Give Honor Where Honor Is Due

Give Honor Where Honor Is Due
By: J. B. Hixson, Ph.D.

LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD… (Psalm 15:1-4)

These days, the notion of honor has become somewhat confusing. In this era of social media, it is all too easy to give a hasty thumbs up with the click of a button without really stopping to consider the implications. Who do we honor? Sometimes we honor those who genuinely deserve it such as men and women who serve in the military or public servants who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty. Yet, at other times we honor people merely because of their popularity in the entertainment world or their ability to perform exceptional athletic feats, irrespective of their moral compass.

It troubles me to see how often society honors those who live sinful, ungodly lifestyles, especially when those truly deserving of honor are shunned or even mocked. Consider the role models our young people tend to admire. They are typically pagan rock stars, depraved movie stars, corrupt political leaders, or degenerate athletes. Indeed, one’s personal morality is considered irrelevant so long as their behavior does not affect their particular talent or skill.

Professional sports teams tolerate drug and alcohol abuse on the part of the star athlete because they need his or her talent on the field. “We can’t get rid of so-and-so! He’s our leading rusher!” Movie fans look the other way when famous actors are arrested for lewd behavior because we are entertained by them on the big screen. “I know so-and-so lives a pretty immoral lifestyle, but he is such a talented actor!” Voters overlook all kinds of adulterous behavior on the part of our political leaders because, so they say, it does not affect one’s ability to lead. “I don’t care how many women he’s paid off; my 401K is stronger than ever, so he’s got my vote!” (“It’s the economy, stupid.”)

In Psalm 15, King David asks a very relevant question. He asks, “Who is it that may abide (literally, “walk or sojourn”) with the Lord.” David is asking for a description of the God-fearing person worthy of being in God’s presence. He goes on to answer his own question. As one might expect, a God-fearing person is characterized by walking uprightly, doing good, speaking the truth, etc. That is not all, however. There is one particular characteristic that is often overlooked. Those who walk in fellowship with God “despise vile people” and “honor those who fear the Lord.” In other words, being godly means recognizing ungodliness.

David reminds us to give honor only where honor is due (Psalm 15:4). The Hebrew word “honor” is kavod. Literally, it means “heavy.” Originally, the idea was that heavy stones or gems were the most costly or valuable. To be “heavy” meant to have intrinsic value. When used to describe God, kavod is translated “glory.” When applied to individuals, it came to mean “to behave with dignity.” David’s point is that we should only honor those who act honorably, with dignity and integrity.

We need to encourage our kids to look up to the godly role models in our society, and there are many. We do not hear about them every day on the evening news because frankly one of the chief characteristics of godliness is humility. The honorable do not seek honor. Yet, when we take the time to look, we will find honorable people who quietly live godly lives and set a good example for others to follow.

Those who walk with God not only honor the godly, they “despise” vile people whom the rest of society so admires (Psalm 15:4). The word “despise” means to recognize their behavior and condemn it for the sin that it is. It does not mean that we “hate” vile people, only that we hate what it is they are doing. It means that we withhold honor from those whose lifestyle makes them unworthy of honor. Solomon reminds us, “Honor is unfitting for a fool!” (Proverbs 26:1) Who are you honoring today?

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