“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

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” – Ephesians 6:1

The idea of disobeying our parents has not been far from the mind of every girl in every part of the world at some moment in her life. If we are truly honest with ourselves, obeying our parents can be an active struggle, a mundane, pointless task, and even be the last thing we want to do. So why was Miley Cyrus’ plea not to listen to our parents such an outrage? What’s the big deal? Is it really that important to obey our parents?

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”

I still recite this verse with a sing-song tone rolling my eyes at the memories it brings to my mind. Now that I am an adult child who at younger times “pushed the boundaries” my parents set, I see the biblical precedence and the reason behind it. As a growing child, it is important to obey your parents. But when we get older and move from childhood to womanhood, do we still have to obey? As a grown woman, at what point can I stop listening to my parents? Is there a difference between honoring & obeying?

YES. There is.

Defining Obedience

Obedience carries with it the idea of absolute submission resulting from absolute trust. Webster defines obeyas meaning “to conform or comply with; to follow the commands or guidance of.” It has with it implications of completely falling under the authority and jurisdiction of another person so that this individual is now responsible for you and the things that you do. In Scripture, it is most often used in reference to a child learning something from a parent (Prov.1:8; 23:22; Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1; Lev. 19:3, 32), or Israel learning something from Yahweh.

Defining Honor

Honoring, on the other hand, means “showing esteem and respect to a person of superior standing; evidence or symbol of distinction.” In Hebrew, it also means “to weigh” or “to make heavy.” In other words, when placing the opinion of your parents on a balancing scale opposite the opinion of your friends, your parent’s opinion is going to weigh more because you honor them.

In Scripture, honor is linked to humility (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12; 22:4; 29:23), kindness (Proverbs 21:21), and grace (Proverbs 11:16). In the New Testament, a person of honor was given the best seat in the house (Mark 12:39). Deuteronomy 5:16 shows how honoring our parents brings longevity and prosperity to our lives.

No longer little girls, we have become women who are not under the direct authority of our parents any longer. We give account for our own actions now. Yet there is still a biblical mandate to honor our parents as adults. With humility, kindness and grace, we esteem our parents as people of superior standing, taking their advice and counsel heavier than others.

“But what if my parents are crazy?” I had a friend ask me this not too long ago, and for viable reasons. Her parents can seem a little to the left of certifiable. But honoring them doesn’t change simply because their mental health fluctuates. There is still a biblical call to honor them (Exodus 20:12) with kindness, humility, and grace. When looking to honor a parent who may not be emotionally stable, always approach them with respect for they are still your parent.  Whatever tangible way you show it, your admiration for them should be apparent.