Reading from Scripture
Respect your father and your mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you.
One of the very first instructions from God to man was to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). As a result children were born and families came into being. Children are by no means ‘accidents’ and they effectuated parenthood in one form or another. In the end children are a gift – a blessing – given by God Himself.
Western culture is predominantly individually orientated. In biblical times things were different. People were always seen as part of a larger society or family, where people took care of one another and where order was maintained. The family created the environment where everyone learned about responsibility within the larger context of civil society.
Parents had certain responsibilities: mothers took care of the children for the first couple of years and the father had to fulfil a threefold role:
• as king he had to coach his children and teach them the finer skills of the trade – to be able to follow in his footsteps. He also took care of disciplining them;
• as prophet he had to instil into them the knowledge of the Torah and reverence for the Lord;
• as priest he had to intercede with God on their behalf at the sacrificial altar.
This commandment demands respect for parents in the first instance. Parents need to act in such a manner that they earn respect. Respect for parents does not hinge on the person, but on the responsibility handed down to them by God.
To be honest: in many respects our homes have become a place to eat and sleep at. A very small remnant of family life has remained intact. People living in the same house merely rush past one another on their way in or out. To fulfil the role of parent has become almost impossible. In many instances the commandment seems to have been turned around: Parents, be obedient towards your children….!
Time has come for parents to take charge again. This will most probably be very unpopular, but will reflect our commitment to God’s command (Deutr 6:6-9
). Families, as well as society will benefit from this.
Lord, help our families to respect and enjoy each other. Amen.