The Virtue of Honor
Honor is a slippery word. A few years back I studied this term in depth, and found its definition has changed over time. What we now call “honor” is very different from the Biblical meaning.
Today’s definition is based on man’s assessment of merit. We describe honor as something we give when someone who has met the standard we’ve set. We give honor only if we feel it’s deserved.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for honor is ti-mé, which means “to value, treat as precious and highly-esteemed.” The difference between that definition and ours is who determines the value. In the New Testament meaning, God sets the value. It’s not up to us.
A good example is a painting that’s appraised at a certain price. You may look it at it and say “For that?” But your opinion doesn’t change the value. Someone else has already set that. To “honor” it in the New Testament sense, you need to raise your appreciation for the artwork. To try to bring down the value based on your opinion would be dishonoring.
God has asked us to…outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10, RSV). Here are a couple of ways you can do that.
First, think the best about people.
Take, for instance, our government leaders. We constantly judge their motives, wisdom, and ability. It’s increasingly popular to share opinions about them in conversation and on social media. We’re becoming less and less honorable as a culture with our degrading name calling and personal attacks. This isn’t Biblical honor.
In the New Testament, Paul wrote:
Brothers and sisters, we ask you to show your appreciation for those leaders who work among you and instruct you. We ask you to love them and think very highly of them because of the work they are doing.
‒ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (GWT)
Instead of berating our leaders, let’s show honor by honestly thanking them for their service and appreciating their hard work. Look for the best and be complimentary. And let’s do that everywhere…at home, in the marketplace, on the job…you name it.
Second, disagree without being disagreeable.
The late Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, often shared the quote, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” God created individuals to think differently. He did this on purpose! Other ideas are not a bad thing…they’re a God thing! Let’s appreciate our uniqueness as the gift God intended it to be.
Another place in the New Testament Paul wrote…
I beg you…be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.
‒ Ephesians 4:1-3 (TLB)
Those are great words to live by! Can you imagine how different your life would be if you actually put this into practice?
- Instead of giving the police office a hard time for pulling you over…you’re polite and respectful.
- Instead of chiming in with your coworkers to gripe about the boss…you change the conversation by pointing out something they do well.
- Instead of sharing disparaging memes about our leaders on social media...you show appreciation for their service.
Honoring people the New Testament way is not the norm. In fact, it’s very counter-cultural! But that’s exactly who God called us to be, and what he expects us to do!
Let’s be people who “honor” today…and every day.