Do you want to live a long life?

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Ephesians 6:2-3, ESV).

It is entertaining, and sometimes a little sad, the lengths some people will go to in an attempt to extend their lives. Exactly how many wheatgrass plus açaí berry smoothies do I have to drink? Do I really have to go on a “if it tastes good, spit it out” diet? I remember reading a headline about a man who ate an extremely healthy diet and exercised fanatically in order to extend his life, but was tragically killed in a bicycle vs. truck accident. Living a consistently healthy lifestyle won’t guarantee longevity when trucks are involved.

There is nothing we can do, or not do, that will absolutely guarantee ourselves a long life. God is sovereign. Only He knows the number of our days, because He has numbered them (Psalm 39:4; 90:12). Doctors tell us that if you eat right and exercise, you should live a long life. But, there are people who eat right and exercise, yet die at 28. And, there are people who eat bacon with every meal, smoke cigarettes, and vegetate in front of a television for 12 hours a day and yet live to 98. God has a purpose for each of our lives, and the length of our lives is part of that purpose.

But, the Bible does contain a promise, a command you can obey, that will result in a reward of long life. In Ephesians 6:2-3, which is a quotation of Exodus 20:12, God promises a long life as a reward for honoring your parents.

For more information on what it means to honor your parents, please check out the following articles on
What does it mean to honor my father and mother?
How do we honor an abusive parent?

For those raised by good and godly parents, showing respect, love, and honor to your parents is relatively easy. For others, honoring parents is much more difficult. But, whether easy or difficult, it is very important. God places such a high regard on how you treat your parents because it is, in part, an illustration of our relationship with Him (Hebrews 12:5-11).

My father passed away when I was 16 years old. He was a good father. I think I honored him just about as much as a child and teenager can honor a parent. I truly regret that I do not have the opportunity to honor him in person today. I strive to honor him by caring for his wife (my mother) and showing respect, care, and love towards his siblings and other relatives.

My mother was, and is, a good mother. No parent is perfect. She has made mistakes and is not without her faults and quirks. As my mom has gotten older, my responsibilities to care for her have increased. This can be difficult and frustrating at times, but it is not something I dread or complain about. It is my responsibility. I like to joke that my mom is guaranteeing me a long life by allowing me to care for her and occasionally making it somewhat difficult to care for her. But, I am not honoring my mother in order to lengthen my life. I am honoring my mother because God commands it, because it is the right thing to do, and because I want to do it out of gratitude for all she has done for me.

The reward of long life in response to honoring your parents is not an absolute or universal promise. There are some people who have truly honored their parents, but die young. And, there are some people who show disrespect for their parents, but live a long life. Generally speaking, though, God rewards those who honor their parents with a longer life.

So, if you want to extend your life, put down that wheatgrass shake, toss that kale and brussels sprout salad in the trash where it belongs; and instead look for ways to show honor, respect, love, and care for your parents.

S. Michael Houdmann

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Do you want to live a long life?