Article by Jerry Clark
What Is Honor?
Honor has several synonyms: “esteem, respect, pay homage to, assigning value to.” The Greek word translated “honor” in our English Bibles, timao, means “to prize, fix a valuation upon; by implication, to revere” (Strong’s Concordance). Showing honor, then, means treating another respectfully because we value them highly.
So is honor due anyone? Should we put value on any man or woman, or should we honor God alone? What does the Bible say? A study with a concordance reveals just how much God has to say about honoring others. He does not limit it to honoring our parents. Romans 13:7 tells us clearly that honor is due to certain ones: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
This begs the questions: To whom is honor due besides God? And how do we honor others?
The truth is that we will never sincerely respect, prize, value or honor anyone until we have an attitude of meekness. Honoring and respecting others will not happen when a superior or holier-than-thou attitude is present. Paul tells us to “esteem others better than” ourselves (Philippians 2:3) and “to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3).
Of course, we already understand that honoring our parents is emphasized in the Bible. While we know to honor our parents, do we really think about “honoring” people generally—not just parents? In some countries, because of their culture, they have special words of honor reserved for the elderly. Even an older brother or sister is called by a special term of honor in some cultures.
An Age Of Dishonor
We live in a culture and age of dishonor. It has become normal for political cartoons and editorials to disrespect and dishonor our leaders. Whether on radio or television, the airwaves are bombarded with talk shows that seem to be discussing whose reputation they wish to destroy today. Slowly, but surely, the cruel rhetoric and bitter criticism can soon begin to creep in and infect the attitudes of our culture. If we are not careful, we can begin to think and talk in the same dishonoring way. Dishonor become something we accept as normal. It impacts our minds and warps the way we see and think about others. When we dishonor others, it is a sure sign we are thinking only of ourselves.
What Does It Mean To Honor Others?
We know what the Bible says. We are to love others as ourselves, even honor them. Honoring from a pure motive is possible only when we have a proper perspective of who God is, what we are, and who others are in relation to God and to us. It begins with deep honor and respect for God and for what He says in His Word.
The first four commandments lay the foundation for honoring others properly. The last six commandments deal with our relationships to other people. A society built on a solid family unit where the father and mother are honored will be a society that will likely also obey the last five commandments. So, honoring others comes easier when children are raised to honor their parents. Likewise, a society that honors its parents will tend to conduct itself honorably.
The fifth commandment says: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). God provides no qualifier when it comes to honor. He does not tell us to honor them only if they are honorable. Parents are to be honored simply because of their position—because they are our parents—therefore we must honor them by treating them with respect.
Can honoring parents be very difficult if our father is a drunk or our mother is a lying thief. Of course. Their actions may sometimes be dishonorable, but because they are dad and mom, they are to be respected. The commandment has no loopholes. So, what should we do about it? We need to take a deep and long look at ourselves. Do we have resentment toward our dads? Is their unresolved anger toward our moms for any of her actions? Will I choose to listen to and obey the fifth commandment and begin to heal, to restore and to honor? When was the last time we really honored our father and mother?
Parents Are To Honor Their Children
In turn, parents are to treat their children with dignity and respect. They are not to provoke their children “but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). God, our heavenly Father, sets the example by publicly honoring His Son more than once (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Jesus teaches very clearly about the closeness He has with His Father (John 5:18-30) and the mutual respect and honor that is present in their relationship. Our heavenly Father honors His Son and He expects us to honor His Son as well (John 5:23).
Honoring Our Spouse
As husbands and fathers, we set the example for the whole family by showing honor to the woman God gave him to be the mother of his children! Peter says it very well, “Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). A husband should honor his wife above everything else on this earth, except God Himself. Peter actually links this with a husband’s relationship with God, so that as husbands, our prayers may not be hindered. It is that important!
Men are often experts at finding fault. We are very good at seeing things that need to be fixed. We know full well when things are not done just right. So, we think we are helping our mate to be a better wife by constantly pointing out these things. How does that work for us? Not so well!
Instead of finding fault, we as husbands must try to find ways to praise, honor, encourage, and promote growth and joy in the hearts of our wives. We need to pray for God to help us love our wives as Jesus loves the church, giving Himself for her, and presenting her to Himself as being without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:25-30).
I need to also say, that wives are not off the hook either. The same Peter who tells husbands to honor their spouses also instructs wives to submit to and obey their husbands, “as Sarah obeyed Abraham” (1 Peter 3:5-6). Paul reminds wives to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). How would wives treat their husbands if he were Christ? That is the standard.
Here’s the bottom line—when children see mom honoring dad, and dad praising and honoring mom, they in turn find it so much easier to honor father and mother. It’s like the quote by Saint Francis of Assisi, who said, “Preach the gospel at all times—if necessary, use words.” Our actions serve as a powerful example that teach our children how they should conduct themselves when they eventually marry and have children. Children will learn honor if they see it being lived out while growing up. Children learn what they live.
Imagine what our society would be like if everyone followed this principle of honor! Honor must not stop with our own family. All older people should be honored as well. Leviticus 19:32 explicitly says, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.” Again, God does not state any reservations or qualifiers in that verse. Honor is the standard.
So, let me ask, when was the last time we saw children or younger adults automatically stand when a senior citizen entered a room? God says this should happen. It still does in some parts of the world, but not so in our own country. Some people rise for women.
Why is this honoring action important? Because embedded in the center of honor is respect. Respect shows value. A culture’s values are reflected in what it respects or does not respect.
Whom Else Should We Honor?
Is it beginning to become clear that honoring goes way beyond just respecting God and parents? God wants a world where respect and honor of others are the way of life for its people. Romans 12:10 says just that: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”
We are to honor one another, but do we? Perhaps we should challenge ourselves to think of ways to show honor to someone—anyone—each day. When was the last time we actively and consciously honored someone? When did we last thank, write a letter of appreciation, or call someone to show respect? If we are not, maybe it is a sign that we think too highly of ourselves and not highly enough of others.
Honoring one another touches all of our relationships. God is very clear about that. The standard is the same for all of us. Let’s raise the bar and not compromise the standard. Honor God, honor Christ, honor family, honor one another. Jesus appears to us today through the members of His church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). He lives in us, so the way we interact with one another is the way we are interacting with Christ Himself. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (Verse 27).
What Happens When We Honor?
When we obey God’s command to honor all people, we are following our heavenly Father and honoring Him. Then what happens? Jesus gives us the answer in John 12:26: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
So first, we humble ourselves, then give honor and respect even those who might appear to be unworthy of honor and respect. The result? God the Highest, the most Supreme Being in the entire universe, will personally give honor and glory to those who have obeyed this command. This is God’s way. This is God’s standard. The more honor we give, the more honor we will also receive.
Tough as it may be, we should make it our aim to honor everyone—all the time.