+ A.M.D.G. +

Transgressions of the Fourth Commandment

1. He transgresses the Fourth Commandment of God who is disrespectful towards his parents; who behaves rudely to them, is ashamed of them, etc.

Cham mocked at his father, when he lay naked and drunk in his tent (Gen. ix.). For this his father cursed him; his descendants are the negro inhabitants of Africa, and know not the true God.

1. He who is unkind to his parents, who, for instance, hates them, refuses to help them, steals from them, etc.

The sons of Jacob, after they had sold their brother Joseph, deceived and grieved their father (Gen. xxxvii). Absalom spoke against his father at the palace gates, lied to him, and rebelled against him (2 Kings xv.).

2. He who disobeys his parents, and will not be corrected by them, transgresses this commandment.

The two sons of the high priest Heli disobeyed their father’s commands and admonitions (1 Kings ii.).

How Does God Reward the Observance of the Fourth commandment? 
1. God promises long life, happiness, and blessings upon earth to children who honor their parents.

At the giving of the law on Sinai God promised long life as the reward for keeping the Fourth Commandment (Exod. xx. 12). St. Paul holds out the same inducement to the fulfilment of filial duty (Eph. vi. 3). Joseph was obedient to his father; the old man loved him for it but his brethren hated him. Joseph was made Governor of Egypt, and attained the age of a hundred and ten years (Gen. 1.). Those who honor their parents honor old age; and as in the providence of God there is generally some connection between the work and the reward, dutiful children usually reach an advanced age. A long life is a great boon to a man; the longer he lives, the more merits he can amass for eternity. Under the Old Dispensation a long life shortened the sojourn of the soul in limbo, consequently it was a greater privilege than under the New Dispensation, when a good death is an immediate transition to eternal life. Certainly many good children die young, but even in this case God fulfils His promise, for instead of life on earth He gives them life eternal, which is far more to be desired. Besides an innocent life is in itself a long life; “a spotless life is old age” (Wisd. iv. 9). God takes many a one out of this world that he may escape contamination: “lest wickedness should alter his understanding” (Wisd. iv. 11). Moreover the blessings which parents invoke upon their children are very powerful. Witness the blessing which the aged Tobias gave to his son when he set out on his journey; the blessings which Noe pronounced upon Sem and Japheth. Honor your parents that their blessing may rest upon you. “The father’s blessing establisheth the houses of the children” (Ecclus. iii. 11). “He that honoreth his mother is as one that layeth up a treasure” (v. 5); “The relieving of thy father shall never be forgotten” (v. 15). Hence it comes that dutiful children are generally prosperous, or at least have real contentment. The enjoyment of happiness and peace is more to be desired than wealth. Those who behave well to their parents are blessed in their turn with dutiful children, who are a comfort to them. “He that honoreth his father shall have joy in his own children” (v. 6). Happiness in this world and in the next is the reward God bestows upon children who honor their parents.

2. God threatens to send upon those who do not honor their parents shame upon earth, a miserable end, everlasting damnation.

It is unquestionably a great sin to treat one’s greatest earthly benefactor with ingratitude, and because of the magnitude of the sin the punishment is proportionately heavy. Those who forget their father and mother God will forget, and allow them to suffer reproach (Ecclus. xxiii. 18, 19). As a tree on which there were no blossoms can produce no fruit, so the man who was disobedient in his youth will not be honored in his old age. Bad children frequently come to a miserable end; witness the death of the two sons of Heli, who perished in battle (1 Kings iv. 11), also the fate that overtook the treacherous Absalom, who, having rebelled against his father David, and defeated him, was caught by his long hair in the branches of an oak, and hung there, pierced by three lances (2 Kings xviii.). Bad children are in great danger of losing their souls. If God deals so severely in the Day of Judgment with those who have failed to perform works of mercy towards their neighbor, how much the more rigorously will He judge those who have been unkind to their own parents. The Apostle says that those who are disobedient to parents are worthy of death (Rom. i. 30). The Jewish law pronounced a curse upon him who honoreth not his father and mother (Deut. xxvii. 16). Again, “He that striketh his father or mother shall be put to death” (Exod. xxi. 15). “The eye that mocketh at his mother, let the ravens pick it out and the young eagles eat it” (Prov. xxx. 17). God laid this strict command upon the Jews: “A stubborn and unruly son, who will not hear the commandments of his father and mother, and slighteth obedience; the people of the city shall stone him and he shall die, that all Israel hearing it may be afraid” (Deut. xxi. 18, 21). Those who have not honored their parents, by divine retribution often have unruly children of their own, as experience frequently shows. “By what things a man sinneth, by the same he is tormented” (Wisd. xi. 17). Cham despised his father, and his descend ants were the degraded nations whom God caused to be cast out of Chanaan.


This article, Transgressions of the Fourth Commandment is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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