Do All Ongoing Problems Stem from Dishonor?
By Mark Sandford
Why do we put so much emphasis on the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and mother"? This commandment falls at the end of the first of Moses' two tablets (among commandments about our relationship with God), and introduces the second tablet (commandments about our relationships with people). This is because honoring parents affects our relationship with God, which, in turn, deeply influences our relationships with other people. So it's hard to imagine that breaking this commandment wouldn't have far reaching consequences in every life and relationship!
But are we making a "formula" out of dealing with the effects of breaking this commandment? Does this truly underlie every ongoing negative pattern in people's lives? We recognize that some negative patterns have nothing to do with bitter roots. For example, an addiction to pain killers can develop solely in reaction to stress caused by prolonged physical pain; it may have no childhood root. However, someone with this kind of background will find it a lot easier to kick the habit than one who judged a parent who abused him as a child and left him to handle pain on his own. Resentment can make an addiction much more compulsive.
So I would reframe the question: do all ongoing deep-seated problems that don't respond with relative ease to surface interventions (such as emotional venting, change of environment, or deliberate efforts so stop a surface habit) stem from breaking the fifth commandment?
To understand the answer to that question, it will help to understand the answer to another question — how does what we teach about the fifth commandment apply to orphans who have no parents to judge? Part of the answer is that the principle isn't confined to biological parents. It's about anyone who has influenced our picture of what a "parent" (whether earthly or heavenly) is like. For an orphan, that can be adoptive parents. If he is not adopted, it could be the headmistress of the orphanage, the pimp who holds him (or her) prisoner, or even adult strangers he meets on the street as he tries to eke out a meager living on his own.
This is entirely in keeping with the Hebrew use of the words, "father" and "mother." Hebrews used those terms to describe anyone in a parental role. For instance, Elisha called Elijah "my father" although he wasn't his biological son (2 Kings 1:12).
And the bitter root judgments we form are not only toward parental figures. Judgments can also be formed in reaction to siblings, extended family members, teachers, and others; even the neighborhood bully.
It should also be noted that although most bitter root judgments are formed in childhood, if a person is traumatized deeply enough (for instance, by violent rape or war), he can be tempted to form a bitter root judgment in adulthood. But experience tells us that this is far less common, and bitter roots formed in adulthood are almost always less powerful than ones formed in childhood.
Now back to the reframed question: "Do all ongoing deep-seated problems that do not respond with relative ease to surface interventions stem from breaking the fifth commandment?" Do they always stem from judging parents? We have observed that in the majority of cases they do. The remainder usually stem from judging someone else.
© Mark Sandford 2019