When you read the Bible, you can sometimes see a hierarchy in the way things are listed. For example, each list of the twelve apostles shows Peter first and Judas last.
There’s another hierarchy you can find in the Old Testament: the Ten Commandments. The initial three, often depicted by themselves on one stone tablet, deal with our relationship with God. And the very first one is the most important: “I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt not have other gods before me.”
Further down the list, we see the hierarchy still in play. “Thou shalt not kill” is obviously more important than the prohibition against adultery, which is greater than the one against stealing, which in turn is more important than not lying. And you can see how those are of more concern than coveting, whether of your neighbor’s spouse or goods.
But then there’s this one Commandment that seems—at least by today’s standards–to throw a monkey wrench into the whole idea of such a hierarchy.
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
It’s the fourth Commandment, right after keeping the Lord’s day holy and right above “Thou shalt not kill.”
Really? Honoring one’s parents is more important than not committing murder?
Yet that’s where God chose to place that Commandment. And God doesn’t make mistakes.
You’d never know, by watching any current television program, that God gives it such weight. When, for example, is the last time you saw a TV show in which a child honored his parents?
Instead, parents, it seems, are supposed to honor their kids, bending over backwards to win their children’s affection. Nowadays parents—especially conservative ones—are portrayed as idiots who need to learn how to love. A parent is supposed to not only accept but honor his child’s life choices, even if he is constantly breaking the sixth Commandment by having sex without the benefit of marriage. Anybody who doesn’t is portrayed as a cruel, doddering old fool standing in the way of true love.
Of course we should all show respect for each other, but I honestly don’t think parents honoring their kids’ sinfulness is what God had in mind when He wrote that Commandment, and especially when he chose to place it where He did.
But I digress. What I should really be looking at is how well I myself have kept that Commandment.
I have to admit I went through those ridiculous teenage years in which I thought my parents weren’t terribly bright–as if my life experience was so much greater that I knew better than they did. Mom and Dad, whom, when I was little, I had accepted as almost God-like, suddenly didn’t know their right from their left. How lucky for them that they had a teenage daughter who could set them straight.
Of course, as I got older, I realized I was the one who hadn’t been so bright.
As Mark Twain once put it, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Both of my parents are gone now. Dad died in 2001, and Mom followed him five years later. Sometimes I wish I could go back and show them the honor and respect I should have.
After all, God seems to think such honor is very important indeed.