Obedience and Honor

Dear Mr. Engelsma,

“I would like to know the difference between obedience and honor to my parents.  Isn’t there a time when I honor my parents, but do not have to obey them, e.g., when I move out of the house or get married?”


Your question (s) are of great importance and timely.  Important, because they have to do with law of God, and timely since there are those of our Protestant Reformed young people who do separate themselves from their parents to live independently, for reasons other than marriage.  I hope that I can help you and other young adults with my reply.

As concerning the difference between obedience and honor, I submit that the command of God for children to honor their parents is a gracious means of God to establish His covenant in the line of continued generations.  I believe also, that this command holds until parents depart this earth.  It is so necessary that children be instructed from earliest childhood that God has given parents the authority and superiority over them.  This authority and superiority must be diligently taught so that children see that God is honored by honoring their parents.

Further, when children are trained to honor their parents, it follows that obedience to them is the proof of honoring them.  Honoring parents, in all that it implies will bring forth a beautiful relationship in the home; parents ruling in love and children obeying with respect to God and parents.

In connection with this honor of parents, it is very important and necessary that parents are always consistent in exercising the authority God has given them.  They must not by their actions make themselves dishonorable.  They should apply their authority wisely and fairly over all their children.  This is especially urgent in things spiritual.  They cannot honestly demand of children what they fail or neglect to do themselves.  Still, children must honor and obey even if parents are not always what they should be.  Let’s look at the second and I surmise the main part of your letter that asks, “Isn’t there a time when I honor my parents, but do not have to obey them, e.g., when I move out of the house or get married?”

Young adults do not always leave father and mother for good reasons.  Those who find it necessary to move away to seek employment or a life’s mate, I do not fault.  But, there are some who do so to get from under the authority and supervision of the home.  This is always dishonoring to God and parents.  It is rebellion, and surely rebellion is not honorable.

I believe when you leave the care and love of the home, whether for marriage or any other reason, you have taken upon yourself the responsibility to continue in the Christian training that was received from godly parents.  Young people must build upon the good instruction and authority of parents and not forsake it.  Proverbs 4:28 states, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”

My urgent advice to all young people is, if at all possible, stay with your parents until you marry.  It is in the home that you are with true friends, who care for you in love.  There too you are probably needed, and in various circumstances and situations you will be able to contribute.  And this reciprocal arrangement will prove to be mutually beneficial to both parent and child.

In conclusion, and to answer specifically the question, “do I have to obey my parents when I move out of the home?”  No, you don’t, pertaining to the things mundane.  You have chosen to live independently, but, remember, if you do not strictly observe to do all that your parents taught and demanded of you which was right and proper in God’s sight, you have become disobedient.  You, then, dishonor God and them.  Concerning spiritual matters, your heart with that of your parents should be in one accord.  Our prayer is that the young people of our Protestant Reformed Churches and sister churches do honor father and mother in thankful obedience.