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What Does the Bible Say about Honor?

Everyone wants honor, but what actually is it? What does the Bible tell us about honor and who we give it to?

Contributing Writer
Jun 08, 2022
What Does the Bible Say about Honor?

Winter’s chill gave way to unprecedented warmth, and the brilliant blue of a Colorado sky pressed against snowcapped mountains. The day had finally arrived. My son and his beautiful bride-to-be joined hands and hearts—proclaiming their love before God, friends, and family.

Many will respond with a tearful “I do” to words like these in the months to come. 

“Will you have this woman to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only for her, so long as you both shall live?”

Words about love, comfort, and honor are frequently addressed to young couples during a wedding ceremony. But what does the Bible say about honor?

What Does the Bible Say about Honor?

Mentioned 355 times in scripture, honor usually takes the form of kabod in the Old Testament and timao in the New Testament. Kabod means “weight” or “glory” while timao means “reverence” and “personal value.” 

Because God, the creator, embodies all glory as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, he is worthy of our reverence. 

Not leaving us to wonder about who or what should receive honor, the Bible instructs us to honor several individuals, groups, and even concepts. These include the following:

- Jesus (John 5:23)

- Parents (Exodus 20:12)

- Marriage (Hebrews 13:4)

- Fellow believers (Romans 12:10)

- The elderly, women, and widows (1 Timothy 5:1-3)

- Church leaders and government rulers (1 Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Peter 2:17)

What Does it Really Mean to Honor God?

1. Honoring Christ honors God. John 5:23 says, “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (ESV).

Many religions contend our works or actions lead to salvation, but each diminishes the redemptive power of the risen Christ. Scripture is clear. Jesus deserves the honor afforded God.

What, then, does honoring Christ entail? According to John 12:26, Whoever serves me must follow me….” The Greek translation of “serves,” diakonos, means “one who executes the commands of another.”

Serving and following Jesus requires sacrifice, imitation, maintaining relationship, and obedience. But none of these is borne from obligation. Instead, we offer our lives to Christ out of love because his unmatched love and mercy have irrevocably altered our lives.

2. Honoring our parents honors God. While some find honoring parents t obe easy, many do not. With statistically high divorce rates and strained relationships between adult children and their family members, honoring parents can be a high calling—stretching some to forgive lifelong wounds.

Beyond forgiving parents for past hurts, what does an honorable parent/child relationship look like in an adult child’s life? 

- Adult children avoid slandering their parents (Ephesians 4:31)

- Communication should be respectful (James 1:19)

- Adult children should care for the physical, social, and emotional needs of aging parents. (1 Timothy 5:8)

3. Honoring marriage honors God. In an inclusive world, the idea of honoring marriage seems antiquated. Sex outside of marriage and marriage beyond God’s established norms contrasts with the ideals of sexual freedom. According to Pew Research, even half of Christians agree that “casual sex” is “sometimes or always acceptable.”

Yet Hebrews 13:4 reads, “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex” (MSG).

A marriage that honors God is one that exists between one man and one woman who seek to fulfill each other’s physical needs in a mutually loving and respectful relationship. Anything outside of or beyond that relationship—including pornography, premarital sex, extramarital sex, or homosexual marriage—dishonors God. 

4. Honoring fellow believers honors God. Social media accounts have swelled with abrasive, hate-filled content during the last two years. People are maligned, unfriended, or “canceled” if their opinions, political persuasion, or even church affiliation differs from someone else’s. Yet Romans 12:10 (NIV) affirms that we are to bedevoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

In this situation, honor infers price. When we honor others—those who are made in God’s image, we demonstrate love which may come at a cost to our own pride, desires, or wants. This is the Great Commandment.

As Carley Marcouillier writes, “love is the greatest commandment of the Church. It is the most excellent way of living out our spirituality, and it is to be acted upon above all other attributes one could possess.”

5. Honoring the elderly, women, and widows honors God. During first-century Rome, women lived as second-class citizens. Jesus, though, honored women—even ensuring his own mother’s needs were met as he gazed upon her grief from the height of the cross.

Similarly, the apostle Paul, a Jewish convert, emphasized Christ’s heart for women and widows, who had no means of support by charging the church with their care. He also mentioned another group that received little respect at the time—the elderly. 

Although women, widows, and the elderly may receive government assistance in today’s society, a system cannot serve with the heart of Jesus. But God equips the church to meet the practical, emotional, and social needs of widows, women, the elderly, and other hurting people.

6. Honoring church leaders and government rulers honors God. Jewish believers contended that paying taxes to a king other than God was sinful. Yet Peter reassured that honoring the emperor was expected. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to honor a murderous ruler bent on destroying your faith?

In the same way, we are meant to honor both church and government rulers. Paying taxes, obeying laws of the land that align with God’s word, and refraining from evil speech are all part of honoring the rulers who have been placed in power.

Our obedient trust demonstrates that we believe God “deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21) and recognize he knows the beginning from the end.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Honor?

Referenced throughout both the Old and New Testaments, Leah’s hope is recorded in Genesis 30:20: “Then Leah said, ‘God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun” (NIV).

In this verse, zabal is translated as honor and means “to dwell with.” 

The eldest of two sisters married to Jacob, Leah longed to experience the love her sister knew. Given in marriage through her father’s deception, Leah endured a loveless marriage—hoping only to live with her husband. 

Remarking on their false honor in Isaiah 29:13 (NIV), God complains of the Israelites who “honor [kabad] me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” 

I am reminded of a friend who recently changed positions in her company. Even though my friend’s supervisor often berated her by sharing disparaging emails with her teammates, she presented my friend with a gift and a hug when they parted company. Uncomfortable, my friend recognized the honor was done out of duty in the same way God identified the condition of his people in the previous verse.

Multiple New Testament scriptures include references to honoring either God or Jesus Christ. One of the most beautiful, Revelation 4:9-11, describes twenty-four elders gathering around the throne of heaven, prostrating themselves in humble adoration as they present God with crowns of gold. In the background, creatures proclaim his magnificence until those worshipping the Lord say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (NIV).

Will you have this woman? Words about love, comfort, and honor. We need words like these in times when strain and strife thrust themselves into our lives. More than that, we need reminders that our Father has provided us with forever hope through the blood of Jesus. And one day we, too, will lay down our crowns in an act of worship.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Malven

Tammy KenningtonTammy Kennington is a writer and speaker familiar with the impact of trauma, chronic illness, and parenting in the hard places. Her heart is to lead women from hardship to hope. You can meet with Tammy at her blog www.tammykennington.com where she’ll send you her e-book, Moving from Pain to Peace-A Journey Toward Hope When the Past Holds You Captive.

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