Exodus 20.12



1.   When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, what is called their Exodus, He brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai and made them into a nation.  The core document that formed the basis for the nationís laws and ordinances was what we refer to as the ten commandments, ten commands written on two small tablets of stone.

2.   The first four commands, the command to have no other gods before Him, the command prohibiting the worship of God with any graven images, the command prohibiting taking the LORDís name in vain, and the command to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, are four commands that deal with manís relationship with God.

3.   And when God formed the nation of Israel from the children of Israel He formed the nation as a theocracy, a nation ruled directly by God.  God will once again rule by means of a theocratic kingdom when Jesus comes again to establish His millennial kingdom.  But until that time we must make do with less beneficial forms of governance.

4.   The command that we consider this morning is the fifth command, found in Exodus 20.12.  When you find that verse, please stand and we will read that portion of Godís Word together:  ďHonour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.Ē

5.   It is thought by many that this command is the first of the commands to be written on the second of the stone tablets.[1]  This is the first of the commands oriented toward manís relationships with other men, and shows what relationship is most important to the health and vitality of a nation, the relationship of child to parent.

6.   I think it is important to point out that this command does not establish that parents are to dote on their children.  Neither does this command establish that parents are to prefer their children to each other.  Rather, this command establishes that the most important type of behavior necessary for the establishing and maintaining of a healthy nation and state, so far as peopleís treatment of each other is concerned, is the proper treatment of parents by their children.

7.   Excuse me, but I think parents ought to treat their children properly.  I think parents ought to love their children, ought to nurture their children, ought to teach and train their children.  I think parents who do not love and cherish and nurture and teach and train their children are despicable. 

8.   But if the order and sequence in which these ten commands are laid out shows us anything, it shows us that how the children treat their parents is far more important than how the parents treat their children. 

9.   Parents may be a bit gruff with their children and the nation is not adversely affected.  Parents may be a bit too strict with their children and the society is not adversely affected.  Parents may even dote on their children and spoil them a bit without damaging the culture.  But if they raise children who do not honor them, the nation will not survive too many more generations.

10. Some parents feel that their children should be waited upon like eastern potentates.  Some parents feel their children should be catered to as though they are little lord Fauntleroys.  Other parents feel that their children should be denied nothing, and should always get up when they want, eat what they want, eat when they want, go to bed when they want, wear what they want, dress as they want, and watch what they want.

11. Little of this matters a great deal so long as they raise their children to honor them.  If you raise your children to show respect toward you, to treat you with courtesy and kindness, to speak peaceably to you, and to obey your commands, then you have gone very far toward raising your children correctly, and you have started them down the path to honoring their fathers and their mothers.

12. Now, how can it be proved that this command is truly important, and is the most important of the commands governing relations between individuals?  It can be proven in two ways:  First, it can be proven by the fact that this is the first of the commands given to regulate the way citizens treat each other, and is the command upon which all interpersonal relationships are properly built.

13. Second, this is the first command with a promise given in support of it.  The longevity of the people upon the land that God had given to them is directly related by this promise to childrenís honoring of their fathers and their mothers.  And in the New Testament, Ephesians 6.3, the length of a personís span of life is shown to be affected by his obedience to this command to honor his father and his mother.

14. ďHow can that be, pastor?Ē says the infidel, says the person who doesnít believe the Bible.  I donít suppose that Iím terribly interested in trying to persuade an antisupernaturalist who denies the willingness and the power of God to work behind the scenes to lengthen the life span of a man or a woman who shows deference to Him by honoring father and by honoring mother, but I am willing to explain what happens to children who just want to know.

15. Itís referred to as Providence, and itís the foreseeing care and guidance of God over His creatures.[2]  I prefer to think of it as the unseen hand of God, moving in the lives of His creatures to order and direct the minutest details of our lives.

16. Providence, then, sees to it that the life span of that boy or that girl, that man or that woman, who honors father and who honors mother is longer than it would otherwise be.  And how is this brought about?  In any number of ways.  Let me settle only on the ways that are not supernatural.

17. The boy or girl who honors father and mother is a child who will more easily bow to authority, more easily obey laws, more easily defer to superiors, than those who are stiff necked and rebellious, than those who do not honor their parents. 

18. Such a child is less inclined to have run ins with law enforcement, is less inclined to have difficulty in school or on the job, and thus is likely to live a more peaceable and conflict free life than someone who is always bristling, always resisting, always chafing.

19. Who is more likely to end up in a gang, or working a low paying and menial job, or in prison, or with a stress related illness?  And each of these categories shortens the span of a personís life.  Will it be that child who honored her father and mother?  Or will it be that know it all who insisted on going his own way against his parentís wishes, against his parentís advice, and against his parents wisdom?

20. Who is more likely to end up divorced?  Who is more likely to end up raising delinquent children himself or herself?  Who is likely to ignore helpful hints at child rearing so she can reinvent the wheel as though no one has ever raised a child before?  These things, too, are related to the length of a personís life. 

21. So, there is an observable relationship between honoring father and honoring mother and how long you will end up living.  And you know, in many ways this fifth command is the easiest of the ten commands to comply with.

22. Not that any one of us has ever perfectly honored our fathers or our mothers, and not that present obedience will ever erase past failures to comply with Godís commands.  But as I get older I find that my own personal interest in honoring my father and my mother grows stronger.

23. I look out over our congregation and see a good number of you folks who have sought to honor your fathers and your mothers.  Archie French honored his mother by looking after her until she passed, as did Shirley.  Ron Farrar sought to honor his father until he passed, and seeks to honor his mother still.  Eva Farrar seeks to do the same.

24. Diane Imm took her sweet mom in during her last days, until she needed professional care.  Don Imm looks in on his mom regularly, and had her in his house when she was recovering from surgery.  Lavona Imm took care of her great grandmother while she was still alive, and took a turn with her grandmother yesterday to give her mother some much needed time off to rest.

25. Ken Corum takes care of his aging mother.  And I know that many others of you are preparing yourselves, as I am, for that time in your momís life or your dadís life when you know it will be appropriate to step in and lend a helping hand.  While the whole world seeks to off load their parents so that life can be seemingly freer and easier, God would have us to honor our fathers and to honor our mothers.

26. My sermon will deal with ways in which this command by God to honor our fathers and mothers is violated.  But before brother Isenberger comes, let me tell you a story about the raising of a child who does honor his father and who does honor his mother.

27. I knew a boy in high school who had two older brothers and a younger brother and sister.  For some reason, this middle of five children had to buy his own clothes and make his own way in life from the time he was in junior high school, while his father freely spent money on his older brothers and younger sister and brother.

28. We talked about it one day and he told me that the problem started with his grandmother.  His grandmother once observed to his dad that my friend didnít look like his older brothers and didnít look like his dad.  My friend was a blue eyed blond in a family of brown eyed and brown haired, except for his blond haired and blue eyed mother.  But grandmother thought there was funny business going on.

29. Despite the fact that my friend had the same complexion as his mother, who I had always known to be an honorable and devoted wife, my friendís dad began to treat him differently.  His dad bought cars for every child in the family when they came to driving age, except for my friend.  His dad bought clothes for every child in the family, except for my friend.  His dad paid for college for each of his children, except for one.

30. Over the years this difference in the way the kids were raised created some profound differences in the way their characters formed, but in ways that would surprise you.  My friend worked hard from junior high school onward to earn money to buy his own clothes, to earn money to eventually purchase his own car, and to earn money to pay his own way through college.

31. After college he got married to a woman I introduced him to and started his family.  He worked a job and in his spare time started a submarine sandwich shop near a college campus, just as sub sandwiches became immensely popular.  A few years later he sold the business for a huge profit.

32. My friend now owns a home that is paid for.  He doesnít live an extravagant life, but when he buys a new car he just writes out a check for it.  His brothers and sister are a bit envious of him.  He does better than they do.  Heís more careful with what he has.  And now that their parents are old and feeble, guess who takes care of them?  Yes, the one who was treated differently, the one who now looks so astonishingly like his father, now that both menís hair is white and their faces are lined with age.

33. Iím not advocating that you mistreat your children as a way of preparing them to take care of you in your old age.  Iím only relating to you the way things really happened in the life of a guy I know.  It turned out that he was much better prepared to honor his parents in their old age than his brothers and sisters are.  But why so?

34. His parents helped his brothers and sister so much that they ruined them.  Iím all for training children to honor fathers and mothers while they are growing up, stressing the importance of it and encouraging it in any way I can.  As a matter of fact, itís a major feature of my ministry to young people.  Honor thy father.  Honor thy mother.  No matter what your father or your mother are like, honor them.

35. Folks, what are you doing with your kids?  Are you helping them so much that youíre effectively removing any necessity that they fully grow up, so much that you are removing their impetus to mature, blocking by your help opportunities that come their way to learn some hard lessons that they will never learn while you are playing patty cake with them and indulging them so much?

36. One of my goals as a pastor is to see to it that you are honored by your children.  I think you know that.  So, please make sure you donít raise children so soft that they are ill equipped to honor you by looking after you when you really need it. 

37. Donít retard their growth and development into mature and self sufficient adults by being so weak and anemic of character yourself that you refuse to treat them like the adults they need to become.  And donít think I am opposed to parents helping their kids get over humps in life.  But please step back and take a good look at which humps you should and which humps you should not help them to get over.

38. And if you are clue less as to when to help your kids and when not to, seek counsel.  How should you help and how should you not help?  Seek counsel.  Should you help each child the same, or should you deal with them differently?  Seek counsel. 

39. If you are of limited means, perhaps you can help one child, with the understanding that that child will in turn help out a younger one at the appropriate time.  My dad worked with a man who was one of eight or nine children who went to college.  The parents put the oldest through college, who then put the next one through, who then put the next one through.  And when the last one graduated from college he paid mom and dad back, to help them in their old age.  What a great plan to execute when money is tight.  Amen?

40. And my ultimate interest in all this?  Iím a pastor.  My compulsion is to see people come to Christ and to see them then grow in grace.  So I want you folks to end up being the parents of children who will honor you in your old age, in the fashion God wants you to be honored.

41. Now, letís stand as brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song. 


1.   ďHonour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.Ē  In the New Testament letter to the Ephesians we find the command restated.  Ephesians 6.2-3 reads, ďHonour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.Ē

2.   My friends, this is not a terribly complex and strange obligation that God lays upon children.  It seems like such a natural and reasonable statement of a childís proper responsibility toward those who bring him into the world and who raise him up.

3.   You would think that gratitude alone would be sufficient to encourage children to honor their fathers and mothers.  And were it not for manís sinful nature such would be the case.  Let me state it clearly:  it is your own wickedness and sinfulness that prevents you from honoring your father and your mother, obeying them, submitting to them, pleasing while you are young and treating them with respect and courtesy and looking after them when they are old.

4.   As easy as it is to honor your folks, there are so many whose wickedness is put on display by their unwillingness to honor their fathers and their unwillingness to honor their mothers, which unwillingness demonstrates a rebellious attitude toward God, Who gave you your father and mother.

5.   In the time remaining I want to survey several ways in which this fifth command is violated by children who do not honor their fathers and who do not honor their mothers, and who, therefore, face Godís judgment. 


1B.    You can spot these types of creatures rather quickly.  These are the sons and daughters to back talk their parents, who sit on their rear ends while their parents work, who make faces at their moms and dads when they disagree with them, and who are embarrassed by their parents because of the way they look, or the way they talk, or because they are people of modest means who donít look cool.

2B.    I remember an occasion when I observed a man on the roof of his house, repairing a leak in rainy weather, while his no good 20 year old son sat in front of the boob tube inside the house watching TV.  To this day I regret not walking into that fellowís house and so royally chewing his son out that he wouldnít be able to sit down for a week.  It makes me mad just to think about a guy sitting under my ministry for some years and still ending up a fellow who so dishonors his parents that he treats them like house servants.

3B.    It doesnít matter if your parents arenít in all ways admirable.  It doesnít matter that your dad has some serious hang-ups or that your mother is a profound disappointment to you.  Since when were dads and moms required to live up to their kidís expectations?  God says to honor your father and to honor your mother, but there are many today who just say ďNo.Ē  They wonít do it.

4B.    I know that itís possible for a father to provoke his son to wrath.  We see that warned against in Ephesians 6.4.  But having a father who provokes a son to wrath does not let the son off the hook to honor his father.  It only means it will be more difficult to honor his father.  But he must honor him still. 


1B.    Please turn to Mark 7, where we see the Lord Jesus Christ addressing the issue of seemingly religious and pious people, who are actually using religious rationales to avoid doing what God has clearly commanded them to do:

1          Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

2       And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

3       For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

4       And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not.  And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.

5       Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

6       He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7       Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8       For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9       And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.  

2B.    But how did these wicked men, in particular, sin against God?  By sinning against their parents, and devising a religious scheme to justify their refusal to honor their parents.

10     For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11     But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12     And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13     Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. 

3B.    These guys would take their property and declare it ďsanctifiedĒ for religious use only.  Of course, they could still use it, but they couldnít give it to their parents, and they couldnít sell it to help their parents out financially.  That would violate the ďsacrednessĒ of their sanctified property.  By doing that they deprived their parents of needed help in their old age.

4B.    And, yes, honoring your father and your mother does mean meeting their needs in their old age, whether their needs be financial needs, or their needs be housing needs, or their needs be tending to them physically.

5B.    ďPastor, I would love to do that, but my career makes that impossible.Ē  Change jobs.  ďPastor, I would love to do that, but God has called me to thus and so a ministry.Ē  Change ministries.  My friends, no feeling or impulse to do something, no matter how real it may seem to you to be, should ever be allowed to outweigh in importance something that is written down in Godís Word in black and white.  And God has written, ďHonor thy father and thy mother.Ē

6B.    Weíve got too many so-called Christians these days who use some variation of the Corban argument that the Pharisees used to escape responsibility for honoring their parents, and it just doesnít wash.  God wants you to honor your parents, and thatís the end of the discussion.  Got it? 


1B.    Iím speaking to those of you who are not now in a position to take your mother or father into your home and take care of them financially when they are too feeble to live on their own.  You need to prepare for that day.  Preparedness is the order of the day.

2B.    Some people want to spend their youth surfing and getting a tan.  Other people want to spend their youth partying and riding jet skis.  Still others want to spend their youth working a job that they really like.  May I tell you that what you need to do while you are young is get ready for when you are older?

3B.    You may like doing what you are doing.  But if doing what you are doing doesnít prepare you to take care of your father or your mother when they are unable to look after themselves, then you need to change what you are doing.

4B.    First Timothy 5.8 is very clear in showing that any man who does not tend to the physical needs of his mother or his aunt is worse than an infidel.  Letís turn there and read that verse:  ďBut if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.Ē

5B.    This is pretty strong language.  Denying the faith.  Worse than an infidel.  And what about a young man or a young woman who refuses to prepare to discharge this duty?  What can be said about a fellow or a woman who, when the time comes to tend to aged mother or aged father, says, ďI canít.  I wasted my youth on frivolity.  I was foolish in my youth.  Therefore, I am not preparedĒ?

6B.    Some of you here this morning may very well be violating this command that God has issued by not preparing to honor your mom when she is old.  O, you talk nice to her now.  You are so sweet to her now, when she is relatively young and gives you money and buys clothes for your kids.  But what about the schooling and the preparation necessary to position yourself to be of some use to her when she is old? 


1.   I think this business of honoring your father and honoring your mother is extremely serious.  And God shows it to be serious in His Word.

2.   Especially if you do not take care of your mother in her old age, you are worse than an infidel and you have denied the Christian faith.

3.   So, what is to be said about that person who not only is not able to take care of his father or his mother now, but he has no inclination to take care of his father or his mother when the need arises, and will not now prepare to take care of them when they are old by getting converted, by getting a good education, by getting a good job, and by handling your money wisely between now and then?

4.   What is to be said about that person?  Not much thatís good, I promise you.  Honor your father and honor your mother.  If you donít youíre an antinomian, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.

[1]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henryís Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2]Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1556.

 Home   Who Is God?   God's Word   Sermons   Tracts   Q & A   Feedback  

Order this sermon on tape: or Mail/Phone