The essential element of any workable plan is to clearly define it. In a multi-cultural postmodern society this may be the most important thing we do. To effectively consider, discuss, or disagree we must all be talking about the same thing. The words we choose to use must accurately articulate what we mean. Otherwise we may use the same words but have different meanings. Therefore, let me define what I mean by honor.
Honor is a characteristic of an eternal God. It has been employed throughout eternity past and present within the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus the definition must find its construction through the terms and ideals presented in the Holy Scripture that reveals God. Honor is an attribute of God not an invention of humanity.
The Old Testament uses eight different Hebrew words for honor. Each one adds a hint of luster to the richness of this powerful term. By considering some of the biblical definitions we can arrive at an adequate one for this discussion.
The most oft used term is the same root word that speaks of God’s glory. In fact, it carries the same meaning. Whenever the Bible mentions the glory of God, it is described as weighty or heavy. Honor and glory are synonymous, meaning the same thing. In creation humanity was given a glory from God that represented and mirrored His own glory (we will talk more of this later). To honor initially means to recognize one’s glory.
Another important aspect of honor continues this idea of recognition. To honor someone in the Hebrew culture was to see and value the beauty, splendor, majesty or vigor inherent in a human being. This idea of honor created numerous practices of hospitality that still echo through many Mid-Eastern cultures today—like greetings with a kiss or invitations to travelers for a meal or lodging. These acts recognize and thus glorify the image and likeness of God found in every person.
Another aspect of honor is a word unique to the book of Esther and Daniel. Honor is invested with the idea of something being precious or valuable in price. To honor a person is to recognize their inherent value—not for what they can do, but for who that person is. It is interesting that both these books chronicle the struggles of a people (the Jews) seeking the bare basics of honor in a culture intent on absorbing their uniqueness through matriculation or destroying it through extermination.
One other nuance of honor is the idea of taking, carrying, or lifting up. Whenever honor is given—a person is lifted up to a new level. It occurs in both the giver and the receiver. Honor always reciprocates.
Thus we need a definition that incorporates all these ideas, and the original Greek language of the New Testament does this through the idea of affixing a value or price on an object. To honor means to value something for what it’s worth.
Therefore, honor is recognizing and responding to the beauty and glory of God in every person. It is an acknowledgement of their inherent value as human beings made in the image and likeness of God, and a choice to revere and respect that beauty no matter how marred it might be. By honoring people, we lift up that person to a new level so the image of God within them becomes clearer to all.
Honor is cultivated one individual at a time, but honor is reaped over generations. Romans 13:7 tells us to render honor to whom honor is due…i.e. that’s everyone.