The Key to a Godly Society

Yael Eckstein  |  November 18, 2022

Yael smiling and embracing her family during Passover.

There are those who curse their fathers
   and do not bless their mothers; —
Proverbs 30:11

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

Have you ever wondered about the commandment to honor one’s parents? Specifically, why is it one of the Ten Commandments?

I mean, honoring parents is important and valuable. But look at the other commandments in the list — the prohibitions of murder, adultery, theft, or taking God’s name in vain and idol-worship. These certainly would make anybody’s top ten list. I’m not suggesting that honoring parents shouldn’t be in the Bible, but why is it in the top ten?

I think the simple answer is that a healthy society needs healthy families. And families are healthy when children respect their parents. But again, there are plenty of commandments that aren’t in the Big Ten that we could say the same thing about. To take just one example, why isn’t giving charity to the poor in the Ten Commandments?

The Key to a Godly Society

I’d like to suggest an answer based on a series of verses in Proverbs 30. We read:

There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind.” (vv11-14)

What Proverbs is telling us is that respect for our parents is the key to many other traits and behaviors. This makes sense. Respect for parents is based, first and foremost, on gratitude. After all, our parents gave us the greatest gift of all — life itself.

A healthy sense of gratitude to our parents humbles us and makes us appreciate the sacrifices and struggles of those who came before us. But people who have no respect for earlier generations, who have no respect for where they came from, easily develop an inflated sense of their own self-worth.

And as the verses in Proverbs describe, once this arrogant disregard for the past sets in, the moral fabric of society begins to crumble. Disdain for parents leads to disdain for faith, and disdain for the values that were bequeathed to us.

On the other hand, respect and reverence for parents, grandparents, and all who struggled to get us to where we are, causes us to look compassionately on those who are struggling today for the futures of their own children and grandchildren.

Respect for parents is not only about family relationships — it’s the key to a healthy, godly, compassionate society.

Your Turn:

Tell your parents how much you appreciate them. Pray for them. And if your parents are no longer with us, make a point of teaching the younger generation about those who sacrificed for the life we enjoy.

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