Honoring Our Fathers

What does honoring a father look like?

2024 | Week of June 10 | Radio Transcript #1570

God’s Ten Commandments as given to Moses in the Old Testament clearly instruct us to honor our father and mother, and the admonition is repeated several times in the New Testament. Funny how today we don’t hear so much about that commandment. We hear a lot about fatherlessness and the staggering negative impact this epidemic is having on our society, but we really don’t hear much about how we are to honor fathers in particular.

What does it mean to honor someone?   Honoring someone is not the same as loving them, although it is certainly easier to honor someone we love. Notably, the Holy Scriptures don’t command children to love their mothers and fathers.  In essence, honoring someone means treating him or her with the gravity his/her position demands.

It’s kind of like with the United States presidency. We don’t always like, let alone love the person who holds the office. Nevertheless, the position demands certain things, like standing when the president enters the room or addressing him as “Mr. President.”

Hebrew scholars note that the opposite of the Hebrew word “to honor” is a word that means “to make light of.”  In other words, to dishonor parents would be to behave in a way that belittles or makes light of their esteemed role as a parent—a role they have just by virtue of being our parents. Whether they are good or bad parents doesn’t really factor in.

Honoring our parents involves both speech and action. We speak respectfully to and about our parents. We stay in contact with them, doing everything possible to avoid severing that relationship. We live in a way that makes them proud. We avoid doing things that embarrass them. And we do so no matter our age and no matter whether our parents are still with us or have passed away.

Obviously, no dad is perfect—and some dads are or were much more imperfect than others. Some dads have been abusive to their children, which is never right and is reprehensible and can sometimes mean a dad goes to jail. But Scripture doesn’t have asterisks on this commandment nor any kind of qualifiers. It simply says we are to honor our father.  Most dads are pretty good people, and the following ideas generally assume that is the case; some can be adapted for dads who don’t qualify as “good.”

As sons and daughters, we respect our fathers when we disagree without getting angry, without speaking harshly or using belittling language. We respect our fathers by asking for their advice and opinion, especially in areas where they have experience and knowledge.

Another way of honoring fathers is, if appropriate, to name a child after them, or to give, do or build something in their honor. On Father’s Day one year, our church had a car show after the morning service. A lady in our church whose father had passed away recently, honored her dad and his memory by providing refreshments during the Car Show.

Another way to honor a living dad is to do something with him, maybe even something you don’t particularly enjoy but you know he does. Maybe it’s going to a car race or playing a round of golf or chopping wood or helping him with a building project. Spending time with a dad is one of the best ways to honor him.

Treating your mother well also respects your dad. In addition, being a good husband or good wife and loving your own family, also shows your dad respect.

We honor dad when we acknowledge his role in our achievements. I’ve said many times, the very best basketball coach I ever had was my dad—and he never coached a team I played on. But he spent countless hours shooting hoops and going one-on-one with me on our home court. I also enjoy honoring my dad by acknowledging his role in my education. He always championed more schooling and did everything he could to make sure I had many educational opportunities.

The commandment to honor our father is not restricted to one day a year. Every day in some way we should seek to honor our father—and not just because that commandment comes with the promise of a long life.  No dad is perfect; all dads fail in some way. That doesn’t negate our responsibility to honor them. Perhaps in doing so we encourage those dads who remain with us to try even harder to be the dads God wants them to be—and when that happens, we are all blessed.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council, wishing all you dads a great Father’s Day, and reminding you that God, through the Prophet Hosea, said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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