The Large Catechism
I.4. The Fourth Commandment
Thus far we have learned the first three commandments, which relate to God.
First that with our whole heart we trust in Him, and fear and love Him throughout
all our life. Secondly, that we do not misuse His holy name in the support of
falsehood or any bad work, but employ it to the praise of God and the profit and
salvation of our neighbor and ourselves. Thirdly, that on holidays and when at
rest we diligently treat and urge God's Word, so that all our actions and our entire
life be ordered according to it. Now follow the other seven, which relate to our
neighbor among which the first and greatest is:
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.
To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special
distinction above all estates that are beneath it that He not simply commands us
to love our parents, but to honor them. For with respect to brothers, sisters, and
our neighbors in general He commands nothing higher than that we love them,
so that He separates and distinguishes father and mother above all other
persons upon earth, and places them at His side. For it is a far higher thing to
honor than to love one, inasmuch as it comprehends not only love, but also
modesty, humility, and deference as to a majesty there hidden, and requires not
only that they be addressed kindly and with reverence, but, most of all that both
in heart and with the body we so act as to show that we esteem them very highly,
and that, next to God, we regard them as the very highest. For one whom we are
to honor from the heart we must truly regard as high and great.
We must, therefore impress it upon the young that they should regard their
parents as in God's stead, and remember that however lowly, poor, frail, and
queer they may be, nevertheless they are father and mother given them by God.
They are not to be deprived of their honor because of their conduct or their
failings. Therefore we are not to regard their persons, how they may be, but the
will of God who has thus created and ordained. In other respects we are, indeed,
all alike in the eyes of God; but among us there must necessarily be such
inequality and ordered difference, and therefore God commands it to be
observed, that you obey me as your father, and that I have the supremacy.
Learn, therefore, first, what is the honor towards parents required by this
commandment to wit, that they be held in distinction and esteem above all things,
as the most precious treasure on earth. Furthermore, that also in our words we
observe modesty toward them, do not accost them roughly, haughtily, and
defiantly, but yield to them and be silent even though they go too far. Thirdly, that
we show them such honor also by works, that is, with our body and possessions,
that we serve them, help them, and provide for them when they are old, sick,
infirm, or poor, and all that not only gladly, but with humility and reverence, as