more. Warning: In every case there will be temptations to say, “Yes, but you don’t know my parents. You don’t know who they are or what they did to me.” I understand that in some cases showing honor may be difficult or very nearly impossible.

But for now, let’s simply consider practical ways we can display honor.

How Do We Honor Our Parents: 6 Key Tasks

1. Forgive Them

How do we honor our parents? Perhaps the most important way is to forgive them. The fact is, no perfect parents exist. All parents have fallen far short of their children’s expectations and, in all likelihood, even their own. Our parents have sinned against us. They’ve made unwise decisions and had unrealistic expectations. They have said and done things that deeply wounded us. For that reason, many children enter adulthood controlled by anger and bitterness. They feel unable to move past their parents’ mistakes or sin.

We can best honor our parents by forgiving our parents. And this is actually possible, for we serve and imitate a forgiving Savior. In the Bible we see Jesus’ willingness to forgive those who wounded him. As the nails were driven into his flesh, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Standing at the foot of the cross and considering such a Savior, who are we to withhold forgiveness from our parents?

How do we honor our parents? We extend grace and forgiveness to them.

2. Speak Well of Them

Another way we can honor our parents is to speak well of them, to refuse to speak evil of them. We live at a time when it is considered noble to air our grievances, when it is considered therapeutic to air our dirty laundry. We think little of telling the world exactly what we think of our governors, our bosses, our parents.

Yet the Bible warns us that we owe honor and respect to all of the authorities God has placed over us (Romans 13:7). It warns us that our words have the power to extend honor or dishonor. We cannot miss that in the Old Testament, the penalty for cursing parents is the same as the penalty for assaulting them (Exodus 21:15-17, Leviticus 20:9). The root sin is the same. To curse or to strike parents is to violate the fifth commandment as well as the sixth.