The Fifth Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Three

This Part Three, also includes ideas for teaching the Fifth Commandment to children.


We have seen from the example of Christ Jesus that we can honor both God and our earthly parents. And this is also seen in the teachings of Christian Science.

In Christian Science, we are taught that God is our true Father-Mother, the only Cause and Creator. We are to honor and obey Him. But, this does not mean we are not to honor our moms and dads, especially young children. Mary Baker Eddy made this even clearer in a letter dated May 19, 1893: “The advice of loving your loving parents who have more experience than their children, is of great importance; remember this. All remember the commandment ‘Honor thy father and thy mother,’ etc. Not for the world would I have you break one of the Commands in the Hebrew Decalogue, it would unfit you for Christian Science, it would darken your mind so that you could not comply with the requirements of Christ in healing the sick and casting out error.”

In notes recorded by Dr. Alfred E. Baker, MD, CSD, during his association with Mrs. Eddy, we find this “Child’s Prayer” attributed to Mrs. Eddy : “Dear Father, I want to love Thee supremely; I want to be unselfish, temperate, pure and good; I want to love and honor my earthly parents, and so be able to uplift humanity. I know that God is good, and that He hath made me in His own likeness, harmonious and immortal; and I will strive daily not to make myself appear otherwise. I thank Thee now and forevermore. Amen.”

A child or adult sincerely living up to that simple prayer, could not help but honor both God and earthly family. All efforts to be the “image and likeness” of God will help us to claim “the land” — the firm foundation in spiritual understanding — that God promised to us in the Fifth Commandment. His promise that “thy days may be long” will be fulfilled.

Another prayer written by Mrs. Eddy as a gift for “the little children,” may help turn their thoughts to God as Father-Mother. It can be found in Miscellaneous Writings, page 400, or in Poems by Mary Baker Eddy, on page 69.

Mother’s New Year Gift to the Little Children

“Father-Mother God,
loving me, —
Guard me when I sleep;
Guide my little feet
up to Thee.”

Even though we teach our children that God is our Father-Mother, and we are to develop a close relationship with Him, Mrs. Eddy also makes clear that children are to be obedient to their parents. She writes: “Children should obey their parents; insubordination is an evil, blighting the buddings of self-government.” (S&H 236)

Just before that citation, Mrs. Eddy indicates the importance of “mothers” in the life of children: “A mother is the strongest educator, either for or against crime. Her thoughts form the embryo of another mortal mind, and unconsciously mould it, either after a model odious to herself or through divine influence, ‘according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.'” (S&H 236)

Mrs. Eddy elsewhere defines the proper education for children: “The entire education of children should be such as to form habits of obedience to the moral and spiritual law, with which the child can meet and master the belief in so-called physical laws, a belief which breeds disease.” (S&H 62)

We can see from the above that we are not serving our children well if we allow them to grow up without learning how to be obedient to their parents, and treating them with respect, and to honor them. Naturally, parents would also want to do their best to be worthy of such obedience, honor, and respect, and to treat their children with love.

That reminds me of a prayer I’ve been seeing around recently:

“Dear Lord, please help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am!”

One of the lessons in my book on the Ten Commandments begins with this question:  “What about children who are being raised by foster, adoptive, or step-parents, or their own parents do not behave as normal parents should?” This is a question that would be of interest to most Sunday School classes, since so many children today are faced with this issue, or have friends who are. In my book, I stated, in part:

“It is sad to be separated from one, or both, of our parents. It is also hard if we have a parent or guardian who is abusive, or less than loving to us, and who does not seem to deserve being honored. Either way, it is an opportunity to turn with our whole heart to God, and acknowledge Him as our one true Parent, the Father-Mother of us all. God’s loving embrace includes the wisdom and guidance we need to get along with others, and find a sense of warmth and belonging. His angel messages can point us to the human footsteps to take, if we need help or intervention . . . Rarely is there a reason not to honor and obey those who are given the responsibility to care for us in our childhood on earth. We can pray to God, and trust Him to guide our family, no matter what form it seems to take — big, small, ‘blended,’ ‘chosen,’ or ‘temporary.’  (First Lessons, Volume One: The Ten Commandments, pg. 36, by Vicki Jones Cole)

What about those specific times when children may feel their parents are doing something that does not feel morally, legally, or spiritually right, and the children feel forced to participate? Are they bound by the Fifth Commandment to always go along with their parents unquestioningly? This is not easy. It’s a situation that calls for prayer and maybe a little prayerful intervention by adults close to the situation. When a child is old enough, this counsel of Mrs. Eddy should be considered:

“To the child complaining of his parents we have said, ‘Love and honor thy parents, and yield obedience to them in all that is right; but you have the rights of conscience, as we all have, and must follow God in all your ways.” (Miscellaneous Writings, pg. 236)

I love how Mrs. 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 nots,” 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.

“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)

And, again: “All honor and success to those who honor their father and mother.”  (Mary Baker Eddy in Message to The Mother Church 1901, pg. 29)


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.

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 Mrs. 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 with Key to the Scriptures. 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.

Any 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 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.


In addition to the ideas presented already in Parts One, Two, and Three, 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 become willing 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 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.

For more Questions and Answers you might choose to use in teaching your children or Sunday School pupils, please see the Lessons elsewhere on this site on the Fifth Commandment.







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