Today I am excited to have Lizzy Ainsworth here to talk about biblical honor. Lizzy spend two years focusing on this one word! When I read her post about what she learned, I asked if she would be willing to write about it for Joy Pursued. We don’t talk about honor much these days, so I hope you will settle in and listen close.
A theme weaves right through the Bible; it’s subtle but it’s strong. The more you look for it, the more you see it weaving through stories and passages, shaping the way people received from God. The theme is honor.
Perhaps the most well known Biblical passage on honor is from the ten commandments. The one that says, “Honor your father and your mother that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 NIV)
Here we see the strongest suggestion of how honor affects our life, even our longevity. But what if that was merely the tip of the iceberg?
A brief definition of honor, from the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is to regard or treat someone with admiration or respect.
In other words: valuing, highly regarding or appreciating a person.
Biblical Honor in the Old Testament
Let’s start with the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1. She is a woman who, although dearly loved by her husband, was childless. Each year they went up to the temple and she prayed for a child. (1 Samuel 1:13-14).
Hannah prayed in her heart, moving her lips but not uttering a sound. Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
Her answer, however, is not one of a woman insulted, but filled with grace and honor for the spiritual leader. Afterwards, God grants her request. She goes home, conceives and bears a child. This same child later receives a message from the Lord condemning Eli regarding sin in his household.
Another example of a leader receiving honor despite his sin is King Saul. Saul rewarded David for killing the Giant Goliath, but then Saul turned against him and David fled for his life into the hills. When the opportunity came to kill Saul, David refused. Instead he just cut a piece of Saul’s cloak, an action he later regretted. (1 Samuel 24:3-6)
David spoke honorably to the King even when the situation looked opposite of what God had promised. He allowed God to fulfill His promises rather than trying to force it to happen. (1 Samuel 24:8-12)
Finally, Abigail’s honor towards David prevented her entire household from being wiped out when her husband responded rudely to David’s messengers. 1 Samuel 25.
The key lesson here is that biblical honor does not depend on our agreement with a leader or even on how well they treat us. We honor the position God gives leaders despite their shortcomings. By showing honor, we open ourselves to receiving God’s blessings for our lives.
Biblical Honor in the New Testament
Jesus also spoke on honor. Perhaps one of His most well known statements on this topic is from Mark 6:4-5. “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (NIV) Jesus could not do any miracles in His hometown, except lay hands on a few sick people and heal them. Their lack of honor prevented them from receiving.
On the other hand, when the Phoenician woman encountered Jesus, seeking a miracle for her daughter, she kept an attitude of honor towards Him. Even after He rebuffed her and called her a dog, she showed her faith and called Him Lord and master. She received the miracle she desired. (Matthew 15:21-28) Biblical honor requires faith.
Honor as a Heart Attitude
Honor is a heart attitude and something we need to ask God for. All too often we grumble and complain about everyone from our spouse, to our boss, to our politicians, and even our children. What we speak comes out of our heart. (Matthew 15:18)
There is a sobering Scripture in James 5:9, which says, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.” (NIV)
I don’t pretend to fully understand the implications of that verse, but honor seems to be the opposite of grumbling. And if honoring opens our hand to receive, then grumbling would surely shut it.
Our attitude is often what people remember most about us.
My husband works in a large vegetable processing plant doing maintenance on machinery. A workmate of his was very productive and kept the machinery running extremely well, but he was also negative about the management and general operation of the plant. Eventually he left his job, but instead of being remembered for his efficiency and excellent work, he was only remembered for grumbling.
If we grumble about people, how then can we minister to them? Imagine someone complained about you behind your back, and then presented to pray for and minister to you. You probably wouldn’t receive it well. We cannot hope to influence unless we first honor.
Now I am not saying we should gloss over hard situations, or see them through rose colored glasses. Last year God gave me the word honor for the year and within days we had to confront some ungodly behavior in a housemate. The situation required hard conversations, confrontations and an eventual parting of ways, but we maintained honor. (I’ve written about how to balance Biblical honor with honesty over on my blog.)
A Practical Example of Honor
Early in our married life my husband had a motorbike affectionately known as a posty-bike. (In Australia, postmen ride these little bikes to deliver mail.) One day, this bike got stolen and we prayed to find it again. A few weeks later, a work mate rang to say he’d found our bike in the river a few blocks from our home.
After dragging it out of the river, My husband decided to fix it up again. He ended up using a motor with much higher power without realizing he wouldn’t be able to legally register it that way.
He could have just written the old motor specifications on the registration, but that would have been dishonest. So even after spending quite a bit of money on it and despite the fact we needed that second vehicle, he chose to honor the law. Within a week, his boss offered him the use of a much bigger, fancier bike.
He’s had a constant supply of different bikes ever since.
While this may not seem like a big deal, it was establishing a life pattern of honoring, which could one day have life altering affect, like it did with Abigail or the Phoenician woman.
I hope this helped you practically evaluate what honor looks like in your life and the importance God places on it. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on this topic in the comments.
Lizzy Ainsworth lives in a noisy house, on a noisy highway, in a quiet village in QLD Australia. Her days are spent with her highly creative and inventive husband and young daughters who consume nearly as much glitter and paint as they do food. When everyone is tucked into bed she processes words of faith and life through journaling and blogging. You can find her at: Lizzy Ainsworth Books, Facebook, Instagram, and on Pinterest.