“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Exodus 20:12 ESV)
Any reader of the fifth commandment can clearly see that the instruction from God is directed towards the child in the parental-child relationship. Those who are children are to do the honoring of their parents.
Yet, we would be remiss if we did not see an implied responsibility toward the parents in this command. This implied responsibility is spelled out in later passages of the Bible.
What is that responsibility? It is to be honorable. That is, we are to be able to be honored.
This commandment is for earthly children to honor their earthly parents. Surely we glean from the Bible that as children of our Heavenly Father, we are to honor God.
If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.
(Malachi 2:2 ESV)
Paul even describes the unregenerate this way,
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
(Romans 1:21 ESV)
This heavenly relationship between the Father and his children serves as the basis for the earthly relationship for those who are fathers and children on earth. A father’s chief responsibility as a parent is to present himself honorable as God does to his children.
In fact, Paul wrote to the Romans that as believers we are to seek honor.
He will render to each one according to his works:
to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
(Romans 2:6-7 ESV)
Notice that this is accomplished by being patient in well-doing. We might think of this as doing well over the long haul. Keep in mind that this is at the onset of Paul’s elaborate explanation of the gospel. Do not think that you will do this without fail (See Fathers as Flawed Heroes). Instead we will have to trust the power of the gospel to overcome our sinful failings.
Our children live in a fallen world with temptations lurking at every turn. Be the kind of father who will provide a credible witness to the Father above in your children’s eyes. Live out the gospel before their lives.
A dishonorable father is a tool of the tempter in luring his children towards sin. Jesus taught us how serious it is to cause one of the little ones to sin,
“Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!
It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
(Luke 17:1-2 ESV)
So, be a father who is honorable, and in so doing you will clear the path for your children to obey God by honoring you.