The Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

 In Catechesis

Being Instructed by the Ten Commandments

The Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

When I was a wee little child, I was given a gift of a small die-cast metal toy construction crane. This present was given to me by my parents. With a little imagination, I could pretend to excavate dirt and dig a deep hole in the earth. The crane was shiny green, with a red bucket, and orange strings. With the swipe of a dial the boom of the crane would either lift or lower. With the swipe of another dial the red bucket would either open and drop down or close and raise up. I would push the crane along the ground and the miniature rubber tank treads would move. Now this was a special toy to me. I treasured it. I valued it. It was unlike all other toys that I threw in a box or a drawer. I carefully kept this toy in a leather pouch made for a camera. In fact, I still have my small die-cast metal toy construction crane to this day. I still cherish it.

We all have certain gifts that we cherish. One of those gifts should be our parents. That’s right. Our father and our mother are gifts from God. They are given to us, and through them we receive even more gifts from God. Through our parents, God gives to us all that we need to sustain our bodies. Through our parents, God gives to us the gift of house and home, food and drink, clothing and shoes, and many more blessings. Thus, God teaches us to honor our father and our mother. We should treasure them and value them. We should love them and cherish them. We should honor them.

In the Fourth Commandment, the focus is shifted from our love of God to our love of neighbor. This Commandment is foundational for our understanding of serving one another in our vocations, that is, the places in life where God has placed us to love others. Our very existence came into being through the union of our father and our mother. They are the closest people to us. They are the first people that we ever knew in our lives. As we receive love from our parents, we begin to see a picture of God’s love for us. However, this picture is not complete. It is in the Gospel that God reveals His love for us in that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) giving us forgiveness of sins, salvation, and newness of life.

In the First Table of the Commandments, we are instructed that God is the One who makes us holy. He Himself does this for us. He alone is holy, and He alone makes us to be His holy people. He gives to us the gift of His Holy Name. In our Baptism, we are made holy and receive the gift of His name, that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We now have access to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. As He calls us out of darkness into His light (1 Peter 2:9), He continues to speak to us through His Word. He is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

In the Second Table of the Commandments, we are instructed in how we are to live as God’s holy people in an unholy and unclean world. In this life, the devil will continue to try to deceive us. The tempter will tempt us to become defiled and desecrate God’s Holy Name. The ancient serpent tries to teach us that it is acceptable to despise and anger our parents and other authorities. The evil foe entices us to walk in the old way of rebellion against God and His representatives on earth. In fact, Satan wants us to be lovers of pleasure and the things of this fallen world instead of being lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4).

However, the Holy Spirit is at work in us through the power of the Gospel. The Lord dresses us in the armor of light (Romans 13:12), gives us the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), and invites us to pray. And if we tie the Forth Commandment with the Fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we see that we are asking God to give us our daily bread and to lead us to realize that He gives everything that we need to support our bodies through the masks of our parents and other authorities. God’s giving hand is seen in their extended hands to give us gifts from God. We are to receive these gifts with thanksgiving in serving and obeying them as God’s representatives on earth. In the Fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God would deliver us from every evil of body and soul. The Son of God came to destroy the works of the evil one who incites us to bite the hand that feeds us.

God is love. As God has loved us, we are learning to love one another. This love begins with our parents. “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” (Small Catechism, The Fourth Commandment) Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are beginning to see things differently. We are being renewed in our thinking, speaking, and acting. We are learning to walk in newness of life loving others as God has loved us. We love because He has first loved us.

Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier serves as pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Los Alamos, NM

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