WILDERNESS: For Our Parents


Exodus 20:8-11(NIV)

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.


The focus of the covenant takes a turn here from the relationship to God to the relationship with others. Do you see the problem with this compartmentalized thinking? “Takes a turn” is not the right word. Let’s try it this way: The focus of the covenant broadens here from our relationship with God to include our relationships with others. We want to think of these relationships as separate realities, in separate airtight compartments; like putting the meat in one tupperware container and the vegetables in another. The truth? They are all in the same container and have direct correlation with one another.

Let’s be clear—our relationship with God and our relationships with each other are distinctive relationships and yet they are all bound up together in the same seamless space. Said differently, our relationship with God includes our relationships with each other. It’s why the Bible says things like, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Translation: If our relationship with God doesn’t directly show up in our relationships with each other, our relationship with God is broken. Naturally, the first place or context of relationship we have is in the home. This is why the covenant seamlessly broadens to:

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

The covenant unfolds in an ever expanding peace—peace with God, peace in Sabbath, peace in the family, and tomorrow, it will grow to peace in the community.

One more observation about the text of the day. It’s one of my “what ifs.” What if honoring your mother and your father is not about them? What if it is about you? Honoring parents, while being “for” them, is not “about” them. It is about us, and our honor, and ultimately—it is about God’s honor. After all, according to the text, when we honor our parents, they receive honor, but we are the ones who receive the blessing. Many adults find themselves in a place, looking back on their lives, where they feel as though their parents have not honored them in some form or another. It’s real. Parents have made unthinkable mistakes and brought dishonor on entire family lines.

Do we honor them? If our honor is “for” them but not “about” them, and if instead it is “about” us and our honor, and about God—and also receiving blessing from the Lord—why wouldn’t we honor them, even if it means giving honor in exchange for dishonor? Returning good for bad? Sounds a lot like Jesus to me.

Here’s some more good news. Some reading this will feel like it’s too late to honor their parents because they have passed on. It’s not. Even if you could not come to a place of honoring them in life, you can still honor them in death. It may be a challenge, but the Cross always is.

In closing, I would be remiss to miss this opportunity to honor my mother and father. Can I say all I am and ever will be I owe to them and in that seamless way I reference earlier’to God, and yet there is no debt whatsoever. It has been all gift. They are the absolute best, most unselfish, generous, gracious, loving, incredible people I know.


Father, thank you for your Word, for your covenant, for your commandments, for your will, and your ways. Everything we are and have we owe to you and to our parents. Thank you for the gift of our parents, even the ones who were less than we hoped they would be. Help us honor them in life and in death, that we may be blessed and live long in the land. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.


How have you and are you honoring your parents?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt