The Fifth Commandment
James J. Barker

"Honour thy father and thy mother:
that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." - Exodus 20:12

Text: EXODUS 20:1-17



1.    A few weeks ago, we started a series on the Ten Commandments.  First, we looked at the first four commandments.  These deal with man’s duty to God.  This morning, I will preach on the fifth commandment.  These last six commandments emphasize man’s responsibility towards his fellow man.

2.    There is an important Biblical principle that right relations with our fellow-men grow out of a right relationship with God.

3.    Today we are seeing an increase in lawlessness and no reasonable person will deny that murder, adultery, lying, and stealing are becoming more and more acceptable.  Just read the newspapers or glance at some of the garbage on TV.

4.    But how many people have considered that this disregard for the second table of the Decalogue has come about because people had already ignored the first table of the Decalogue?

5.    We should not be surprised that unregenerate sinners can sin without blushing, but it is terrible that oftentimes we Christians make excuses for our sins.   We need to see sin the way our holy and righteous God sees sin.

6.    The fifth commandment teaches us that our duty towards our fellow man begins with our responsibility to those who brought us into this world (Ex. 20:12).

7.    If children are true to their parents, it will be easier for them to be true to God.  God uses the human relationship as a symbol – He is our Father, we are His offspring.

8.    On the other hand, if children have not learned to be obedient and respectful at home, they are likely to have little respect for any authority (pastors, teachers, policemen, employers, et al).  There is an old saying: “The tree grows the way the twig is bent.”

9.    Two doctors were talking one day.  One of them was a pediatrician, and he made this statement to the other, Dr. J. Adam Clark: “When it comes to a serious illness, the child who has been taught to obey stands four times the chance of recovery that the spoiled and undisciplined child does.”

10. Later on, Dr. Clark wrote, “Those words made a lasting impression upon me.  Up to that time I had been taught that one of the Ten Commandments was for children to obey their parents.  Never had it entered my mind that a question of obedience might mean the saving or losing of a child’s life.”

11. Many other illustrations could be given: One day a father noticed his son running into the street after a ball.  But the boy did not see a car racing up the street from the other direction. The father yelled: “Son, stop right there!”  The boy immediately obeyed and the car did not hit him.  But what would have happened if that boy ignored his father’s command?







1.    As I said a few minutes ago, the Bible uses the human relationship as a picture of man’s relationship with God.  The great Bible teacher G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “for here the parent is viewed as being in the place of God to the child.  In the early days of human life, while as yet the mind is unable to grasp the most elementary ideas of God, the supreme facts concerning Him are to be impressed upon the child by a revelation of them in its parents.”

2.    William Shakespeare said: “The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are Heaven’s lieutenants.”

3.    Each and every one of us owes his existence in this world to his parents.  Except for them we would not be here this morning.

4.    Just think for a moment of God’s wonderful provision for children in the relationship of parent and child.  Think of how our parents protected us, cared for us, fed us, clothed us, and instructed us.

5.    Many of us were not raised in a Christian home.  But we can still thank God that He gave us parents that taught us right from wrong, and spanked us when we needed it, and made sure we went to school and church, etc.

6.    We are looking at an important Biblical precept: “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12).  This precept assumes that parents know a whole lot more than their children.  Mark Twain said that when he was a boy he thought his father didn’t know a whole lot.  Then Mark Twain grew up and he said that he was amazed how much his father had learned all of a sudden!

7.    RW Dale wrote these words over 100 years ago, “Our fathers and our grandfathers were not all fools.  The sun did not begin to shine when you and I came into the world, and though I trust that wisdom will not die with this generation, depend upon it – wisdom was not born with us…It is surely probable that men and women who have lived in the world twenty or thirty years longer than yourselves have found out some things worth knowing, of which you know nothing; if you are silly enough to dispense with all their experience, you are tolerably certain to suffer for your pains” (The Ten Commandments).

8.    Since parents brought us into this world, and know a lot more than we do, it is only proper that we honor them and obey them.

9.    Someone has said, “Young men think old men are fools, and old men know young men to be so” (cf. I Kings 12:1-15; Lev. 19:32).

10. These Scriptures remind us that the fifth commandment has a wider application.   Our duty to parental authority extends beyond our parents and includes many others. 

11. That is why the apostle Paul writes in I Timothy 5:1, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father.”  And, “The elder women as mothers” (I Tim. 5:2).   And I Timothy 5:3 says, “Honour widows that are widows indeed.”

12. When Elijah the prophet went up by a whirlwind into heaven, Elisha cried out, “My father, my father…” (II Kings 5:12).  Over the years, many Christians have taught that the fifth commandment regulates our attitude and behaviour towards all earthly authority.

13. I remember when I first got saved I honored and respected each pastor and each deacon in my church as if he were my father.

14. Children should respect their parents.  They should not be sassy, impudent, fresh, or rude.  They should not roll their eyes or make faces or talk back, etc.

15. When George Washington was a young man he had his heart set on going out to sea.  His trunk was already on board the ship and he went to say good-bye to his mother.  He found her in tears, and with a heavy heart she asked him not to go.  Washington said to one of the hired men: “Go and tell them to return my trunk.  I will not leave and break my mother’s heart.”

16. George Washington’s Christian mother took him in her arms and said: “George, God has promised to bless the children that obey their parents.  And I believe He will bless you.”


II. A WONDERFUL PROMISE (Ex.  20:12; cf. Eph. 6:1-3).

1.    Here we see a promise added on to the precept.  Those who honor their parents develop good habits and character.  Generally they tend to live a lot longer than those who dishonor their parents and fall into bad habits which lead to poor health and shorter lives.

2.    It is seldom preached these days but the Bible teaches that disobeying parents is a wicked sin, comparable with fornication, murder, hating God, pride, and so on (cf. Rom. 1:29-32; II Tim. 3:1-5).

3.    These Scriptures remind us that disrespect for parents is pagan, wicked and anti-Christian.  Is it any wonder that young people today are looking more and more like barbarians and pagans – with all of the body piercing, tattoos, strange hairstyles, horrible clothing (and in some cases, lack of clothing)?

4.    Let me say a few words to our young people.  Do you want to please the Lord?  Then “obey your parents in all things” (Col. 3:20).

5.    The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about obedience to parents (cf. Pro. 30:11-14, 17). 

6.    Many of us are old enough to remember the `60’s and the hippie movement.  Many people trace the hippie movement to the Beatles and the other shaggy rock groups.  But there is a long-haired rebel who lived 3,000 years ago and his name was Absalom (cf. II Sam. 14:25, 26). 

7.    He disobeyed his father, King David, and rebelled against him. Absalom did not live a long life, and he died a horrible and painful death.  His long hair got caught in the bough of a great oak tree (II Sam. 18:9), and Joab thrust three darts through his heart.  Then they took his body and threw it into a pit in the woods on Mount Ephraim (cf. Pro. 20:20).

8.    I hope there are no Absaloms here this morning. Don’t be fresh and sassy to your father or mother.  Treat them with proper respect (cf. Ex. 21:17).

9.    The best example of an obedient child is our Lord Himself (cf. Luke 2:51; John 19:26, 27; Heb. 5:8).



1.    It is a fact that many parents provide shelter, food, education, medical and dental treatment, music lessons, toys, and a hundred other things but neglect their most important responsibility – that is to lead their children to the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.    Moms, Dads, what good is it if Junior goes off to Harvard or Yale and becomes a big CEO or a doctor or lawyer and makes a great income but he is lost and on his way to hell? (Eph. 6:4)

3.    Most parents today do not spank their children.  But the Bible commands us to discipline our children (cf. Pro. 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:15, 17).

4.    Someone said, “When a youth begins to sow wild oats, it’s time for the father to start the threshing machine.”

5.    One preacher said his father was very patriotic.  He said he believed in the stars and stripes.  He said: “He gave me the stripes, and I saw stars!”

6.    It is disheartening to go into a store and see some little brat terrorizing his parents and sometimes even the other shoppers and store clerks.  I heard of one little monster who jumped up on a hobby horse and wouldn’t get off.  His mother begged him over and over to get off but he would not obey her.  She tried bribing him with candy and toys but nothing worked. Finally, one worker in the store went over and whispered in the boy’s ear.  The little brat jumped off the hobby horse and started running.  The relieved mother asked the gentleman what he promised her son.  He replied, “I promised him nothing.  I told him to get off immediately or I would give him a good whipping!”

7.    Be careful.  Nowadays, you might wind up getting arrested if you try that!  It happens all the time.



1.     The fifth commandment says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12; cf. Proverbs 3:1-4).

2.     Consider the story of the Rechabites, who were descended from Jonadab.  Their father told them not to drink wine and they obeyed.  In fact, they obeyed their father in everything, from generation to generation (Jer. 35:8, 12-19).

3.     Explorers have reported meeting Rechabites to this day, and they are still obeying their father Jonadab (Jer. 35:18, 19).

4.     Lehman Strauss, in his exposition of the fifth commandment, writes, “Geike tells us that the promise has been wonderfully fulfilled, for as late as the year 1862 AD, Signor Pierotti met a tribe of Rechabites near the south-east end of the Dead Sea.  At that time they were still observing the precepts of Jonadab” (The Eleven Commandments).


<< Back                                       Next >>