Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
Honoring your father and your mother is a most important commandment. It has been said that the fifth commandment is pivotal, for it is between the commandments teaching us to love our Creator, and those admonishing us to love our fellow man.
A Commandment With a Promise
"Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee," Exodus 20:12. "Honor thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee," Deuteronomy 5:16. "Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father . . . ," Leviticus 19:3. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and thy mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," Ephesians 6:1-4. "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged," Colossians 3:20-21.
"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother," Proverbs 1:8. "A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother," Proverbs 15:20. "Childrenís children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers," and, "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him," Proverbs 17:6, 25. "A foolish son is the calamity of his father," and, "He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach," Proverbs 19:13, 26. "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old," Proverbs 23:22. "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul," Proverbs 29:17. "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth," Hebrews 12:6.
Not a Light Thing to Disobey Parents
"Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen," Deuteronomy 27:16. "And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death, . . . And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death," Exodus 21:15, 17. "For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him," Leviticus 20:9. "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold of him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear," Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
"The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it," Proverbs 30:17. "Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness," Proverbs 20:20.
Without Family Affection
"Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD," Leviticus 19:32. "There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother," Proverbs 30:11. "And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable . . . . As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them," Isaiah 3:4-5, 12. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection," II Timothy 3:1-5.
"For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition," Matthew 15:4-6 (see also Mark 7:10-13). " . . . what shall I do to inherit eternal life? . . . Thou knowest the commandments, . . . Honor thy father and thy mother," Luke 18:18-20.
" . . . There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of Godís sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting," Luke 18:29-30. "If any man come to me, and hate not [love less by comparison] his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple," Luke 14:26.
The Jahnke Case
Richard Jahnke of Cheyenne, Wyoming, was an abused child. His father sexually abused his sister and constantly beat the children and their mother. Their mentally deranged father carried a pistol around the house and pointed it at the children. Their weak-minded Hispanic mother allowed herself and the children to be whipped and horribly beaten. As a teenager, Richard went to the authorities for help, but they would not listen. His mother refused to admit that their father was abusing the children. To run away was impossible, because Mr. Jahnke was a private investigator for the Internal Revenue Service. He would certainly find them and severely harm them. Finally, young Richard planned and performed the execution of his father. He is now serving time in the state juvenile home. His story was shown on the television movie Right to Kill?
Sometimes, honoring oneís parents is a very difficult thing to do, especially when their actions are not honorable.
Importance of Fifth Commandment
My mother has worked as a nurse in nursing homes and senior care centers for thirty-five years. Time and again, she has seen children who dump their old parents at a nursing home and never come to visit them.
Religion often drives a wedge between parents and children. Several people from Africa have written us saying that following the Bible has made them become castoffs from their parents and family. In Nigeria, especially among the Ibo tribe, several generations of the same family often live in the same compound. It is rare to live apart from the relatives. Being cast out of oneís family is a serious thing. But for the Eternalís sake, sometimes this must happen.
The fifth commandment affects everybody. Every person has parents. This holy law commands parents to be honorable. And it says that children must obey (in the Lord) their parents, and honor them even if they are not honorable. Even if your parents are despicable, they can be a vivid object lesson to you as how NOT to act, causing you to act much better. There is an old saying, "Like father, like son." It is often true that children who are abused often turn around and abuse their own children. Only with the Holy Spirit of the Almighty, can we break this vicious circle and change to the right ways.
Of all the parents I can think of, the best example of an honorable parent is my mother, Rosemary Nickels.
Born in a mud hut in a peasant village in 1914 near Belgrade, Rosina Schmidt was not wanted by her authoritarian Austrian father. Based upon family reports, we suspect that Martin Schmidt fell into a rage when he learned that his wife Katherine had a baby girl, and threw Rosina, which contributed to a damaged spine, from which she has suffered great pains all her life. A case of rickets due to lack of food may have added to the deformity. Martin Schmidt went into the Austro-Hungarian army to fight on the side of the Central Powers during World War I, was captured by the Russians and sent to a Siberian prison camp. Mother grew up without a father in an area where Serbs were hostile towards Germans. Years later, Martin Schmidt returned and soon took his family to live in America.
Mother had to work hard on the family dairy and raise her younger brother and sisters, who became spoiled in "rich" America. She was laughed at in school because she could not speak English and one of her legs was shorter than the other. Never having received much love or experience many of the fine things of life, one might think that Rosemary, as she became known in America, would be bitter and cold. The opposite is the case.
Rosemary married Henry Nickels in 1937 and lovingly raised four children, of which I am the youngest. Gregarious, humorous, loving and caring, self-sacrificing: these are only some of her many fine attributes. Mother taught her children to work, and not to expect favors from others. For thirty-five years she has been a nurseís aide in nursing homes, spreading joy to many elderly unwanted people. Time and again she has seen children "dump" their parents in nursing homes, seldom if ever returning to visit them. She has honored hundreds, if not thousands, of parents rejected by their own children.
Wages paid by nursing homes usually are very low. Many nurses do not care at all for the patients. I have seen Mother in tears relating how she rectified lack of care shown by thoughtless nurses. Elderly ladies and gentlemen left to fester with bedsores, or even lay in their own excrement. The managers of some institutions are rapacious and greedy, literally stealing every dime of once wealthy patients.
At 78, Mother still worked part time at a nursing home. She fed patients, changed bedpans, mended clothes, and spread joy and humor in the forgotten world of our abandoned elderly people. For many years, Mother did all this in addition to caring for my invalid father, who died in 1977. She helped me and one sister through college, and two others with technical education, although Mother never went to high school. Around her 80th birthday, mother "retired," from heavy nursing home work, and continued working as a volunteer at a charitable thrift store. Her back still hurts the same as it always has, and sometimes worse.
Motherís grandchildren rise up and call her blessed. She gives them such marvelous love and affection, and often sacrifices of her meager salary to send them little gifts. However, she does not spoil her grandchildren like some grandparents do.
There is much more to tell, but one thing is sure: Mother exhibits the pure and undefiled religion that all of us should emulate. Mother does not profess the same religious beliefs that I do. I donít think she really understands them. But as sure as there is a God in Heaven, there will always be a room in our house for her to come and stay with us, as long as she wants, whenever she wants. She would never impose on anybody. It would be an honor to help care for her when and if she needed assistance. She has made so many lives happy. May the Eternal help us all to be like her.
My father, Henry Nickels, was a very shy man, a studious thinker who inspired me with many ideas. He helped me to understand the Bible. I honor him and miss his counsel and advice.
Our children, with our approval, have an adopted grandfather, Orville Traver. We met Orville in Jefferson, Oregon several years ago. Orville is a big man with a big heart for children. Children who are usually shy will come right up and sit in his lap. He has a unique gift of love for children, like our Savior did. He writes letters and sends gifts to our children, and others he has taken under his wings. Orville is constantly mentioned in the prayers of our children. They are enriched by "Grandpa Traver." One does not have to have physical children to be an honorable spiritual "parent."
Now we turn to poor examples, which can teach us lessons.
Some prosperous older parents seem to take no time or interest in their grandchildren. They may not even be aware of their selfishness and lack of love. They could be very happy enriching the lives of their grandchildren and others. Grandchildren need love and concern, not just money and gifts. If such people would only wake up, they would realize that showing love for others results in happiness for themselves.
Some fathers do not know how to relate to their children or show love and affection. Their children have a void in their lives because of the absence of fatherly love.
And there are fathers who provoke their children to wrath. They whip their children for every small matter, giving them no affection, and telling them "you'll never amount to a hill of beans." So the children begin to act as if this were true. They never see love and never learn how to give it.
Some parents are work horses. The father struggles to succeed in making a living. He becomes frustrated and feels depressed and defeated, then turns around and imposes strict rules on his son, dealing out strict discipline when the son disobeys. And there is the teenage daughter with emotional problems, needing the counsel of a wise, loving mother. She doesnít get it because the mother is likewise struggling for material things. The Almighty is "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation . . . ," Exodus 20:5.
Other parents want to "get rid" of their children for a few weeks vacation, and are happy when their children grow up and leave home so they can live their own lives. Some grandparents continue to selfishly pursue their own interests, forgetting their children and grandchildren. Some children abandon their parents to nursing homes. May the kingdom come to bring the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to their children, Malachi 4:5-6.
Will we heed the following Dear Abby newspaper column?
Dear Abby: I am the most heartbroken person in the world. I could always find the time to go everywhere else, but never the time to go visit Mom and Dad. They sat at home alone and loved me just the same. Itís too late now to give them those few hours of happiness. I was too selfish and too busy to give. Now when I go to their graves and see the green grass above them, I wonder if God will ever forgive me for the heartaches I must have caused them when they were still alive. I pray to God that those who still have their parents to visit, do so, and show their love and respect while there is still time, for itís later than you think. ó TOO LATE.
Is It Too Late For Us to Change?
Is it too late for us to learn from these lessons and change? Can we honor our parents, and the elderly? Can we be honorable parents for our children, and others?
The fifth commandment is the first with a promise: a long and happy life. It points to the divine family of God and living forever in one big happy family. Let us prepare for that time now by learning to honor our parents, and to be honorable parents.
"I donít know how to relate to my children," you may say. Or, you may think, "I was treated so badly when I was a child that I canít have love for my parents or anyone else." "I donít have time to visit my parents or any of the elderly because I'm too busy." What we need is the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our weaknesses.
No other law is so related to happiness as the fifth commandment, "honor thy father and thy mother." It bridges the gap between the first four commandments, love to God, and the last six commandments, love to neighbor. If we donít love our parents, if we arenít loving parents, how can we love our Heavenly Father and our spiritual mother (the Church ó the brethren)? May the Creator help us to keep His priorities.
Little children, let us love one another, and honor our parents.
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