By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
As Christians we acknowledge that the ten commandments were inspired by God and provide us with helpful guidance for how to live our lives. They help us to understand our relationship to God and to each other. They teach us truths about ourselves and about our worlds that illumine how we are to be. But I’m convinced that Moses came up with “honor your mother and father” one day by himself when his son Gershom gave him some lip.
“Honor your mother and father” is a time honored tradition of parents who want to appeal to a higher authority when their kid is getting to be a bit too much. Which I get, because as a parent, I’ll use any tool in my toolbox. But I love the way the Westminster Catechism expands this commandment saying:
“The Fifth Commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals."
You see, this is not just about honoring your parents, but about how we honor each other. If I want my daughter to honor me, then it’s incumbent on me to show her what it is to honor people. If we want people to honor their ‘parents,' however we choose to define it, then we need to be able to model that honor.
And, as the Westminster Catechism demonstrates, it is not just that I need to model what it is to honor those in power over me, those with authority over me, or those in a ‘paternal’ role. The fifth commandment tells me that I am to honor all people, regardless of the status that the world imparts on them. To honor people both ‘great’ and ‘small.'
As I’m writing this, I’m also watching the film adaptation of Horton Hears a Who, in which the central message is that “a person’s a person, no matter how small." My hope is that when we read the fifth commandment we understand it to mean that we are to recognize and honor all people, in ‘their several places and relations.'
We are taught this lesson, to honor mother and father, and having learned it we realize that all people have worth and dignity; that all people are worthy of honor.
It’s easy to honor those who hold power over us. It’s common practice, and certainly encouraged, that we show honor to those who are "greater" or higher status than we are. But that is not where God wants us to stop. God knows that we’re to show honor to all people, recognizing the dignity and worth in every person. In taking this commandment seriously, we recognize the honor that we owe to each other, and recognize that all people are worthy of honor.
Because after all, a person’s a person no matter how small.