Grow Up! Honoring Parents Biblically

If you think that your parents need to "earn" your respect, you haven't been reading the Bible. This short Bible study offers Scriptural proof.

Before doing this study, I recommend you read the 1-minute devotion Let's Grow Up!

It introduces our need to:
1. Believe that God can use our parents flaws for our good (Romans 8:28). 

2. Judge ourselves before judging our parents (Matthew 7:1-4). 

3. Forgive our parents (Ephesians 4:31-32). 

4. Honor parents out of respect for God's commands (Ephesians 6:2-3).

When God says we should honor our parents, He sets a high standard. 

If your parents are truly abusive, God will give you safe ways to honor them. But most people who describe their parents as toxic and abusive are actually just dealing with normal relationship challenges which God expects us to handle graciously and biblically. 

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Bible Study

If you think that your parents need to "earn" your respect, you haven't been reading the Bible. This short Bible study offers Scriptural proof.
If you think your parents need to "earn" your respect, you're wrong. God puts no conditions on His command to honor parents.

Some parents are especially evil and God will give you wisdom about honoring them in ways that do not harm you physically or emotionally. But those cases are rare. All parents are imperfect and some are annoying, but God expects us to honor them regardless of their imperfections. As we deal Biblically with our parents, we learn trust, grace, and forgiveness. 

Perhaps our greatest sin as adult children is harshly judging our parents while excusing our disobedience to God's Fifth Command.

Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge [your parents], and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat [your parents]. The standard you use in judging [your parents] is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your [parents' eyes] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your [parents], ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your [parents' eyes]." (NLT) 

For better understanding of this passage, read "Do Not Judge"

1. Have you ever taken time to carefully examine your actions and attitudes toward your parents, both when you were living in their home and as an adult? Have you ever asked their forgiveness for being ungrateful or disrespectful or inconsiderate?

2. Think about the last time you spoke to your parents: If someone witnessed that conversation, would they describe you as respectful, grateful, helpful, and considerate? 

Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others [this includes your parents] above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

3. Have you ever studied the word "honor" used in the original Fifth Commandment command? Dennis Rainey explains it below:

In the original Hebrew language, the word for honor meant "heavy" or "weight." ... "I weigh you down with respect and prestige. I place upon you great worth and value."  
~ Dennis Rainey, The Tribute  

If you think that your parents need to "earn" your respect, you haven't been reading the Bible. This short Bible study offers Scriptural proof.
Notice what example Jesus used to point out hypocritical faith:

Matthew 15:3-9: "Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” 

This passage talks of helping parents in need, but Jesus quotes the command which describes our duty to our parents as "honor." Honor includes helping parents in need, but it goes far beyond that.

God uses our relationship with our parents to teach us about our relationship with Him: Hebrews 12:7-10; Luke 11:11-13; 1 John 3:1; Hebrews 12:14-15). 

Our perfect Father commands us to honor our imperfect parents, not because they necessarily deserve honor but because He does! 

If your parents are especially difficult, I encourage you to read We Can Be Victims or Victors

If you have cut off contact with your parents as advised by some psychological teachings such as "Boundaries," please read about the errors of these teachings in the Boundaries Collection. These teachings offer a quick fix that contradicts Scripture, inspires selfishness, and worsens problems.

I encourage you to check out the Wisdom for Life Devotional. It contains 100 one-minute devotions to challenge, encourage, instruct, and inspire your love for God's Word. Read the story behind Wisdom for Life HERE. And find out about the 
two free Bible studies with purchase HERE.

copyright, Gail Burton Purath,, updated and edited in 2020.
All Scripture linked


  1. God was just speaking some of this to me this morning. He is helping me let go of their weaknesses and helping me to grow up, not that he is saying this in a scolding way but in a way that says, "you can and are doing it and I am proud of you." 43 year old mom of 4.

    1. That blesses me to hear.
      In the same way, God spoke these truths to me.
      May He continue to guide you in your relationship with your parents.

  2. I asked God one day, "How do you honor a father who walks out on you?" His showed a women in the church choir my pain and she came over and let me know that He heard me and that I honor him by forgiving him. Doing genealogy, I have learned that my dad couldn't love me the way he should have because he was never shown or taught how to. My mom has had to love us kids for the both of them. I have since gone to see my father (after not seeing him for 26 years) and I told him that I forgave him.

  3. You have chosen the same path of healing and turning towards God that I have. When I realized I held her above my own husband and children, and God Himself, all because I was afraid of displeasing her and her demands, entitlements to me, I let go of her after she refused to respect healthy boundaries. She rejected me three times, and psychologically abused me and my family. I am much healthier living her from afar. I pray for her, and have finally started living my life the way I feel God is calling me to. I am finally living my vocation as wife.

  4. In response to these comments about boundaries and cutting off contact to heal, I encourage you to check out the Bible Love Notes collection which reviews the principles of the Boundaries teachings and cutting off contact with parents. These methods may bring temporary relief, but they are not the biblical response to difficult family relationships.

    To read about the many errors in Boundaries teachings, please copy and paste this link:

    Gail Purath, author of this study

  5. I am one of those parents. My 3 children have logs in their eye's. They have never forgiven me for committing adultery on their father and divorcing him, some 30 years ago. I have 9 grandchildren I don't even know.,.Even after so long my children are estranged from me. I let it go after trying own to fix it and failure every time. I finally give it to God in prayer and enough faith to leave it there. I'm happy now because I know God has this. I choose to live my life.

    1. Dear Ellen, I'm sorry for your situation. If you have repented of your adultery and asked your children's forgiveness and God's forgiveness, that's all that you can do. I pray that they will forgive you because their unforgiveness will hurt them as well as hurting you.

  6. I have been not only completely shutout and shunned by my only biological adult son whom I raised as a single, unwed 17yr. Old and for 30 years thought we had an incredibly strong and healthy bond. This shunning was abrupt and came with extreme abusive behavior and actions on his part and has left me shattered into a trillion pieces of anguish, self-doubt, anger and utter heartbreak. Was I a perfect parent? Hardly. Was I abusive? Absolutely not. Was I neglectful? I'd say not even slightly, although I did work full time, sometimes two jobs, and put myself through college to make sure his life was better than the average child of a teenager. I still managed to be the team mom for his football team, the parent volunteer in classrooms and on field trips. I've championed him and stood before him during trials and tribulations in his childhood and have forever and will forever do whatever I have to do to keep him safe. I've been brutally honest, perhaps that's the issue, but I did not shield him from life lessons he needed to learn on his own (only shielded the lessons that would create harm not growth). I have tried in numerous ways to reopen the lines of communication but he either ignores, spreads a little trail of meaningless hope, or slams the door shut on me. His shunning of me has included outright acts of aggression and threats to my safety (he invited his 26yr incarcerated for murder absent father, recently released) to my home to get his belongings, knowing I would be uncomfortable and alone. So how do I fix this?

    1. Dear Stevie, I'm so sorry about your situation. It definitely sounds heart-breaking, and I'm hearing more and more stories like yours as our culture declines. I want to encourage you to find a mature Christian woman in your area who can pray with you and give you personal advice. I think that's so important. I've prayed for you and for your situation, and I've prayed you will be able to connect with someone who can help you walk through this situation biblically and safely.