“Honoring God”, by David W. Hall, speaks from TableTalk of Ligonier Ministries


Honoring God

by David W. Hall

Honor, that lost virtue that only true spirituality can engender, is vital. It affects our treatment of both God and man. Whether one honors God is a litmus test that, amazingly, also predicts how one treats his neighbor.

Few individuals esteem anyone higher than themselves. Fewer institutions today inculcate honor. A courtroom may hear the black-robed judge addressed as “Your Honor,” but no egalitarian truly thinks another human holds a rank of higher honor. Indeed, it is rare—in word, more so in deed—for someone even to honor the One who is infinitely deserving of esteem. Moreover, occasions of honoring others are uncommon—likely because virtue wanes as unbelief waxes—but most refreshing when observed.

It is also rare to meet believers who seem relentlessly compelled to pursue the honor of God. That very wording may sound hopelessly feudal. And if, perchance, such believers are found, rarer still are believers who practice honoring one another (Rom. 12:10), for it seems more fashionable to trash, clap back against, and burn even our friends, often from the comfort of bunkered social media. We should not be surprised that dishonoring God and dishonoring other people go hand in hand.

Fundamentally, when we honor someone, three things occur:

  1. The one receiving the honor receives external recognition—honor does not remain invisible.
  2. Those who do the honoring view themselves as less worthy than the honoree.
  3. The honoring evidences motives that are selfless and informed by humility or admiration of one esteemed to be better.

Does that not fit with honoring God, too? Surely, we should connect those dots. When we honor someone, we treat that person as better than ourselves—something Philippians 2 enjoins. Might this review convict us that seldom do we treat God as better than ourselves?

Indeed, that Pauline passage bases our honoring of others on Jesus’ sacrifice, calling us to think of others before ourselves. Expressing one’s unworthiness sincerely is giving honor. As such, it is a recognition that humans should be recognized and respected for their status or accomplishments. In one sense, all are not equal. Take note: if all are equal in every area, honor makes no sense—either Godward or manward.

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.

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.

  1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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