How God Loves Us in the Fifth Commandment

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Episode Synopsis

What does it mean to honor your parents? What does this look like for those whose parents don’t deserve honor? Jani and Heidi tackle some tough issues as they wrestle with the Fifth Commandment.

Audio Transcript

Heidi: Welcome. This podcast episode was recorded before the pandemic started. We hope you all are well.

Jani: We do welcome you back. We’re so grateful for our listeners, we thank you. For all the comments you send us the emails and the “Ask Jani” questions. We also want to remind you of our website at

And also of the book I’ve written on this very topic, His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy. It talks about how to both live and gives the 10 commandments to the coming generations.

So Today we get to talk about the fifth commandment. But before we do, I want to just review a tiny bit because the commandments divide into two parts. The first four commandments are in one part, and they instruct us on how to respond to God’s redemptive love, our relationship with him. He’s leading us out of our own personal Egypt. 

Hopefully, you’ve been memorizing these commandments week to week and if you have children, perhaps you’ve been gathering them around and helping them to learn them as well. The first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” And number two: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image because I the LORD your God, I’m a jealous God.” We talked about that. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” And and then, “Remember this Sabbath day to keep it holy.” We are to love the Lord above all else, and with all our capacities. 

But now, for the next six commandments, Moses teaches us how to love other people as much as we love ourselves. And Jesus summarizes this very thought in his own teaching in Matthew 22. Heidi, will you read this section for us? Matthew 22:34-40.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40

Those are the first four commandments, and we’re to love our neighbor, the last six. We’ve seen so far that first came the gospel of liberation: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:2. For each of us, who has taken Jesus Christ into her own heart, He is delivering us from our own houses of slavery. 

Jani: Now come God’s loving instructions for staying free. And the very first command regarding human relationships begins in the home with the parent-child relationship. How important this must be to God! So let’s talk for a minute about what the fifth commandment is teaching us and then we’ll want to carry on with how we live it out and how we teach it to our children. 

The fifth commandment is about the flow of human relationships, and at the center of all human relationships is the parent-child role. God loves us in this command by showing us how to live together in close family units, which will in turn affect every relationship outside our homes as well. God’s desire is to preserve the intergenerational continuance of a vibrant faith in God. 

A child’s whole life is shaped by his parents. They are the ones who interpret reality to their children. Parents are the ones who teach their children, day by day, to see God and to love him. 

Now, this commandment tells us that we’re to honor our mother and father, we probably ought to talk about what “honor” means. Well, my husband, who’s a Hebrew scholar, helped me with this. He says that honor comes from a Hebrew word meaning, “to be heavy,” or ”to give weight.” What it means is taking someone seriously, offering profound respect to that person, and a place of importance and reverence. The opposite of honoring someone, therefore, is trivializing them, despising them, forgetting them, treating them as if they don’t matter. 

You see, loving and honoring and respecting others starts at home. The home is the first and primary relationship and the beginning of all human society. Father and mother, in this commandment, most certainly mean our natural parents—those nearest and dearest to us—and this is the main emphasis the first commandment. The implications, however, are very far ranging. What child who loves and honors his parents disrespects authority outside of his home? Heidi, I see this with your children, when you bring them to my home, because you have taught them to respect you and Mike, they respect me.

Heidi: An older woman taught me that, that you need to teach your children to honor and respect your things at home and to work on that within your little environment, so that when they go out, they can do that. Although I will say that sometimes we have our fall ups just like I do, so don’t go thinking that my family’s perfect! But we work on that. Someone taught me once that when they’re little it’s really important to do that because that as that tree grows and the roots spread out, it’s harder to change the way that it’s growing. Not that I can shape it, but we can have an influence. 

Jani: Yes, yes. Well, it’s evident in little Hannah and James and Gideon.

Heidi: Thank you. They’re amazing children. Oh, they’re the best!

Jani: What child who loves and honors his parents disrespects authority outside of his home? The respect a child learns for authority in his home—or the lack of that respect—bears far reaching effects into his school, his neighborhood, his church, his city, and even his country. 

A commandment requires obedience to the command and everything “lesser” than that command as well. For instance, we know from scriptural passages that you shall not commit adultery also means that you’re not to flirt with someone who’s not your own husband. And we’ve heard that you shall not kill includes not hating someone. And so with this commandment, the Bible teaches us about various areas where we’re required to show respect.

Heidi: Yes, Jani, I love how the Bible teaches us that we need to have respect in so many different areas, like:

  • Our Communities—Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God. And those that exist have been instituted by God.”
  • Our Churches—Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
  • Our Homes—Proverbs 23:22: “Listen to your father who gave you life and do not despise your mother when she is old.”

I believe this key issue of respect begins in our homes, and particularly with us as women. 

women are key in this area of respect

Jani: Oh, there were four little kids in my family as I was growing up two boys. I had two older brothers and myself and my little sister who was two years younger than I am (she still is two years younger than I am). My little sister must have been four years old when she decided that she had had enough of this obeying mommy stuff. Daddy traveled all week long. He was home three weekends each month; the fourth he was in the Naval Reserve. So my mom really had to raise us on her own those early years. 

I remember one time, Mom reining in my little sister on something I can’t remember what it was about. But it was something and my little sister in her cute three to four year old way just squared her shoulders and said, “Well then, I’m…just…won’t love you anymore.” And my six year-old mind had never witnessed so brash a statement and I was really scared for what Mom was going to do. I, I wondered what was going to happen, and then I thought, “Well, you know, Mom really wants us to love her. She’s such a loving Mama. I bet my sister scored a big hit on this one and mom’s gonna soften her resolve.” 

But Mom’s response was one I’ll never forget. It shaped the whole tenor of our home life, and she enforced it through the years. She stopped, took a deep breath, stood up to her five foot two inch height, looked Patty straight in the eyes and said, “You don’t have to love me, but you will respect me. Now go do what I told you.” And that was it. Whoa, the discussion was ended. We also saw it. 

Again. I believe we women are key in this area of respect. If children learn respect in their homes, then they will be able to respect other people in authority. 

When I was teaching school (I taught second grade for 13 years) I never found a child to be disrespectful to me and other school figures if his mother required respect at home. If children honor their parents, they will honor their teachers. They will honor their church leaders, their community leaders, and all of us will benefit from this. 

Now, how can we as grown women live this out in front of little eyes that are watching? As a wife or a daughter or a grandmother, a Sunday school teacher, an aunt, a sister, are the children in our lives seeing us model respect for those in authority over us? I wonder, how do they hear us mom’s speak to their dad? What do they hear us say about our own parents and our in-laws? What kind of conversation flows from our hearts on a Sunday afternoon regarding our pastors and elders at church? Or better yet, what did they hear as you drive away after the policeman just wrote you a ticket? 

Are we living with sensitivity within the broad range of relationships into which God has placed us? Are we showing others that we are under authority, God’s authority, and it’s our privilege to be there. He’s teaching us how life works best. 


We mistakenly believe sometimes, that we are to give respect to those in positions of authority because they have earned it, but respect can never be based solely on personal or professional qualifications. Respect is based on the position that God has given that person. That position comes from God and demands our highest respect.

Heidi: Jani, it makes me think, as you talk about this, of the relationship that David had with Saul. Think of David in 1 Samuel 26, where he spares Saul’s life yet again. I can’t believe it. David knew that God had appointed him as the next king over Israel. He also knew that King Saul was out to murder him. And yet, Jani, when David had the perfect opportunity and encouragement to kill Saul—it says that the Lord had puts all in a deep sleep and David’s in the cave—what did David do? It says, “The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 26:11). David submitted even at the risk of losing his life to the authority God had placed over him.

Oh, that’s good, Heidi. It kind of brings into focus, doesn’t it, God telling us “I’ve ordered everything. It might not make sense to you. But I have a plan. I’m in control and I’m working that plan. Listen to me.”

And then sometimes we’re called to show repect to those that might not have earned it before our eyes. 

Jani: Yes, yes.

What Does This Look Like?

Heidi: Well, let’s apply this directly to our homes and the honor due our own parents, even after we’ve left our homes and established a new family. 

Jani: Your family has been established by God you were placed into your family by him. Families were established by God to be those nearest and dearest to us. When God led his people out of Egypt and wanted to teach them how to live in freedom, after 400 years of slavery, he told them to honor their parents.

Heidi: I don’t know about you, Heidi, but I find this amazing that this commandment comes even before marital faithfulness. Of course, what child can respect his spouse if he never learned to respect his mother or dad?

Jani: Let me ask you, dear listener, are you respecting and honoring your parents? That word honor means to give them weight. Are your parents important to you? How are you showing it? Do they know that they’re important to you? Do they feel their importance in your schedule? In your budget? In your conversations? 

Remember that this commandment does not say, “Honor your mother and father when they are good to you.” Every single family struggles, but ignoring your family is not an option for a Christian. 

Do you even know your parents very well. When was the last time you prayed for them? Do you know what their day looks like? Do you know if they have any needs? You may be saying, “Wait a minute, Jani. You don’t know my parents? They didn’t meet my needs when I was small. They don’t deserve my honor now.”

Heidi: That’s a hard topic, isn’t it, Heidi? 

It is. How do we honor our parents when we had struggle or abuse in that relationship? What does that look like Lord? 

Jani: Yes. 

Heidi: Both Jani and I just want to speak about this topic tenderly with you, because we know what it’s like to have struggles in our relationships with our father. 

Jani, you know this part of my heart. My dad struggled with the disease of alcoholism and bipolar as I was being raised. It got worse as Mike and I got married and we had children, and I would find at times the he wasn’t in a good place for us to have a strong relationship. And all throughout college in my early years of marriage, I wrestled with the Lord. What does this mean to honor him? I thought it meant having a connection every week and that constant communication and that door opened, and eventually we started seeing a counselor, a Christian counselor, and over the years, the Lord has shown me—for me—that right now having a safe, healthy relationship with my dad is actually having Mike be the gatekeeper. 

We haven’t cut my dad off. I never felt peace with that. But as I was raising my children, I found that getting a random phone call in the middle of the day to hear how bad things really are, was causing me so much anxiety, that I couldn’t be a good mom to my kids and I couldn’t be a good wife to my husband. 

And so the Lord showed us as we kind of process through this in counseling, that it’s good for Mike to stand as the gatekeeper to our home. And we told my dad that, “We love you and we care for you.” And he has Mike’s phone number, and he has Mike’s email address so he can still reach out to us or we can reach out to him. But what a gift that is spent to my own heart that my husband has kind of protecting me there is the gatekeeper. 

It’s so hard though, isn’t it? I love my dad so much. One of the other things that’s helped me that I learned in counseling, is also to take time to stop and think about all the wonderful things that my dad did in my life. Even though there was so much heartache and struggle, my dad blessed me a lot. He paid for my college education. There are many ways that I can say, “This is what he did as a good father, and this is what he did.” And in those moments that we have communication to be able to honor him for that, even though it’s also a difficult relationship, and it means that I can’t have a relationship with him every week or every month. 

And so I just want to speak to our sweet sisters that have gone through any kind of abuse as you struggle. Lay your heart out, pour your heart out as water before the Lord. Ask him to lead you, and in my own experience the Lord has showed me to look to wise counselors. There is a way for us to honor our mother and our father. And I just pray that the Lord would come to you right now, comfort you where you’ve been hurt, and show you how to go forward in the future.

That’s so good, Heidi. Thank you for sharing that. As you’ve said, we’ve, we’ve both struggled with our dads. My dad…it was a different abuse. And so you and I understand how this commandment lands on us. What does it mean to honor a father who has abused us? 

Jani: We’re going to talk more about that, but I want to also talk to the single ladies out there who don’t have a husband to help them, protect them or talk it through with them. Please do heed Heidi’s words of encouragement to find someone to talk it through with.

Heidi: And we love counseling. I was so afraid to see a counselor, Jani, when somebody first challenged me when I started struggling with bad anxiety seven years ago, and a doctor looked at me and said, “Heidi, one in three women struggles with bad anxiety. It’s good to see a counselor.” And Mike and I have been seeing a Christian counselor for the past seven years of our marriage, and it has been an incredible blessing. There is no shame. So if you’re struggling with that, pray that the Lord would help you find a good Christian counselor, one that loves Jesus, and can point you back to the cross. It’s made an incredible difference in our lives. 

Thank you, Heidi. So good. 

Jani: Well, let’s bring this podcast to a close this way: let me remind us that this commandment is in the Bible to help us see that we don’t honor our parents because they deserve it. We honor them because the nature of the gospel is that God gives us what we don’t deserve. We don’t honor them for our parents’ sake, we honor them for Jesus’s sake. 

I don’t honor my parents, again, because they deserve it. I don’t even honor them because I love God. I honor them because God loves me, and he gave them to me because he loves me, and he calls me to honor them because he loves me. So there is some reason in this commandment. It’s not teaching us—the fifth commandment here—it’s not teaching us how to have great families. It’s teaching me how to be a great family member. 

So what are some ways we can honor our parents, even in the hard times? Let there be a distinction in your mind between turning away from false advice or even sinful wicked ways, and turning away from the whole parental relationship itself. 

Here are are a few ways I found that I could honor my father in spite of some of the things that happened. 

Speak kindly to and about them. Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only such as as good for building up as fits the occasion.” 

I need to show my parents consideration. I need to make time for them. “Love is patient and kind. It’s not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13). 

And then finally, not only speak kindly to and about them and show them consideration—make a little time for them as you’re able—but finally, allow them into your life as you think it’s reasonable and safe. Let them share your highs and lows. Do your parents feel honored by you? What are you doing to show them how important they are to God? Do your actions, show them how much you sense God’s love for you? What kind of family member are you? 

Now we’ve been talking about a very sensitive topic today. Heidi and I’ve prayed about this a lot, and we want to encourage you this week to work this out for yourself. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It might look totally different for you than it does for either Heidi or for me. That’s okay! Paul tells us, “It is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Now, we’re not working for our salvation, we’re working out our salvation. Wrestle with God over this. Take it to him. Let him be the father that you’ve never had. Let him be your Dad. Talk to him about your hurts. And talk to him about how he wants you to obey this command.

Heidi: Jani, let me pray for us. “God, we thank you for your Word. Every word in the Bible is precious and it’s from you. And so we thank you for the fifth commandment to honor our father and our mothers. Lord, draw near to us even now. Show us what this means. Encourage us in ways that we can honor and love them. God bring things to mind and just draw near. Thank you so much that you are loving Father, Abba Father. We love you. Restore our souls and help us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

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About The Podcast

He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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