The Fourth Commandment takes us into the discipleship at its most mundane level, life in the family.
“The fourth commandment is ‘the first and greatest commandment because it relates to that point at which I was called into life by God through my parents – called into purely physical, yet at the same time social life…I did not choose my parents, the place or language of my birth; I was born. “I was created; God created me into life, albeit through my parents.”
God has given you your parents; it is for this reason they are to be honoured.
According to Luther, the majesty of God resides in the parental office, for through them, the Creator is exercising His authority to call life into being and provide order for that life in this world:
With this commandment, God is assigning a particular great, good and holy work; (LC I 112) to children. Instead of abandoning parents in search of some higher goodness as in monasticism, God’s Word locates the discipleship of children in their responsibility to their parents.
The Fourth Commandment recognises the uniqueness of the office of parent in that parents are God’s masks for the blessing of children in both the spiritual and earthly realms. Parental authority is different from all other forms of authority because it functions in both realms. Parents not only exercise authority over their children in the secular government, but they also proclaim the Gospel to their children. Thus, they are at one and the same time secular authorities and through the universal priesthood, spiritual authorities for their children.
Parents therefore are to be honoured because through them God is nurturing the life of faith that gives access to the heavenly kingdom and defending children against sin and evil that would destroy the bodily life in this world.
Adapted from - Luther’s Small Catechism: A Manual for Discipleship; John T. Pless, CPH 2019, p. 31-34