In What does the Bible say about "bad" words? a comment was made that "I cuss in all the (two) languages I speak fluently. It's just my upbringing, and we should honor our parents, right?"

Exodus 20:12 NIV
12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

Ephesians 6:4 tells us parents to not lead our children into sin, but to train and instruct them in the way of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4 NIV 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

If we disobey our parents and do not sin as they have taught us, are we sinning by disobeying them?

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    "Honour" is not the same thing as "obey". Sep 2, 2011 at 18:52
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    @DJClayworth Funny thing. I just came from my son's preschool's open house (at our church), and they had a poster with the Ten Commandments listed. One of them said "Always obey your parents". I didn't want to get into a theological debate with his preschool, though. :P
    – a_hardin
    Sep 2, 2011 at 19:21
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    At preschool age they are closer to being synonyms :-) Sep 2, 2011 at 19:49
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    My youth pastor in high school grew up Amish, and intimated to me that his father had once explained that "pagans are lucky, because their requirements to get into heaven are so much easier than us religious people." His reasoning: To honor your mother and father, you must (at least by his understanding of Amish principles) follow their religion (or lack thereof). Of course I take this just to be an excuse to ignore the great commission... but it's an interesting anecdote.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 3, 2011 at 2:05
  • "Respecting elders" is not solely a Christian tradition, as you can see here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_respect
    – Double U
    Aug 5, 2013 at 1:01

4 Answers 4

  • Honor your parents? Yes absolutely.
  • Sin? No never.
  • What is trump? Don't sin!

However it should be noted that the trump card will never need to be used because on closer inspection these two things are never actually in conflict. If your parents ask you to murder your neighbor (clearly sin) it would be no honor to them if you obeyed. The same principle can be extrapolated back to "smaller" sins. While your parents own sinfulness might cloud their perspective on what is or is not honoring, ultimately you are trying to honor God through honoring your parents.

The commandment to honor our parents does not say that we must obey every edict they may give us. However it is also clear that obedience is on of the primary ways that we can show honor and respect. Obey in so far as you are not being asked to sin. If in doubt, honor your parents. If something comes up that you understand to be sin and can Biblically demonstrate how something would be dishonoring to God, decline in an honorable way!

If it's your family's tradition to cuss (or to be bank robbers) there is nothing in the commandment that mandates that you also pursue that lifestyle. You can still act honorably towards someone as your parent even if they reject you as a child because of your choice.

This is particularly evident in extreme cases. For example say your parents are Muslims. From their perspective that their offspring would believe in Jesus as God, go to a Christian church, pray, read the Bible and fellowship with other Christians is an unthinkable shame. In their mind nothing you do will be honoring as long as you persist in your beliefs. However is it really dishonoring them that you have chosen to follow the truth? Of course not. Can you still treat them respectfully and in an honorable way even if they reject you and ostricise you? Yes you can, and you should.

But it doesn't take an extreme case for to apply this principle. It starts being applicable when they ask you to come finish the dishes but you feel like you ought to finish that great post you're working on for a Christian Q&A site.

1 Peter 3:14-17 (ESV)
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

  • Makes perfect sense, thank you for this answer. I'm converting from Protestant to Catholic and when I informed my mother she has begun to try and evanglise to me and has even used the word cult. I've been struggling with this lately. Thanks again!
    – Iron3eagle
    Jul 19, 2013 at 15:18
  • I'd probably finish the dishes first and then finish this great post. Aug 5, 2013 at 3:43

It should be noted that "honor" is not the same as obey. Children are instructed to obey their parents, and all of us are commanded to honor them.

Now, I don't believe children should obey their parents by sinning either, but that's a separate question.

One would wonder how it's possible for the honoring of one's parents to ever necessitate sin? We can honor them in many different ways--none of which requires sinning.


You only do a disservice to yourself and others when you sin to "appease" them. God wants us to stand for Him, not for others. Sinning to you can "honour"/help/fix/appease others it telling them they're more important to you than Jesus - and that's not good.

To honour your father and mother means to yes respect them, listen to them, help them, but if you see them doing something wrong, to talk to them about it.


Honoring and Obeying the parents depends upon the context. If parents are cruel and disobeys God, then "Honoring and Obeying Parents" cannot be applied on that context.

Let me give examples from the Bible. Ahaz was a King who did extremely evil in the sight of God (2 Kings 16, 2 Chronicles 25).

Ahaz's son Hezekiah became King after the death of his father Ahaz. He did exactly the opposite of what his father Ahaz did. He was righteous in front of God (2 Chronicles 29-31). We even read this in 2 Kings 18:5 (NIV) - "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him."

Amon was a King who did evil in the sight of God (2 Chronicles 33:21-25). After the death of Amon, his son Josiah became King. Josiah did exactly the opposite of his father Amon. Josiah did what was right in front of God (2 Chronicles 34).

The children also have the right to punish their parents and grandparents if they do evil in the sight of God. Let me give an example.

1 Kings 15:9-12 (NIV) - "In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley."

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