It’s right there in the 10 commandments but we would almost never list it a virtue.  If we cursed or made light or treated them as insignificant it was the death penalty.   And in 2 Timothy 3 when Paul lists the characteristics of terrible times, he lists it right there:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.  

It’s how we treat our parents.

Exodus 21:17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

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

The penal code of the Bible was to show the degree of violation of sacredness.  For some crimes it was a fine and for others it went all the way to the death penalty.  Disrespecting parents was the death penalty.

Honor of parents by-in-large these days is hardly considered a virtue.  Sitcoms and cultural norms are to mock parents, disobey them, and even as adults to disrespect them.  Granted, some parents need boundaries as there are abuse issues, control issues and more.  But the reality is if we put this Scripture into place, much of the Western world would be extinguished.  I say Western because in many African, Asian and jungle cultures it’s still virtuous to honor your parents.

The death penalty.  This is how serious God took it when we treat our father and mother as insignificant.  This was an issue that even Jesus took up with the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law:

Mark 7:9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” 

Jesus was in essence pointing out that instead of taking care of their parents financially, they gave the money to the temple, which more than likely probably ended up in their pockets.  Thus they were nullifying the word of God by not caring for the parents.

To honor parents and to “curse” them went beyond just our words to them.  The word “qalal” (קָלַל) also means to treat them as less, insignificant, unimportant, and lower.  This is what Jesus was saying when he confronted the religious leaders.  They were treating their parents as lesser and by not caring for them, they were violating the law.


God created the family as a system to take care of one another.  Parents raise children, and in turn children take care of their parents when the time comes.  Somehow I think that typically this goes beyond just putting them in a nursing home (although there are times when this is necessary).  And there are times like we mentioned previously that parents need boundaries from abusive or inappropriate behavior.  But at the end of the day the way we speak about, care for, and honor our parents is something holy unto the Lord.