I’m sure you know God has a plan for your life. But did you know honoring your family is a vital part of that plan?
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12).
We are to honor God first, then our families, and then our neighbors. Our culture does not reward this pattern. The American way calls for us to put work and success first and to forget about rest and worship. If we follow the American way, however, then we aren’t following Jesus’ way, which is the way of honor.
Honoring our families is part of God’s plan to bless us. The reason is that when we honor our families, we build our life on a solid, unbreakable foundation that impacts every relationship in our lives, including our relationship with Jesus. This is why I believe those who don’t obey this commandment will experience adversity in all areas of life.
The command to honor our parents is found in Exodus 20. God was frustrated with the people of Israel. They badly needed a reminder from their Lord to honor one another. By not honoring one another and by not honoring the Lord, God’s children were hindering His ability to bless them. As any frustrated father would do, God once again tried to set the people of Israel back on the right path. Through the Ten Commandments, God was calling His people back to honor, and honoring parents is a key element of that honor.
Honoring our parents creates a foundation of honor in our lives that allows us to truly honor God and others.
There are many people who are so mesmerized by their mission that they forget the biggest part of it—the mission to honor their own family before they honor other people. No matter what great opportunity may come to you in the future or what opportunity you are being offered right now, at the end of the day, you are to always honor your family.
In the Bible, there are many examples of children honoring their parents, but perhaps the best examples are those we see in the life of Jesus. He had a direct, powerful relationship with His heavenly Father, but He also had earthly parents who deserved His honor. Jesus made a clear distinction between His relationship with God and His relationship with Joseph and Mary. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Luke 2, when Jesus left His parents’ caravan to listen to the teachers in the temple (vv. 43–46).
It took three days for Jesus’ parents to find Him, and when they did, they were obviously frustrated and afraid. When they asked why He would do such a thing, Jesus was honestly surprised. To Him, going to His Father’s house was exactly what He should do. He was honoring God. Rather than cause them further distress, however, “he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them” (v. 51a). He continued to honor them right up until His death on the cross. In fact, one of His last acts was to honor His mother by ensuring she would be cared for after He was gone (John 19:25–27).
Jesus is, as always, our prime example of how to live and thus honor our families. We will talk more about how Jesus created a culture of honor in later chapters, but it is important to note now that throughout His life, He was committed to honoring His earthly parents. Little is recorded of His childhood and youth before He began His public ministry, but much of what we know shows Jesus honoring His parents.
God never tells us to choose who deserves our honor. Rather, He tells us to honor one another. Those people may have done horrible things, but God loves them. God isn’t saying we have to condone their actions; in fact, we should never condone abuse or neglect. But we need to recognize that every person has worth and none are beyond redemption.
When we honor every person in our lives, they learn to honor one another.
So much of our lives is shaped by childhood and our relationships with our parents. Without honor in the family, the rest of the community suffers. God calls each of us to honor those closest to us so we can learn to honor everyone. None of His other commandments is possible without this foundation of honor within the family. This foundation of honor allows us to exude honor to all we come into contact with.
Listen to the podcast below to hear more of Pastor Wilkerson’s teaching on honor as an essential key to life.
This article is adapted from I Choose Honor: The Key to Relationships, Faith, and Life (Charisma House, 2019) by Rich Wilkerson Sr. Wilkerson is the founder of Peacemakers and the senior pastor of Trinity Church in Miami, Florida. He is also an evangelist and author. Since 1973, Wilkerson has ministered to youths and families through evangelism and local church ministry. His humorous style and power-packed speaking have been the keys to seeing thousands turn to Christ. More than 1.5 million students have attended his presentations on over 1600 public school campuses throughout the United States and Canada. The Wilkersons also serve as chancellors at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Wilkerson and his wife, Robyn, are ministering in the heart of Miami and continue to be committed to the local community through cutting-edge ministry outreaches. The Wilkersons have been married for over 40 years and have four sons, three daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.