Romans 12:10b states that we are to “give preference to one another in honor.” This “one another” has been like an onion for me. As I dig deeper into my Bible study, this phrase is taking on a rich new meaning; one that is changing both my mind and my heart.
I began by simply thinking about “honor” and how nice it would be to honor those folks who were instrumental in giving me such a firm foundation for my Christian walk by sending them a nice note of thanks. At this point, I understood “honor” to be something I chose to give away and then only to very outstanding individuals.
Within a few hours I was jotting down various thoughts on how “honor” was used in the Bible. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abed-nego were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to honor King Nebuchadnezzar over the Lord. I then made a note that “this” is where to draw the line at honoring someone; biblical honor never requires us to sin.
Next came to mind the idea that we are to honor God through the giving of our tithes and offerings. Proverbs 3:9-10 reads, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
There is also the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12. Then I reflected on honoring those in authority over us – spiritual leaders (I Timothy 5:17), government leaders (Titus 3:1), and masters or employers (I Timothy 6:1).
By now, my understanding of “honor” was shifting. I began to realize that no where does the Bible mention or even hint that these commands are optional or conditional. We are simply expected to be obedient, giving honor to those over us, in all these various positions. These commands are clear and unequivocal. Furthermore, it truly does not matter if you feel that person is worthy of honor. But even as I type that sentence, I am seeing that to feel like those folks don’t deserve honor is nothing more than prideful sin lurking within me.
Finally, I decided if I were to start practicing biblical “honor”, I should find out the actual biblical meaning. I used Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary and found the definition of the Greek word translated as honor. The overly simple definition surprised me: to value. I paused to reflect on what it would mean to “value” someone, what would that look like…? The dictionary’s long list of antonyms (opposites) brought this into sharp focus: to despise, treat contemptuously, to reject, to disapprove, to regard lightly, to care little for!
As I turned my attention back to the original phrase I realized I had missed a large part of its meaning. I was focusing on a single word, “honor”; but the command is to “give preference to one another in honor”. Giving preference means “putting first” and the “one another” are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore this phrase is really saying, put your fellow believers first by assigning them a greater value than yourself, and it applies to all fellow believers, not just our parents or various sorts of leaders. In other words, this command boiled down to humility!
I soon realized that if honoring someone in the biblical sense is to value them, then we aren’t to honor a person based on how we view the job they’re doing. A person’s biblical value comes from being made in the image of God. Period. That being the case, one must ask, shouldn’t we value everyone, even those outside the Body of Christ? The answer of course is yes, and I Peter 2:17a leaves no room for doubt – “Honor all people”.
Matthew 5:22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Discussion Question: Now that we understand what biblical honor is all about, what are the practical ways we can put this into action?