RAISING UP A CULTURE OF HONOR
By: Paul Anderson
Are you good at showing honor? Is the church—or society? To whom does our culture show honor? Whom do we not honor that we should or honor that we should not?
WHAT IS HONOR?
The dictionary says that “honor” means “esteem, high regard, great respect, credit.” “Honor” translates the Hebrew word “cabod,” which is also translated “glory” and literally means “heaviness, weight.” To properly honor, we give weight or attention to what is deserving of it. It takes discernment to honor what is honorable. The Bible says that “it is not fitting to honor a fool (Proverbs 26:1,8). A debased culture honors the dishonorable.
WHY SHOULD WE SHOW HONOR?
BECAUSE GOD DOES. We take our queue from the Trinity. God honored us by making us in His image: “You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). The Father honors the Son. “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). The Son honors the Father. Jesus told the religious leaders, “I honor my Father and you dishonor me” (John 8:49, 54). Jesus said of the Spirit, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:14). And Jesus honored the Spirit. He left the disciples with the promise that the Spirit within them would be better than having Jesus with them.
BECAUSE GOD COMMANDS IT. Whatever God commands is worth doing. God instituted marriage, family, the church, and government, and He calls us to work. “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure…” (Hebrews 13:4). Redefining marriage is one clear example of not honoring this sacred institution. Husbands and wives are to honor each other (I P.3:1-8). In the family, children are commanded, “Honor your father and mother.” The best way to honor them is to obey them. And parents take after God when they appropriately honor their children. In our family, we use birthday times to show special honor to the birthday people.
In the church, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor…” (I Timothy 5:17). In civil life, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). And Peter writes, “Show proper respect to everyone; love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (I Peter 2:17). If we cannot honor the person, we still honor the position. Peter honored Nero as king, thought his character was despicable. And Paul honored the position of the high priest, though the high priest was not honorable, because Scripture told him to (Acts 23:1-5). Peter goes on to speak about the workplace, telling slaves, “Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect…” (v. 18). And Paul wrote, “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered” (I Tim. 6:1).
Bottom line: we honor everyone, as Peter commanded (I Peter 2:17). They bear the image of God. They are people for whom Christ died. These are good reasons to show honor. But special honor goes to honorable people.
HOW SHALL WE HONOR?
WE HONOR WHAT IS HONORABLE. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” Revelation 5:12; Hebrews 2:9). Paul wrote, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (I Timothy 1:17). “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 1:6). God came against the Israelites because they honored people in their family and workplace more than God. They gave Him second-rate sacrifices, which told the nations that they worshipped a second-rate God. And they thought they were doing Him a favor. We honor God by giving Him our best, our first.
WE HONOR THE WISDOM OF AGE. “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32). Our culture chases after the fountain of youth, so it is no longer typical to rise in the presence of age. The elderly, especially women, do not want to give their age because they are getting older and of less value to a culture that respects good looks and muscles. We honor the elderly by listening to them, caring for them, and by valuing their perspective. Paul told Timothy that he was to address his elders differently than he spoke to peers and those under him.
WE HONOR CHARACTER OVER CHARISMA. Why? It is learned, not given. Those impressed by flash or hype will miss the true nature of things. They will end up calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5;20). In the end times people with charismatic gifts will deceive a world into thinking that they have values worth following. People with leadership gifts but without good values are dangerous. Think Hitler. We do not honor what is not honorable. It is good for Americans to honor people of character, like our forefathers, men of integrity.
WE GO LOW. We put others higher. “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). The RSV says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Our desire to give honor should trump our need to receive it. Then God will see that we are given it: “…humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 1812; 29:13). Asian cultures exhibit honor by bowing. When they present a gift to someone, they raise the gift above themselves. Going low is written into their culture.
TRUTHS ABOUT HONOR
HONOR BEGETS HONOR. “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained (I Samuel 2:30). It is highly favorable to have the honor of God.
HONORING THE DISHONORABLE BRINGS BLINDNESS. Those who change the price tags and value evil will be unable to recognize good and will be grossly deceived. Thus, the great deception before the end. Honor is connected to value. We discern what has value.
HONOR HELPS GUARD OUR ATTITUDE. Honor includes attitudes, words, and actions (obedience, deference, respect). We are more familiar with sarcasm than honor. And we often miss opportunities to encourage or honor.
WE BECOME LIKE WHAT WE HONOR. The Israelites made and worshipped metallic gods and became like them (Psalm 115:8). Honoring changes us. We become what we behold, what we treat as significant, as worthy of our attention.
HONOR IS GIVEN; IT IS NOT EXPECTED OR DEMANDED. Samuel did not honor Saul, though as king he requested it. Jesus urged people to walk in humility rather than seek to be honored (Luke 14:7,8).