Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at .roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

The scriptures say to honor your mother and father. What if your parents are not the Godly examples they are supposed to be? (Divorced because of adultery (both), with one of them being an alcoholic. All while supporting one of them financially, so they do not end up on the street.) How can I honor either of them when I have no respect left for them?

I pray for patience, kindness and understanding knowing how difficult marriage/relationships can be even for Christians, but I feel guilty all the time because I know that I cannot fulfill what God asks me to do here.

Sincerely, L


Dear L,

Of course you are referring to the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). By the way, the two tablets have four commandments written on the first tablet and each has to do with man’s relationship with God. The second tablet has six commandments and each of these has to do with peoples’ relationships with each other.

Honoring mom and dad is the first commandment on the second tablet. God’s concern here is for the ongoing functioning and security of the family unit. As the family goes, so goes a society. Cohesive family units center around mom and dad—their actions, morals, values and beliefs. As these are passed on to children, society itself remains strong and functional. This is what “so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” refers to—a strong familial foundation for the society and culture involved.

God intends for mom and dad to care for their children with patience, instruction, discipline, correction and love as they imprint their values and prepare their children for life. Children then love and respect their parents and honor them accordingly.

Biblically, you have the right to expect that you mother and father be parents of which you can be proud.

For example, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians12:14: “After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” It is such a shame that you are needing to care financially for one of your parents. God never intended for you to be in this position. When I was born, my mom and dad decided that one of their responsibilities was to put us children through college. So, they did. My dad said over and over, “You can have a summer job and make money then; but during the school year your job is to make “As”. Does it get any better than that?

Hebrews 12:5-11 describes the loving concern with which a father trains, instructs, rebukes and encourages his children. God the Father is our fathers’ model.

My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.