The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after Him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We should have respect all legitimate authority in life.
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Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law
by Gustave Doré
The Fourth Commandment requires us not only to obey our parents but also our employers, superiors, rulers, civil leaders, bishops and all those in lawful authority over us, except in matters in which these superiors require us to sin. We are expected to not only tolerate but rather love and respect our parents. St. Paul commands thusly: “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
Therefore, we are commanded not only to support our superiors and parents in temporal affairs (e.g. caring for them while sick, respecting their opinions, aiding them in daily tasks) but also in spiritual affairs (e.g. praying for them, helping them to avoid sin and develop virtue, et cetera).
Respect for civil authorities in both aforementioned regards is also commanded, yet we must keep our Lord’s words in mind.
Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or no? But he considering their guile, said to them: Why tempt you me? Show me a penny. Whose image and inscription hath it? They answering, said to him, Caesar's. And he said to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's: and to God the things that are God's.
With these words, we remember our Lord’s command to give to the civil authorities their rightful rewards but give true worship to God alone. We must respect all who are legitimate over us whether they be our bosses, our teachers, our priests, our leaders, et cetera. But we can not follow their wishes if they instruct us to do anything evil or sinful. In such a way, this Commandment is subordinated to the First Commandment.
Furthermore, while reflecting on the account of Our Lord giving the care of His Mother to John the Apostle, St. John Chrysostom preaches:
And He, having committed His mother to John, said, “Behold your Son.” John 19:26 O the honor! with what honor did He honor the disciple! when He Himself was now departing, He committed her to the disciple to take care of. For since it was likely that, being His mother, she would grieve, and require protection, He with reason entrusted her to the beloved. To him He says, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). This He said, knitting them together in charity; which the disciple understanding, took her to his own home. "But why made He no mention of any other woman, although a... Please purchase this lesson to continue learning.
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