The Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.
With this commandment, we move to what is traditionally called the “second table.” The first three commandments (first table) draw us to our relation to God, that we trust in Him with our whole heart and fear Him for life, that we properly use His name by speaking sound doctrine and right praise which profits our neighbor and ourselves, and that we take time to rest in Him and His Word through daily prayer and devotion, and through regular attendance in the Divine Service. The last seven commandments concern how we relate to our neighbor, with the fourth commandment being the most important.
In creation, God established authorities over society, and fatherhood and motherhood in the holy estate of marriage is the highest authority. In spite of what culture says today, children are to be raised by one father and one mother united for life in matrimony, just as God designed it and commands it from the beginning. Living together outside of marriage is not only dishonoring God and His Word and sinful, but it is also exhibiting a bad example to the children. Parents’ main responsibility is to raise their children in Christian homes surrounded by the things of God so those children be brought up and prepared for the life to come, and this can only properly be done when both parents have committed to each other before God and men and “tied the knot.” Co-occupation without matrimony is no better than showing God the middle finger toward His commitment to His church, since marriage is the symbol of Christ and His church, and sexual activity outside of marriage is a distortion of the consummation to come on the Last Day when God’s people are brought into the eternal chamber of eternal life. Everything this fallen and corrupt world does and teaches is to profane Christ and the church, so we should not be surprised that the devil’s playground is filled with all sorts of horrible vices and behaviors, the worst being the degradation of marriage and family. And should we take part in these behaviors, we are not only a poor witness to the lost, but we are failing to be the honorable parents and authorities God desires for our children.
The reason marriage is so important also extends to the father and mother’s authority in society. Family is at the absolute center of society. It is father and mother who gives the authority for a civil government to establish laws, for schools to teach, for commerce to commence, and for society to engage in civil discourse. Marriage and family is the reason a nation is built. Marriage and family is the reason gainful employment is offered. Marriage and family is the reason the government enforces laws, provides roads and bridges, and defends borders. When the family breaks down — with fathers and mothers no longer take their authority seriously and children refuse to honor and respect their parents — society is surely next to fall. Such is precisely what we are seeing in our nation today.
Fathers and mothers are over all other authorities. Therefore, children must honor and obey, not only their fathers and mothers, but also their teachers, coaches, principals, school bus drivers, employers, the police, the judges and magistrates, and every other authority that exists, as they all serve the greater authority – father and mother – and father and mother serve the highest authority – God Himself.
Children and the young are to obey their parents by honoring them and considering them most precious above all else. This is certainly a high calling, and parents should not make this difficult for their children by living scandalous or ungodly lives. Children also express their honor by living chaste and upright lives, helping and serving the neighbor in love, and using their bodies in honor to God.
And as much as children and youth are to obey and honor their parents and other authorities, parents are to obey and honor those authorities placed over them. The Lord places pastors in the churches and His pastors have authority over the entire congregation, including parents. But this authority is generally limited to spiritual matters. A pastor cannot tell anyone what career path to take or what food to eat, but he can and must exhort sinners to repent, instruct the congregation in right and wrong, hear the sins of the penitent and absolve them, discipline those who refuse to repent, and all other pastoral responsibilities given to him by God. All Christians are to honor and obey their pastors in these matters and refrain from showing disrespect or exasperating their pastors through quarreling, gossiping, slander, being permissive toward sinning, a poor salary or unhealthy living conditions, through expecting their pastors to perform functions not meant for pastors, or generally making the job and calling of pastors unbearable, undesirable, tiresome, or hostile. For inasmuch as father and mother are the heads of a household and children must be obedient, the pastors are the heads and representatives of Christ in the congregation and God’s children must be obedient.
As children must honor and obey their parents and those in authority over them, and as parents must honor and obey their pastors, employers, and those in authority over them, pastors must honor and obey God so that they do not exasperate their congregations through false teaching, wicked practices, or expecting too much from their congregations. 1 Timothy 3 provides a fine description of how pastors are to carry out their ministry in an honorable, godly, and loving way. Above all, pastors much faithfully preach the Word and administer the Sacraments in accordance with Christ’s command.
Prayer: Creator and sustainer of all, be with all fathers and mothers and teach them to love their families as You love them. Instruct them to honor the marriage bed and to be fine examples to their children. Be with the children and youth, and exhort them to honor and obey their parents and all in authority over them, to love and serve their neighbors as representatives of Your eternal family. Be with pastors and protect them from evil and keep them faithful in persecution and suffering. Be with the congregations of Your church, that the members therein might honor and obey their pastors and spiritual leaders, provide for them and offer every help they can. In Jesus’ name, Amen.