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. 

Would you like a 1-minute devotion delivered to your inbox each weekday? Sign up for a free subscription at Bible Love Notes. Would you like a short Bible study like this on to accompany some of the devotions? Sign up for a free subscription to  Bite Size Bible Study

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.

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