As a business person, would you like to know the secret to achieving favor with God and man? Would you like to be the person who receives unmerited favor in both your business and personal life? The secret to that type of favor is embedded in the biblical principle of honor. Learn to be a person that embraces and lives a life of honor and you and your business can walk in favor with God and man.
Today’s society, and especially Western civilization, knows very little about the concept of honor. Eastern cultures still practice honor to a higher degree than we do in the United States, but the biblical concept of honor has largely been forgotten in our day. In fact, we live in a society that mocks honor and embraces and creates entertainment around the practice of dishonor. It’s very difficult to find a movie or television sitcom where dishonor is not the central theme of the entertainment.
Dishonor is rampant in today’s culture from our government leaders to our spiritual leaders. It seems that dishonor has saturated every segment of our society to the point that we have become calloused to the concept of honor and aren’t even aware when we are practicing or embracing dishonor. When presented with television shows that mock people that should be honored, we laugh along with everyone else, not realizing that we just added our agreement to the dishonor that is being portrayed. That’s how calloused we’ve become to this sin.
So what is biblical honor and why is the practice of honor so important to God? In this article we will present a biblical understanding of the concept of honor and explain why this is so important to God and the promises that He’s made concerning those who live a life of honor. We’ll take a look at various ways that business leaders frequently engage in acts of dishonor as well as look at practical measures for how we can honor those that we engage with on a daily basis in order to achieve success supernaturally and obtain favor with God and man.
Defining Biblical Honor
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for honor is “kabed”. Many Christians are familiar with the term “kabod” which is the noun form of the same word and refers to the weightiness, or wealth, or quantity, or physical weight associated with the presence and glory of God. One of the first uses of this word in the Old Testament is in the Ten Commandments where the Lord admonishes us to “Honor your father and mother that your days may be prolonged in the land that the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex 20:12).
In the New Testament, the Greek word “timē” is generally used for honor and is defined as a valuing, a price paid or received, preciousness, honor, or esteem. Taking the Hebrew and Greek together we see that biblical honor is about esteeming others as being significantly valuable in a tangible way. This is the way that God perceives us and He insists that we perceive Him and each other in the same manner. Three New Testament scriptures that reflect God’s commandment to honor are presented below.
“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. (Phil 2:3)
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Rom 12:10)
From the etymology of the word and scriptures above, we see that the first definition of honor is to esteem others as being more valuable than ourselves. This is not a self-deprecating viewpoint that says that I am nothing and you are everything, but a Christ-like viewpoint which says that there is no one in the world that the Lord loves more than me, but to both Him and me, you are even more valuable. To put it another way, on a scale from one to ten, I’m a ten, but you are an eleven!
It is impossible to value others properly if we have poor self-esteem. In order to honor others as more valuable than ourselves, we must first recognize and understand our own value in God’s eyes. We must understand that our Heavenly Father loves us and values us as much as He loves Jesus. He loves and values us so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross in order to win us back to Himself. He is not stuck with you but rather He chose you and paid an incredible price for you! This understanding of our value in the Lord’s eyes must start in our head but then must move to our heart in order to feel His love, acceptance, and value in our own lives. Only then can we learn to love, accept, and value others in a similar manner.
The second definition of biblical honor can best be seen in the story of Noah and his three sons. Noah became drunk and passed out naked in his own tent. His son Ham saw this event and informed his two brothers. We may have been taught in Sunday school that Ham laughed, giggled, gossiped, and mocked his father, but the scriptures reflect that Ham’s only sin was that he told his brothers the truth about what he had seen (Gen 9:22). How often have we felt that stating the truth about a person or situation leaves us blameless? Ham’s exposure of the truth, not to those outside of his family but to his own two brothers, dishonored his father and cost him his inheritance which resulted in God allowing a word-curse to come against his lineage for future generations.
The second definition of honor is to make someone look better than they really are, and cover over their weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins. Shem and Japheth, Noah’s other two sons instinctively understood this and walked backwards into Noah’s tent to cover him up. The Bible says that they looked the other way in order to prevent them from seeing their father’s nakedness.
Many Christians feel that as long as they are speaking the truth about people, regardless of the consequences of that conversation, they are blameless in the sight of God. The Word of God is full of examples where people were either blessed or judged based upon how they honored or dishonored other people – even when speaking the truth about a situation. Since the Lord knows everything, the last thing He needs is another fact checker reporting to Him. What He sorely lacks are people who will help make His sons and daughters look better than they really are by covering over, ignoring, and forgiving their shortcomings and mistakes.
Biblical honor is a heartfelt attitude towards God and mankind and not just an external action. The Word commands us to “…rise up before the gray-headed and honor the aged…” (Lev 19:32). However, we can perform the external action of rising up without honoring the aged. Unless the heart is of the right attitude, God does not consider the external action one of honor.
A perfect example of insincere honor is seen whenever the president of the United States stands before a joint session of Congress. The members of Congress stand and applaud, the music plays, and everyone puts on their phony smile. Immediately before and after the session, we see our leaders “trash-talking” the same president that they externally honored with insincere hearts.
True biblical honor starts and culminates in the heart. External actions are the result of a heartfelt attitude of esteeming others more valuable than ourselves. The Lord does not credit external actions of honoring people as biblical honor if our hearts are insincere. The Lord weighs the intention of the heart (Prov 16:2; Jer 17:10). External actions of honor will naturally follow a heart that lives a life of honor.
The opposite of honor is dishonor, which is defined as belittling, mocking, slighting, being disrespectful towards, or withholding something that is due to someone else. If you want to understand dishonor, pick up a newspaper. It is often said that bad news sells, but what really sells newspapers are stories of dishonor. Take the time to examine what you read and listen to in the news and start looking for the conversations of dishonor.
The more sensitive you become towards recognizing dishonor, the more you will realize just how calloused you’ve become towards the practice of dishonor in your everyday life. Until we can hear the Holy Spirit telling us how and when we are practicing dishonor, we will not be able to change and become more Christ-like by embracing and practicing the principle of honor.
Why is Honor so important to God?
The first four commandments of the Ten Commandments address how man is to honor God by giving Him preeminence in our lives and esteeming Him as Holy. In 1 Sam 2:30, the Lord says “Those who honor me, I will honor and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
We tend to think of the sin of idolatry as worshiping a golden calf. However, any time we love or value a person, place, or thing more than we value the Lord Himself and His Word, then we are committing idolatry. In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus summarized all of the Law by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all your mind, and with all of your strength. The second is this; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Love and honor go hand in hand. You cannot love someone if you do not honor (value) them.
The sins of Eli and Samuel were that they did not correct and discipline their sons when their sons sinned (1 Sam 2:29, 1 Sam 8:1-5). By refusing to correct their sons or remove them from their priestly office or position as judges, they honored their sons above the Word of the Lord, and God counted their lack of corrective actions as the sin of idolatry. By failing to correct their sons, they dishonored the Lord because their actions showed that they loved or valued their sons more than they loved and valued the Lord.
When we sin, we dishonor a Holy God. The Lord of the universe expects to be honored by His creation and promises to withhold honor from those that do not honor Him or His Word.
The last six of the Ten Commandments address how we are to honor each other as children of God. Since our fleshly nature is very self-centered, the Lord gave us these commandments to teach us how to honor each other by valuing each other’s rights. After all, what parent likes to see their children fighting?
To our western mentality, we generally believe that people need to earn our respect (or honor). But from a Kingdom perspective, we are mandated to honor all people as well as the Lord, the king (or ruling officials), elders, and those in authority. Many times we fail to give honor that is due and yet wonder why the Lord is not honoring us or answering our prayers.
Similar to Eli and Samuel, when we disregard the Word of the Lord to “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king”, God counts this as sin. By dishonoring others, we have dishonored the Lord of the universe who has commanded us to honor each other. Just consider the content in our newspapers and media, and the actions and hearts of our government and spiritual leaders, is it any wonder why so many of our prayers seem to go unanswered today?
Jesus said that we can sum up all of the commandments in two commandments: love the Lord our God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. In John 14:15 we see that the test of our love for God is defined by how well we obey His commandments. We also see in 1 John 4:20 that if we hate our brothers and sisters (an extreme measure of dishonor) that we prove we are incapable of loving God. If we can’t properly esteem or value our brothers and sisters whom we see in the flesh, how can we properly esteem or value a God whom we cannot see?
Honor is important to God because honor is a Kingdom principle. Everything that the Lord is and has created has intrinsic value and He expects us to honor it all. If everything He created has value, then how much more valuable is the One who created everything and worthy of being honored by His creation?
In our third and final part of this article we will look at honor in the workplace. We’ll discuss ways that we often practice dishonor at work as well as practical ways that we can honor the Lord, those in authority, our employees, and even our competitors, so that we can truly become people of honor. This will result in the Lord honoring us and bringing us favor with both God and man.
Jeff Ahern is an author, public speaker, and former Naval Officer who has provided management consulting and business process improvement services to Fortune 500 and Government clients for over twenty years. He is co-founder of Sozo Services, Inc., a spiritual advisory firm helping business leaders succeed and achieve their personal and corporate goals by using Biblical, Spirit-led solutions.