Christian Parenting and Family Resources with Biblical Principles

Honor & Obey: The Dividing Line for Adult Children

  • Sarah Buber
  • 2011 27 May
Honor & Obey: The Dividing Line for Adult Children

“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.

“But what if my parents are lost?” This can be difficult when parents are less than godly or unsaved altogether, because it requires leaning more heavily on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to fulfill that task. But in that situation, keep in mind you are not responsible for their actions, you are only responsible for your reactions. Don’t get angry and lash out, in doing so you dishonor the status that God has given them in your life. Instead, speak with kindness to your aging parents. Show them grace – even when what they say offends. Humbly ask the Lord for His help. In doing so, you honor the work they did as parents in raising you.

So, why do you think God puts so much stress on honoring and obeying our parents? Is it just so all the chores get done in a home and peace can be cultivated? Or is there a bigger picture, an over-arching factor in play?

Obeying and honoring our parents develops a habit of obedience and a respect for authority in our lives; characteristics that are greatly lacking in our society as a whole.

It is vastly important to learn obedience as a child. I remember growing up, my father would tell me that if I could learn to obey him, I would learn to obey God. This made obedience more serious than chores or homework; it made it about my life and the choices I would make while I lived it. Put it this way: if, as young children we find it easy to say “no” to our parents, as adults, it will be no struggle to say “no” to God. And in doing so, we are missing out on the best He has to offer us; we, also, are welcoming his wrath and judgment into our lives.

God relates to us in terms of the family unit.

It is not by accident that God calls Himself Father and Christ his Son. It was the plan and purpose of God from creation (Gen 2:24) to establish the family unit. It is through the lens of family that God chooses to reveal his character to us. As a Father, He protects, He guides, He chastens, He provides, He nurtures, He admonishes, and He loves unconditionally. We are forever His daughters, joint-heirs with His Son. Understanding our role as children in our earthly family enables us to better understand our role in our heavenly family.

Honor & Obey. As adult children, there is a dividing line on what God expects us to do. As grown women no longer under our parent’s authority, we don’t necessarily have to do everything they tell us. We do, however, always, always have to honor them.

“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

(c) Sarah Buber. This article originally appeared on

About Sarah Bubar: Sarah is a native New Yorker and proud of it! She and her three best friends started Unlocking Femininity, an online magazine for women, and she’s passionate about the truth of God’s Word. Between her undergraduate and graduate studies, Sarah was involved in the discipleship ministry at Word of Life Bible Institute in Upstate New York for several years. She plans to graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in December 2011 with her Master’s of Divinity in Women’s Studies.