Pastor General Gerald Flurry has identified the “most important words of the Bible” for young people. Those words are found in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16: “Honour thy father and thy mother.”
God gave this command to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and Moses reemphasized it right before he died and Israel entered the Promised Land. It is the Fifth Commandment, and it is crucial that you live it and learn to love it.
Turning Our Hearts to Each Other
Herbert W. Armstrong worked to build families and turn the hearts of family members toward one another (Malachi 4:5-6). This was part of his commission as the end-time Elijah. God’s Church continues to carry on that Elijah work, and you are part of that.
Is there any greater work than turning hearts within families?
In a 1984 letter to members and co-workers, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Words simply cannot describe the importance of these summer camps. … These camps and the Church’s Y.O.U. program for youths worldwide are turning the hearts of the children to their parents, and the parents to their children. And in this age when families are being broken up and youths are turning to alcohol, drugs, sex and violence—and becoming strangers to their parents—that is one of the vital things God is doing through His Church—as prophesied in Malachi 4:6.”
Think: If it weren’t for God’s Work, our hearts would not be turned to our parents, and theirs would not be turned toward us! It isn’t natural for this to occur between parents and children. This world actually turns parents’ and children’s hearts away from one another. To whatever degree our hearts are turned to one another, it is because of the end-time Elijah.
Examine your heart: Is it really turned toward your parents?
In a sense, you can measure how deeply you have been impacted by the Elijah work by checking the direction of your heart—toward your physical father, your physical mother and, ultimately, your spiritual Father. Is the Malachi 4:5-6 prophecy being fulfilled in your life?
It was fulfilled in Mr. Flurry’s life. “I was 25 years old when God called me into His Church. My life was a mess,” he writes in Who Is ‘That Prophet’? “I had grown up in a family where my dad, who was an alcoholic, gave me a lot of severe discipline. Some of it I certainly needed, but many of my needs went unfulfilled. So when the time came, I was happy to move out on my own. I wanted to live the ‘exciting life’ everyone in the world was living. Yet it wasn’t that way at all. Soon I felt life was hopeless and empty. I even started trying to prove whether or not there was a God. The more I tried to prove it, the more I thought God did not exist. This discouraged me even more.
“My mother had been called into the truth in 1957, and from that time until 1961 she tried endlessly to convert me. I rebelled against that and persecuted her for what she was doing. Whenever Herbert Armstrong came on the radio, she would turn up the volume so I could hear him, and that upset me. I was antagonistic against him and his message—that is, until my life had finally become so miserable and hopeless that I would do anything to change it, even if it meant getting interested in ‘Mom’s religion.’
“I eventually came into the Church and began to think of Mr. Armstrong as a father. My own father was lacking in many ways—he didn’t know how to teach me; no one had taught him. But I saw that Mr. Armstrong was very stable. Following him helped me stabilize my life and become stronger.”
Mr. Flurry went on to rear strong children, and his heart was turned to them, and theirs to him. That is quite a miracle!
Attending one of God’s youth camps when I was younger helped my relationship with my parents a lot. I returned home really wanting to improve my relationship with them.
Has this clicked in your life? Do you honor your father and mother?
Why the Fifth Commandment
Why is the Fifth Commandment so important? Here is one reason: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
Child here can be translated as young man. We all have foolishness in our hearts, but we tend to have an extra helping when we are young. It’s easy to lack perspective and understanding, to have a lot of vanity, and to make yourself the center of your world. It’s easy to make serious mistakes. Young people simply don’t see the whole picture.
There is a lot of foolishness in your heart—more than you think. God tells your parents to drive it from you, and He instructs them to use the rod of correction to do so. That is a tremendous blessing!
Think of all that your parents have done for you. They sacrifice for you because they love you and want you to succeed. They give you rules and restrictions because God commands them to. They withhold things from you to keep you from harm. God gave them the responsibility of training you up in the way you should go and correcting you when you begin going the way you should not. That is a big job.
Most parents will tell you that having children helps them understand their own parents better. We realize how much we put our own parents through when we were children. Most of us have made mistakes and then realized, Oh! My parents actually knew what they were talking about. I should have listened! Our tendency is to recognize our parents’ wisdom too late.
God wants to protect you from making those kinds of mistakes. He wants to stop you from having those “Oh, I should have listened!” moments. That is one reason that He tells you to honor your father and mother.
What happens if you don’t have the rod of correction? Look around! That foolishness in the heart of young people runs rampant—to the point that it dominates society. Modern society encourages young people to express that foolishness. No one teaches young people to honor their parents. Society doesn’t demand that young people respect their elders. As a result, the kids are running the show!
Our society perfectly fulfills Isaiah 3: Strong male leaders have been removed, and society is ruled by “children” and “babes” (verses 2-4). “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 honourable” (verse 5). Children don’t honor or submit to their parents. They completely disobey the Fifth Commandment. And society is turned upside-down because of it!
“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” (2 Timothy 3:1-2). Times are dangerous today, and one reason Paul gives is that young people disobey their parents.
Satan’s society tells young people to ignore, disrespect and distance themselves from their parents. Satan encourages individuality—doing “what’s right for you”—and being skeptical of authority. “Satan broadcasts in feelings, moods, attitudes and emotions. Primarily these negative emotions are aimed at God’s government,” Mr. Flurry writes. “We must not underestimate [Satan’s] subtilty. He broadcasts to the spirit in man, and that influences our attitude. The thrust of all Satan’s broadcasting is against what? Government—government—government! … He hates God’s government and inspires men to have the same attitude. Oh, what a hard lesson this is for men to learn!” (God’s Family Government).
Society today is destroying respect for authority and destroying the family. Anyone who goes along with that trend is setting himself up for curses—crime, violence, war and destruction! (Isaiah 3:12).
Do you know what the solution to all that is? It is those most important words in the Bible for young people: Honor your father and mother.
Your Biggest Responsibility
The Ten Commandments are God’s law. They come from the same God who made the law of gravity. If you live by this law, life works. The difference between dysfunctional families and wonderful families is how well they live the Fifth Commandment!
Ephesians 6:2 calls this “the first commandment with promise.” That promise is found in Exodus 20:12: “that thy days may be long upon the land.” This is a commandment that leads to life—for families and for nations. It builds a social structure that stabilizes society. All those Isaiah 3 curses would be solved if we would just keep the Fifth Commandment! You can reverse many curses in your life and your family by keeping this commandment.
Why does God put such a priority on this commandment? This is the only commandment about family government, and God emphasizes the child’s responsibility. Why? Think about this.
Family is at the center of everything God is doing. God is a Family—starting with Father and Son—and our incredible human potential is to be born again into that Family. The gospel is the good news of the coming Family of God. That is what the whole master plan of God is about! God wants to turn the hearts of His children to Him, like Jesus Christ’s heart is turned to Him. He wants perfect Family love and unity.
How can God accomplish this? Through our relationships with our parents! Having strong families isn’t just a nice thing to have—it is central to our religion. When we honor our parents, we are preparing for eternal life in the God Family.
God the Father will always be the Head of His Family, and only those who honor Him can be part of the Kingdom of God. The Church is the mother of us all (Galatians 4:26). So as we obey the Fifth Commandment in our physical families, we prepare for the Kingdom of God, where all people will honor God the Father and the Bride of Christ! The Fifth Commandment is foundational Kingdom of God instruction!
That is why Satan works so hard to destroy this principle in physical families today!
Breaking the Fifth Commandment is why God’s Church in this end time fell apart: The Laodiceans stopped honoring God the Father (Malachi 1:6). They stopped submitting to the government God had placed in the Church.
Matthew 18:3 tells us that unless we become like little children—and learn how to be a child within a family—we won’t make it into the Kingdom of God!
The more you think about it, the better you can see why God made this one of the 10 basic commands in life—right before “Thou shalt not kill”! (Exodus 20:13).
This is the number one lesson you need to learn about family, and the number one thing you need to get right to prepare to be a part of God’s Family. This is why Mr. Flurry said that at this time in your life, your relationship with your parents—specifically honoring your parents—is your biggest responsibility!
What Does It Mean to ‘Honor’?
Honoring your parents means holding them in high regard. It means you respect them, love them and are devoted to them. Honor is demonstrated through obedience and acts of kindness and caring.
The Ten Commandments fall into two divisions: The first four express love toward God, and the last six express love toward fellow man.
Child Rearing With Vision says, “The first four of the Ten Commandments sum up our overall approach to life, putting God first in everything, upholding and esteeming His position and office above all else, reverencing Him and everything He stands for. These are the commands to honor, fear and love God our Father.”
The Fifth Commandment is the bridge commandment: It connects the first four commandments to love God with the last six commandments to love other people.
“It bridges the necessity of honoring God to the human level. The First Commandment requires mankind to give honor to God’s high office of authority as Creator. The Fifth Commandment requires all men to honor the highest human office—that of parents. … We will never attain true spiritual and physical success without giving honor and obedience to God. Do we see that the same is true of our human parents?” (ibid).
The Fifth Commandment teaches God-plane love. The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son, is God’s goal for us. Read these verses about God’s love for Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ’s honor for God the Father: John 8:29, 49; 14:28; 15:10.
Jesus sets a perfect example of obedience to the Fifth Commandment. Even as a human child, Jesus Christ honored His parents. Luke 2:41-52 show that He was subject to His parents. John 19:26-27 note that, even as He endured extreme torture, He ensured that His mother would be looked after when He died. This is a beautiful example of the God Family way.
God wants you to practice this way in your home today. You only have two physical parents in the whole world, and your time left under their roof is limited. Each day is an opportunity to practice honor and grow in God’s wholehearted love.
The Primary Way to Honor
In ancient Israel, any children who cursed their parents were put to death (Exodus 21:17). Cursed meant to make fun of, mock, talk back to, or wish ill toward their parents. God sent curses on anyone who dishonored their parents in such a way (Deuteronomy 27:16; Proverbs 20:20; 30:17). Today, children aren’t put to death physically for dishonoring their parents, but God still takes this commandment just as seriously—and it leads to eternal death if unrepented of.
Everyone suffers when God’s law of love is broken! If you are guilty of making fun of, sassing or talking back to your parents, change that immediately! Pray that God would forgive you and help you correct your attitude. He will forgive you. Apologize to your parents, and tell them you really want to change.
Leviticus 19:3 says, “Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father ….” Fear means to revere. It doesn’t mean to dread being around your parents or to be scared of them. It means to deeply respect your parents, which will give you the desire to obey them. If you revere your parents, you pay attention when they give instruction. You don’t contradict them. You don’t do things that embarrass them in public. You bring honor to them by living a good way of life.
When you are under your parents’ roof, the primary way you honor your parents is through obedience (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). That means cheerful obedience—not grudgingly doing what they instruct. Be quick and cheerful in obedience. Respect their wishes even if you feel your way is better. Follow their rules. Enthusiastically fulfill their requests. Do more than is asked of you. Volunteer. Think of extra ways you can please your parents.
Never Stop Honoring
The Fifth Commandment is binding. It is unconditional. It is your duty. And like every other duty, especially one given by God, it must come before feelings. You don’t do it because you feel like it. You do it because it’s right.
God understands that we don’t all live in ideal families, but He still expects us to try our hardest to fulfill this command. Honor your parents’ offices, and trust that God will bless your efforts to obey the Fifth Commandment.
How will it affect your parents when you heed their advice and make wise choices? “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice” (Proverbs 23:24-25).
As you get older, your role as a child does change. Adults are not commanded to obey their parents as they did when they were children. However, there is never a time when people should cease to honor their parents. God expects us to keep this commandment our entire lives.
So ask yourself: How can I be a better son or daughter to my parents? How can I be a better son or daughter to my heavenly Father? Do I truly honor my parents and God as I should? Do I really love God with all my heart? To truly fulfill the Fifth Commandment, look for ways to improve in each of these areas.
No matter what your relationship with your parents is like, you can improve it. Following the Fifth Commandment will bring you much closer to your parents, bring more peace and love into your home, and help you be successful in the rest of your life. Obeying this command will bring blessings to you and your family. That is a guarantee—even if you think it will never work for you. If you give it sincere effort, with God’s help, keeping this commandment can change your life.
Learn to love and live the Fifth Commandment: Honor your father and mother.