But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
In Leviticus 19 the first commandment referring to holiness is to ‘fear’ one’s parents. This is not the same commandment as the one in Exodus which says to ‘honor’ one’s parents. Even the Hebrew text reflects this difference. One does not contradict the other but like with God, it represents two aspects of parental relationship. The Talmud teaches that it is because we should honor our mothers and fear our fathers.
The mention in Exodus also is different from the one in Leviticus as it is the first commandment with a promise attached to it; it says, ‘"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12). In its semantic context this commandment is about caring and providing for parents especially in their old age. Paul also used that word to ‘honor’ referring to the support of those who labor to teach Torah in the congregation (1 Timothy 5:17). In Leviticus, the word ‘fear’ is like the one used when referring to the ‘fear of the Lord’, which mainly means to have a wrong disposition towards disobedience.
If holiness is to be ‘set-apart’, then, in our western society at least, reverence towards parents certainly sets us aside from mainstream which has adopted very ungodly attitudes towards parents. We often talk about teenagers being unloving and disrespectful towards us parents, but what kind of relationship do they hear us having towards our aged parents, their grand-parents? Do we speak of them with respect and reverence or do we mock them? Do we willingly and gratefully endorse the duty of caring for them or do we complain about it as if it were an unfair burden and throw them in a senior center where they mostly end their days feeling rejected and unwanted? When we speak bad of our aged parents, in front of our children, we must remember that we model in front of the generation that is charge of caring for us.
Of course there is the issue of religion: what if my parents are ungodly? I do not see in this commandment an absolution because of parent’s lack of godliness. What if God stopped caring for us because we were sometimes ungodly, which we are most of the time? Sometimes religion and faith differences separate parents and children. When this happens, it shows how little of God people have in spite of their claims of faith. People often disrespect each other because of faith differences but theological differences do not have to keep us from being civil.
The sad thing is that sometimes parents in this world are just not worthy of the title ‘parents’. There are those who are mean violent and abusive. Of course, these are different cases, but maybe they are themselves emulating the sample they received from their parents and whereas we are not require to like or be near or in contact with them, we are required compassion and to pray for them. We can also break the vicious cycle by modeling a godly attitude of parenthood to our children.