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We don’t hear the word honor often today. It seems like honor has disappeared from our vocabulary, and it has also disappeared from our daily lives. People frequently do not treat each other well on social media, in politics, or on the news. Families are often in turmoil because of a lack of respect between parents and children. Employees are often put down by their employers, and employers are often undermined by their employees. With the world in such a state, it can be tempting to throw up our hands in desperation. It’s not clear where honor went, or how to get it back. What can we do in such a world?

One thing we can do, as Christians, is remember what the Bible says about honor. We see in Scripture that honor is treating people the way they ought to be treated and esteeming them appropriately. For example, we honor God because He is God. He created the heavens and the earth, and He is robed in splendor (Ps. 104). He is merciful, gracious, just, and holy (Ex. 34:6–7; Isa. 6:3). The psalmist asks, “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Ps. 113:5). We also understand from Scripture that all men and women deserve honor, because they are image bearers of this great God (Gen. 1:26; 9:6). God values His image bearers to such a degree that He became one of us to save His people (John 1:14; 3:16). Honor is also described as something that is gained or lost, like a reward (Job 14:21; Prov. 3:35).

So, the Bible talks about honoring God, honoring people, and giving and receiving honor. But what else does it say? It also says that honor brings blessing. Blessing, in the Bible, is related to well-being in all of life. For example, honoring our fathers and mothers is explicitly tied to living long and having things go well with us (Ex. 20:12). While this command was originally given to the ancient Israelites, it is also a promise for us today (Eph. 6:1–3). In the Psalms, the Lord’s favor is associated with honor (Ps. 84:11). In Proverbs, honor is associated with riches, life, and wisdom (Prov. 21:21). This isn’t unusual. Honor is a blessing, and it brings blessing. We can see this in our daily lives. If we treat people well and esteem them appropriately, we will have a healthier family life. We will be quicker to receive a promotion in our workplace. Yes, sometimes we honor others, and we are not rewarded for it—at least, not in this life. But nevertheless, ultimately, honor brings blessing, whether in this life or in the life to come. We are, after all, storing up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20). We know that, in the end, our labor isn’t in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

We see in Scripture that honor is treating people the way they ought to be treated and esteeming them appropriately.

We understand from the Bible, then, that honor leads to a good life. But isn’t this true of all virtues? In a way, yes. Patience leads to a good life. Wisdom leads to a good life. Kindness leads to a good life. Even ancient pagan thinkers, such as Plato and Cicero, knew that the good life was a virtuous life. Likewise today, our culture sometimes acknowledges that virtue brings benefits to those who practice it. Several years ago, Freakonomics Radio, in its ongoing examination of various economic trends, recorded a podcast that pointed out the advantages of living in societies where people trust one another. They found that people in such societies are healthier and wealthier. According to the podcast, this is because honesty allows people to conduct business more effectively, act more freely, and generally get along better. It helps societies flourish. Honesty is a virtue. It leads to a blessed life.

Imagine a society in which everyone honored each other well. I imagine that in such a place, we would all feel treated with dignity and respect. None of us would seek more honor for ourselves than was right, and everyone would treat each other as they ought. There would be no need for locks on our car doors or on our houses, for no one would steal anything from one another. There would be no bickering in our families and no power struggles in the workplace. In fact, in order to honor each other more and more, we might very well outdo each other in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).

While no such society exists this side of heaven, we do get a foretaste of that perfect society in this life. God has ordained that we as Christians are members of Christ’s body, His church. Augustine called this new society the city of God. In this city, which straddles this age and the age to come, we see people—though not always—outdoing one another in showing honor. I have felt honored when church members have had me in their homes for meals. I have felt honored when Christian parents have invited me into their children’s lives. I have felt honored when Christian brothers and sisters have befriended me. I hope to honor others similarly as I look forward to heaven. It makes this life better. Honor is a blessing, both in this age and in the age to come.

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From the February 2019 Issue
Feb 2019 Issue