A Matter of Honor
Is there a place for Christians to pursue honor, or is that something which is worldly, tainted, something to be put aside in favor of more spiritual pursuits?
Recently I was invited to speak at the induction ceremony for a high school honor society, so I looked into the idea. What I found might be a surprise.
First, it is appropriate for believers to seek and to give honor. The Bible speaks about honor as a good thing, given by God, and in fact commanded to us. We are told to honor our fathers and mothers “that your days may be long.” Peter enjoins us to “honor the king,” our civil authority, and Paul tells us that faithful church leaders are “worthy of double honor.”
In fact, God tells us to actively seek out things which are worthy of respect.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
— Philippians 4:8
We should make it a practice to find and praise honorable things and honorable people. Honor is a good thing.
At the same time, we need to have an objective view of our own accomplishments. We are prone to undeserved pride. I read that an international study of 65 countries found American students only rank 17th in reading literacy, 23rd in science, and 30th in math. Our kids have great self-esteem, though.
Frequently homeschooled students have the opposite problem. Although their test scores average around the 80th percentile or better, well above their public school counterparts, they don’t have the daily comparison of a classroom environment to reinforce them. Because they can study up to their potential, rather than coasting at the head of an average class, they feel uncertain of their ability. They don’t give themselves the credit they deserve.
In Romans 12:3, Paul writes, “I say to everyone among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” We all have goals we miss, and goals we exceed. We should be honest about both of them.
But better yet, we ought to refer the whole matter back to God. The gifts and talents and accomplishments which God gives us, and results of our stewardship of them, are not about us. They are totally about Him, His glory, and His kingdom.
The prophet Jeremiah recorded,
Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this: That he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the LORD.
— Jeremiah 9:23-24
And when we accept both the praises and the troubles that come as gifts of a loving and sovereign God, we can pursue without grasping. We can rest in the knowlege that the one who honors God will be honored by Him in turn.