The Number One Lesson of Family

It is embedded in the Fifth Commandment.

When she was 2 years old, my firstborn daughter made a decision. She decided that she wanted to be the boss of my family.

My wife and I forcibly showed her, that’s not the way it works in this house. We taught her, with a lot of effort, to obey our instructions exactly, without back talk and without a bad attitude. We taught her the difference between her role as a child and our roles as parents.

A child needs this perspective, because otherwise he goes through life thinking he’s the boss. He develops an attitude of superiority toward people who are more experienced, wiser, stronger or more honorable than he is.

Most problematically, he has a much harder time relating to God, and seeing himself in proper perspective to God.

In a sense, we parents are representatives of God to our children. By teaching them the proper way to interact with us, we establish their future relationships with God.

The Fifth Commandment says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).

Ephesians 6:2 calls this “the first commandment with promise.” God will not break a promise! If a child honors his parents, God promises him long life. In this dangerous world, he won’t suffer a violent death from war, disease, starvation, crime, overdose or accident. This protection will extend to him as long as he honors his parents, even when he is an adult.

That puts a strong responsibility on us as parents: We are the ones who will determine whether our children grow up knowing how to honor us.

If we teach them to honor us, we help them receive these wonderful blessings from God. If we fail to teach them to honor us and to obey God, we are guaranteeing them problems and curses in life. Parents who truly love their child will make sure he honors them, so he can be blessed.

This commandment shows the basis for God’s family government.

Notice that the Fifth Commandment is not some variation of this: Parents—thou shalt takest care of thy children. Thou shalt givest thy children what they want. Thou shalt makest sure thy children have really high self-esteem. The commandment is directed toward the children: Make sure you give your parents honor!

The word honor means “to esteem or to hold in high regard, to prize or to reverence.” It is respect intermingled with love and devotion, the kind of honor or deferential respect you would show a king or dignitary.

We all need this perspective in life. After all, we are God’s children. We need to give Him honor! This is, in fact, the number one lesson of family. It is the primary point we must get right in our lives in order to prepare to be part of God’s Family!

God created physical family to prepare us for the God Family. He designed our physical development to occur slowly, so that we are totally dependent on our parents for several years. Why? So we learn how to trust the one in authority over us.

And He commands us to obey our parents and to honor them. Why? So we learn how to extend that same obedience and honor to Him. We all need to obey the spirit of the Fifth Commandment—to the point of honoring God the Father and our spiritual mother, which Scripture reveals to be “Jerusalem above,” a type of the Church (Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2; 19:7-8; Ephesians 5:25-32).

God tells all of us: Unless you become like a little child and learn your proper role within a family, you will not make it into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-4).

The commandment doesn’t say, “Honor your father and mother as long as they are honorable.” Some think their parents aren’t particularly deserving of honor. But we all need to honor that office, and show our parents love and respect. (Of course, that doesn’t relieve parents from the responsibility of being honorable.)

The devil is always promoting and broadcasting hostility to parental authority: Mom and Dad don’t really know what’s going on. I don’t need to listen to them. Just as he stirred my 2-year-old daughter to ignore us and do things her own way, he pushes that message on all of us—all through our lives! It’s a powerful message, of which he has successfully convinced most people (Proverbs 14:12). Children the world over believe this, and their parents are doing nothing to convince them otherwise.

That is the opposite of how God thinks. Over and again God exalts and seeks to strengthen the relationship between parents and children. Over and again He emphasizes the responsibility of parents to love, teach and correct, and the responsibility of children to honor and obey. When you understand the spiritual principle, you clearly see why it cannot be any other way. We as God’s children are preparing for eternal life with our Father as we learn and practice this number one lesson of family!