The second table of the Law offers us a way to get along with our family as well as our neighbors. You may need that reminder right now after all the family gatherings over Christmas and the new year!
Jesus used the two tables of the law as a way to summarize our duty to God and man…to show our love for God and our neighbor:
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:35-40).
Jesus was not cutting out eight commandments or adding two new ones. Instead, he gave a summary of the Ten, knowing they were divided into two sections, referred to as the first and second tables of the Law. As we have seen, the first four commandments show us how to show our love for God. Now as we study the second table of the Law, we are going to look at how we are to love other people. And, of course, that includes our immediate as well as our extended family members.
The Fifth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).
Do you want your children to obey you? Then esteem your own parents and your husband’s parents. Seek out their counsel. Do you want your children to listen to your advice? Let them see you heeding the advice of your parents, grandparent, pastors/teachers. Do your best to meet the needs of your parents in their days of old age and sickness. Treat your own grandparents with respect and warmth (Lev. 19:32). Model before your children how they should treat you when you are old and in need of care and attention. I think teens are more likely to obey you when you aren’t looking if they have watched you respect their grandparents. It certainly teaches them the importance of family.
This fifth commandment is the first one with a reward attached. Long life and land (prosperity) are a blessing. One of those blessings is the enjoyment a family can have with each other when respect is a central part of family relationships. Harmony in the home is a wonderful result of obeying this commandment.
Historical Christianity has interpreted this commandment as including all those in authority over you. (See the Westminster Shorter Catechism, questions 63-66.) This includes your supervisor at work, your teacher at school, your pastor and elders, and your government officials. Pray for all of them. Esteem them even when you disagree. Be careful about your body language. Your children are watching you. They will copy you, and one day you will be on the receiving end. My point here is, of course, that to expect obedience from your children while showing dishonor to older family members and those who are over you is foolish.
“Oh if you would have your children honour you, teach them by a holy example. A father is a looking-glass, which the child often dresses himself by: let the glass be clear and not spotted” (Thomas Watson, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, p. 137, Banner of Truth.org).
Of course, this works both ways. Those in positions of authority are to treat those under them with dignity, respect, kindness, admonishing and correcting when necessary, praying for them, and rewarding them and paying them a fair wage. In addition, fathers and mothers are to provide for their own children, and to not do so is desertion (I Timothy 5:8). Ernest Reisinger put together a helpful list of scriptures detailing the obligations of both those in authority and those under someone else in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, p. 54-61, (www.banneroftruth.org). Job prayed for his children; Eli failed to discipline his adult sons who were still under his authority as priests; David put his kingdom at risk when he failed to exert his authority over his son, Absalom; Philemon was encouraged to treat his run-away slave with kindness and forgiveness. Honor goes both ways.
How are you treating your children? You will provoke them to anger and disobedience if you are too hard on them; you will ruin them if you do not train, correct, and instruct them in the ways of the LORD (Ephesians 6). But, as their authority, you are to be kind-hearted about it all. As Jesus taught us in the Sermon On The Mount, these commandments are all about the heart. The Pharisees knew a lot about putting on a show of obeying the commandments ( and adding lots more), but they knew little about heart obedience. Honor your parents by loving and respecting them and see if your children don’t copy you. Pray for those who are in positions of power, influence, and authority.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (I Timothy 2:1-2).