Honor is so vital that many Scriptures accentuate it. We are to honor God with our income (Prov. 3:9), with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20), and with humility (Prov. 15:33). Learning to honor our parents is so unnatural that the first command with a promise is reiterated often (Eph. 6:1–3).
Romans 1:21 vividly depicts what happens when honor disappears. This clear verse is a mirror that shows what honor is and what it is not and how honoring God is tied to our essential moral fabric. Yes, morality begins with theology. Though the dishonorable retain some spiritual sense, Paul, in fleshing out the doctrine of total depravity, lists some of the consequences of dishonoring God, including not giving thanks, becoming “futile in their thinking,” and having “their foolish hearts . . . darkened.”
Note that verse’s three degenerative components. First, not honoring God is compared to not giving thanks. Thanks is the expressed gratitude for another. Honor, thus, is a more comprehensive concept than gratitude. Nonetheless, they are united here. Failing to give God thanks often, sincerely, and regularly reveals that one does not, practically speaking, view God as one’s superior.
A second consequence is that when one fails the “Honor-God-by-Thanking Test,” things neither remain neutral nor improve. Indeed, failing to honor God negatively affects one’s cognition; one’s very thinking becomes futile or dysfunctional. Disobeying God by dishonoring Him leads to systemic deterioration.
Third, not only one’s mind but one’s heart and emotions become blurred, confused, and darkened. Once again, something as basic as honor, if absent, harms our rationality and emotions.
The only cure is found in Romans 1:16. The gospel is the power of God that changes us from self-absorbed egotists into those who want instead to exalt and honor our Sovereign.
Should there be a recovery of honor, we might find increasing order, flowering humility, and revived civility. Maybe, rather than exalting ourselves to be like the Most High (Isa. 14), we can excel in giving honor to those whom we are called to honor—and, above all, to God.