Recognizing this parallel, the Westminster Standards expand the meaning of the fifth commandment to encompass our duties in all of our relationships. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the commandment requires “the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors or equals” (WSC 64). The reference here is not to superiors and inferiors in terms of dignity or value but in terms of authority. The Westminster divines understood that while fathers and mothers are the first and most basic authorities in our lives, they are not the only ones. The divines also included authorities in the church and the state; we might add authorities in the classroom and the workplace.
In each of these contexts, we have various relationships. Sometimes we are superior, sometimes inferior, and sometimes equal. In each case, we have various duties and are liable to commit certain sins, and the Westminster Larger Catechism expands at length on these duties and sins (WLC 123–33). In so doing, the Larger Catechism unfolds the meaning of honor as paying what is due to them—to superiors, reverence, prayer, obedience, imitation of their godly virtues, maintenance of their dignity, and bearing with their infirmities (WLC 127); to inferiors, love, prayer, instruction, rewards, correction, and protection (WLC 129); and to equals, recognition of their dignity, deference, and rejoicing in their advancement (WLC 131).
To fail to honor those around us, whether superiors, inferiors, or equals, is to engage in rebellion against God. Especially in the case of our superiors, casting off earthly authorities is tantamount to casting off our heavenly authority, the One who placed those earthly authorities over us. This is why rebellion against parents was such a grievous sin under the old covenant and why Paul included disobedience to parents among the grave offenses committed by the ungodly.
As God is due honor by virtue of His being our God, so our fellow man is due honor by virtue of His being God’s image bearer, and so also our superiors are due honor by virtue of their having authority “by God’s ordinance” (WLC 124). When we honor our fellow men in their several relations, we honor the God who placed us all where we are.