Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

Q. 63: Which is the fifth commandment?
Answer: The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. 64: What is required in the fifth commandment?
Answer: The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals. (WSC)

The fifth commandment commands us to honor our fathers and mothers. This honor is expressed through obedience, deference, reverence, and care in old age, as I have explained in more detail here. Parents give us life. We begin as helpless infants in their hands, to be nourished and brought up unto maturity by them. We do not come into this world independent and sovereign. We are cast upon our parents and receive a wealth of unearned benefits from them and from past generations. Our basic attitude toward them then ought to be one of reverence and gratitude, of filial piety.

The catechism recognizes that this command has many implications that are brought out in the rest of Scripture. Scripture uses the terms of “mother” and “father” to describe, not only natural parents, but other superiors as well (e.g. 1 Tim. 5:1-2, 1 Cor. 10:1, Gen. 45:8, 2 Kings 5:13, Is. 49:23, Acts 7:2, Phil. 1:10). Similar honor is to be given, as the Larger Catechism says, to “all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” And being given this honor and/or authority, these superiors are therefore responsible to God for its use. Superiors have obligations to those under them. The brief answers of the Shorter Catechism on this commandment are greatly expanded in questions and answers 123-133 of the Larger Catechism.

All of this is quite contrary to the egalitarianism is that is common in our society. It should be noted that the catechism uses the terms “superiors, inferiors, or equals” to refer to rank and status, not value. As Paul says, while the members of the body are different, yet every member of the body is essential, and none should be despised (1 Cor. 12). Scripture speaks of a spiritual equality which coexists with the structured order of society (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:21-24, Job 31:13-15, 1 Peter 3:7). These truths are complementary, because the order that God has appointed in society does not pit us against each other (although human depravity does), but obligates us to each other for our mutual good. In his design, we are interdependent, born into a web of human relations, in which each contributes and receives over the course of his or her life, with obligations binding together the weak and strong.

No comments: