This past week I had a conversation about the biblical concept of “honor” which led me to do a bit of digging. In our world where South Park and Bart Simpson-like characters are thought to be funny, the word “honor” seems antiquated and unimportant. Yet, when I did a word search, I found that ‘honor’ appears 240 times in the bible. It is clearly an important concept to God. Honor is a bearer of life! Honor is a bringer of blessing! The proverbial knight in shining armor, so to speak.
One of the very cornerstones of our Christian beliefs, The Ten Commandments, is about honor and to whom it is due:
- To God
- To our parents
- To our society
Did you know that God, in turn, honors humankind?
Psalms 8:4-5 What is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels and have crowned him with glory and honor.
I find myself humbled and somewhat ashamed when I think that Omnipotent, Omniscient God honors humankind yet humankind feels powerful enough to hold back honor from those we think undeserving of it.
Even worse – we honor ‘dishonor’. We give our highest awards to television shows that are the epitome of dishonoring God, parents and society. And we excuse this by saying things like, “Lighten up – it’s funny!”
God, on the other hand, thinks of Honor as valuable, as something that is of utmost importance and esteem, symbolizing it with an icon of royalty – “crowned”.
God crowns us with glory and honor. Surely we should be emulating God and if He finds humankind worthy of honor then we should too … or do we know better than God?
Two words are used in scripture that are translated into the English word ‘honor’:
- Kabed meaning to respect, esteem, have concern and affection for, love, consideration, appreciation, nurture and forgiveness.
- Tira’u, meaning to fear, or revere.
Honor is an inner attitude of reverence and respect (and all the other words above) that is displayed outwardly through acts. We esteem and respect an innovative scientist so we bestow an award. Or perhaps, because we have concern and affection for our grandparents, we buy them a cell phone to keep in contact with us. We give honor when we cultivate an attitude of reverence inwardly and then display it outwardly through acts.
Throughout the bible, honor is reserved for the three distinct groups mentioned in the 10 commandments:
- Honor God. (Deuteronomy 5: 1-12) The first 4 commandments are about God and how we are to honor Him – with our hearts and minds and body and time.
- Honor our parents.* (Deuteronomy 5: 16) This commandment is set apart, all by itself, to a distinct group – our parents. Honoring our parents is something we do as adults to our parents. (We so quickly and easily want to relegate this commandment to children, but the ten commandments are written to us adults.) When we cultivate an inward attitude of reverence for our parents and display it through outward acts, three things happen.
- “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that 1. you may live long and 2. that it may go well with you 3. in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Honoring our parents results in God’s blessing of long life, wellness and a place that is ours in society.
- Honor our Society. The last 5 commandments deal with our society. If we cultivate an inward attitude of reverence for our fellow man, then our outward acts will not harm him, but bless him and bring him life.
I believe that the 5th -10th commandments are very similar to the first 4. They are actually ways in which we can honor God. Our parents hold the closest resemblance of God to us. Like God, they were instrumental in making us and hold a position of great importance in our life. They are symbols and shadows of God in our life. Our fellow humans are made in God’s image. They too reflect and resemble God. By honoring these two groups, we come full circle to the first 4 commandments – to honor God.
Honor is not antiquated, old fashioned and to be relegated to fairytales. If we think that, we will be playing right into the hands of the enemy of our soul.
Honor truly is like a knight in shining armor. Honor is a bearer of life! Honor is a bringer of blessing! Honor is vital to our spiritual, emotional and physical well being.
God is mindful of you and honors you.
* Let us not allow our attention to be diverted by questions regarding whether honor is due to evil parents. That would be seeking out the exception to make the rule. We are here talking about everyday, ordinary, run of the mill, flawed human parents – people like you and me. Honoring our parents is about our attitude, not their perfection. Just like the command to not murder is about our attitude and not dependent on whether the other person is flawed or not.