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The Fifth Commandment

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which The Lord your God gives you." (Exodus 20:12 RSV)


The Ten Commandments The first four of the Ten Commandments instruct how to recognize, worship and obey the only true God. The next six Commandments instruct how to live in peace with our fellow humans - beginning with parents (birth parents, adopted parents, or legal guardians - as it has been through all of human history), the first humans that we learn to be "people" with.

Violation of the Fifth Commandment was a capital offense:

"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 RSV)

"Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death ... Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:15,17 RSV)

Honoring parents is not however a "one way street" - parents have a responsibility to conduct themselves so as to be worthy of honor:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother," this is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4 RSV)

"The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." (Ezekiel 18:20 RSV)

Even as He was in agony on the cross, Jesus Christ obeyed the Fifth Commandment by seeing to the care of His mother:

"standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:25-27 RSV) (see also Aunt Mary?)

The Fifth Commandment, which deals with those who gave us physical life, also applies ultimately to how we may be born into spiritual life (see Born Again, How and When?), in which God is the Father, the Holy Spirit of God is the means of "spiritual conception," and the Church (as an entity, composed of potential, as yet unborn Children Of God - see People or Place?) is the mother:

"Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name" (Matthew 6:9 RSV)

"that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6 RSV) (see Spiritual Conception)

"My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you ... the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother" (Galatians 4:19,26 RSV) (see Daughter of Zion)

Fact Finder: Is Jesus Christ "the first-born among many brethren"?
Romans 8:29
See also Resurrections

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