“Honour thy father and thy mother.”
This essay on “Teaching Children the Fifth Commandment” is excerpted from the original essay “The Fifth Commandment – a Christian Science Perspective.” There are a few revisions. I am also keeping this part with the original essay, because so much of the information on Bible stories are of interest to adults as well as young people in Sunday School or the home who are being taught these lessons on the Ten Commandments. You might wish to read that essay if you are searching for ideas to use in class to teach all ages.
These ideas are based on the teachings of Christian Science as taught by Mary Baker Eddy, who is the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Even if you are not a Christian Scientist, you might find some ideas worth sharing in your own Sunday School, especially in the essay mentioned above. Just follow the link. [Note: For those unfamiliar with the religion of
Christian Science (which is NOT the same as Scientology!), you can read some basic information on this site at the Q&A page.]
Part of that essay in the section on the moral requirements of the Fifth Commandment are as follows:
I love how Mary Baker Eddy supports the ideas behind the Ten Commandments, including the fifth one, by encouraging us to obey the moral requirements of God’s law as outlined in the Bible. Even though our goal is to demonstrate our spiritual perfection, and not needing a bunch of “thou shalt not’s,” we all have to start our spiritual journey somewhere. The Commandments help to guide us along until we can commune easily with God and get our daily guidance direct from Him. As material beliefs fade away, we will start to see what it means to have God as our Father-Mother. As our understanding of God’s nature deepens, we will have further enlightenment about God and man. But, until then, our relationship with our earthly parents is a wonderful training ground, rich with lessons to learn. Obedience to the Fifth Commandment is one of them.
We honor our earthly parents by being obedient to them, respecting them, expressing our gratitude and appreciation for them, and doing our part to make the family circle a happy and harmonious one. We honor them by separating from them and taking care of ourselves when grown, and not putting burdens on them needlessly. We honor them by making sure they are taken care of in their senior years, if they become unable to manage on their own. We do this with love and gratitude, not grudgingly. The Bible exhorts us to this obedience in so many ways:
“Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” (Col. 3:20-21)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4)
HONORING OUR FATHER-MOTHER GOD
We know from the Bible that Jesus honored God and called Him, “Father.” In Christian Science, we are taught that God is also our Mother. Our authority for this is in Genesis. If God was able to create man both “male and female,” and man was made in “our” image, not just “my” image, then God must be Mother as well as Father. This interpretation was revealed to Mary Baker Eddy and to others who also see God as Mother. A fuller (and better!) explanation of God’s motherhood is found throughout “Science and Health.” Simply put, God’s motherhood is seen in Her nature as divine Love, that aspect of God which comforts, governs, inspires, plans, leads, completes, and fulfills.
In an earlier quote, we saw that Mrs. Eddy tells us that “after we have honored our father and mother, then comes the next step — forsaking the flesh for Christ.” This is telling us that we must eventually learn our true identity — that we are the offspring of God — “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We have to forsake our old beliefs and be receptive to the message of Christ.
Any Christian Science Sunday School discussion of the Fifth Commandment, would want to include the idea that God, the divine Mind, should also be the focus of our “honor” that is due a parent. Some citations to study and discuss are:
“Mind is the grand creator, and there can be no power except that which is derived from Mind. If Mind was first chronologically, is first potentially, and must be first eternally, then give to Mind the glory, honor, dominion, and power everlastingly due its holy name.” (S&H 143:26-31)
“If Christian Science dishonors human belief, it honors spiritual understanding; and the one Mind only is entitled to honor.” (S&H 183:29)
“Honor thy Father and Mother, God. Continue in His love.” (Miscellaneous Writings, pg. 154:23)
In 1885, Mary Baker Eddy was allowed ten minutes on the platform at Tremont Temple in Boston to answer the criticisms that had been put forth in a public letter by the pastor. Her answer to one question helps us to see her thought about God as Father-Mother, and how this concept evolves through spiritual understanding:
“Do I believe in a personal God? I believe in God as the Supreme Being. I know not what the person of omnipotence and omnipresence is, or what the infinite includes; therefore, I worship that of which I can conceive, first, as a loving Father and Mother; then, as thought ascends the scale of being to diviner consciousness, God becomes to me, as to the apostle who declared it, “God is Love,” — divine Principle, — which I worship; and after the manner of my fathers, so worship I God.'” (Miscellaneous Writings, pg. 96)
Exploring the concept of God being our Father-Mother is an on-going discovery. The Bible is full of examples of God’s care for us. The writings of Mary Baker Eddy contain countless ideas on this subject. Once we know for sure we are God’s offspring, we will want to find practical ways to honor Him in our lives. How to do that would make a good Sunday School discussion. The next section includes ideas on teaching the Fifth Commandment to children.
TEACHING THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT IN SUNDAY SCHOOL
Throughout the preceding article on the Fifth Commandment were various ideas useful for discussions with your children or Sunday School pupils. Please refer back to those pages if you have come directly to this page seeking help for teaching the Fifth Commandment to children.
Below are a few more ideas for sharing with Sunday School children, in the light of the teachings of Christian Science.
After explaining the concept of “honor,” ask the class to come up with the qualities that would make an ideal mom and dad — ones that children would want to honor. Perhaps record the ideas on paper. Discuss the synonyms of God, and how the qualities that originate in these different aspects of God’s nature can be expressed by man. Get across the idea that we never lack these qualities in our experience since they come from God and do not originate with “persons.” Ask the kids how they might want to share these same qualities with their families and others.
Focus a class on the idea of Love — Mother — as “leader.” Look up citations that support the idea that Love leads. “Lead us not into temptation.” “Love…designates and leads the way.”
Mrs. Eddy as “Mother,” then “Leader.” We honor Love for leading us. Ask them to consider the possibility of being a “mother” to themselves, when needed. How might we do this? Role play the “self talk” needed to use this concept in certain situations.
Discuss the concept of “reflection” with regard to our relationship to God. What does this mean? How should a reflection or expression of God behave? Or think? Or reason? Or pray? How does reflection “honor” God or our parents? Discuss honoring the qualities of Life (Father) and Love (Mother) in our own thoughts. How can we learn to listen and obey (honor) these qualities? How do we put down the undisciplined animal instincts in order to demonstrate our identity as pure reflections of Life and Love? How do we stand up for God in the face of aggressive mental suggestions to disobey Mind? Is thwarting this activity of animal magnetism a form of obedience to the Fifth Commandment? Why?
For little children, ask what kind of family rules they have in their home. Discuss the good that comes with obedience, then talk about the consequences of disobedience.
Tell them that if we try to obey all of the Ten Commandments from God, then we will be obeying the Fifth Commandment, since we will be honoring God when we follow His rules for His family. We also obey the Fifth Commandment when we follow the commands of Jesus, our “brother,” who came to show us what our Father-Mother God is like.
Little kids are very keen on the word “promise.” “But, you PROMISED me we would go to the zoo if I was good.” Show them that promise mentioned in the Fifth Commandment. Discuss the power and presence of God and how it would be impossible for Him to break a promise. But what is our part of the deal? Perhaps make a list of things they promise to do the next week that would exercise their ability to obey their parents. Or, list one or two ways they could improve their obedience to one of the Ten Commandments, such as telling the truth or not taking things that do not belong to them.
Imparting a clear and deep understanding of the Fifth Commandment may be one of the most important gifts we can give to our children, to ourselves, and to society. It provides a solid foundation for a successful life. Mrs. Eddy wrote this in Cosmopolitan in 1907:
“Dear reader, right thinking, right feeling, and right acting — honesty, purity, unselfishness — in youth tend to success, intellectuality, and happiness in manhood. To begin rightly enables one to end rightly, and thus it is that one achieves the Science of Life, demonstrates health, holiness, and immortality.” (Miscellany 274)
And to the members of her church in her Message of 1901, Mrs. Eddy saluted those who obey the Fifth Commandment in this way:
“All honor and success to those who honor their father and mother.”
Copyright 2002, 2010, 2018 Vicki Jones Cole
A good foundation for teaching all these lessons to your children or Sunday School pupils is to start with this essay on Teaching Children the First Commandment. It contains ideas for helping children understand its deeper meaning and how to live “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” in daily life. See also the First Commandment daily lessons in Ten Commandments book.
For daily lessons on the Fifth Commandment found on this site in the book “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments” – follow the link to the main page and scroll down to the links on the Fifth Commandment. The other volumes in this series are
Volume Two: The Beatitudes and Volume Three: The Lord’s Prayer.
Some of the essays useful for teaching children at home or in Sunday School:
Introducing Children to the Concept of God
Teaching Children about the Golden Rule
Teaching Children about Angels
Teaching Children the 23rd Psalm
Introduction to Teaching the Beatitudes to Children
The Beatitudes for Young Children
What Mary Baker Eddy Writes about Teaching Children