Honoring Elders

Happy August, Sweet Friends. This week in our study of the Ten Commandments, we are in Exodus 20:12 — Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. We are praying that you will come away from your time in God’s Word with a fresh, expanded appreciation for this command and the elders in your life.

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Exodus 20:1-17
Ten Words to Live By Chapter 5 (audio download available through Crossway)
And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”


This week as we dive into the fifth commandment and the related chapter in Ten Words to Live By, author Jen Wilkin encourages us to honor not just our birth parents but practice an “expansive obedience” that honors elders within our spiritual families. She cites the familial language of the New Testament, especially from Matthew 12:49-50 in which Jesus declared that whoever does the will of the Father is His brother, sister, and mother.

When I think about the concept of expansive obedience in the honor of elders in my life, I remember my single-digit years when I was a pastor’s kid at a small church. Many of the congregants were white-haired men and women. My parents taught me to use titles of respect when speaking to them or of them, to listen quietly to their stories, to eat every bite of food they put before me, and to always say please and thank you, even when I didn’t feel like being polite or I struggled to be grateful. 

My father and mother were training me in habits of honor in a culture in which people push away authority and try to rule themselves within their limited wisdom. In America today, parents and other elders who once gave life, shelter, food, protection, and education to their offspring are being pushed aside as they age. 

How have you seen elders dishonored in our culture today?

Even to pagan Egyptians in the time of Moses, this was unthinkable, for filial honor was equated with long life and other benefits. Thus, when God gave the Isralietes the fifth commandment to obey father and mother, it wasn’t a new guideline for life, but it was one they needed to embrace as their own. They needed to see their elders as treasure chests of wisdom and as special people to love, protect, and serve in their old age.

When is it especially hard for you to honor the elders in your life?

Sometimes dishonor isn’t obvious to people around us but is a matter of what’s swirling in our hearts, and we need the reminder that we are all image bearers of God and are called to practice the honor of others in both our actions and our thoughts.

What is one thing you can do today to train yourself in this habit of honor?


  • Praise God for the fifth commandment, which guides you in how to live as a reflection of Jesus.
  • Confess where you have failed to honor the elders in your life.
  • Thank God for the older, wiser people in your life — those both in your family of origin and in your spiritual family.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you train in the habit of honor.

MEmorizing Exodus 20:12

— jls