Do you want to live longer and better? There’s a secret God hides in plain sight in the Bible, the concept of honoring him and others.
My darling Grandma, Charlotte Skinkle, lingered between heaven and earth for several weeks while cancer slowly shut down her body. Every evening, my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered with my grandfather around her hospital bed to sing her favorite hymns in four-part harmonies. Schedules were altered, sitters found, and other things set aside to honor her in a way meaningful to her.
Grandma didn’t respond much of the time. My family might have stopped their evening gatherings rationalizing, “She can’t hear us anyway.” They didn’t. They kept coming. They kept singing. This is honor.
When I brushed off Malachi, for my series on the book this month, I discovered sermon notes from twenty years ago. They come from my former pastor, Wayne Benson, an extraordinary Word teacher. Reading them again, I know his ideas are even more relevant now as our culture continues to sink to lower and lower levels of dishonor. So, here they are, with my own comments and applications.
Honor is a foundational concept in God’s kingdom. Ancient Israelites knew this yet chose to ignore it. In Malachi 1:6-14 you can read a feisty butt-kicking Malachi delivers to Judah from God. His anger is inflamed because they are careless with holy things. They sacrificed blemished, sickly animals to him, instead of perfect ones. They became flippant about temple worship. He is so fed up, he tells Malachi to send someone to nail the temple doors shut. Ancient Israel forgot how important honor is.
- Honor elevates everything around it.
When my husband Ken and I observed increasing levels of disrespect shown to police officers and first responders, we wanted to do something pro-active. Through a partnership with our adult and servant evangelism ministries at our church, we began to drop off snacks and thank-you notes at our local public safety stations. The first few times I brought in the snack baskets, the duty officers greeted me suspiciously and insisted I hand baskets through guarded windows.
After a few months, smiles and welcomes greeted my monthly drop offs. When we started catering in a quarterly lunch to all the stations, many barriers dropped and Ken and I, along with our volunteers, are now invited back into the secure areas of station houses to engage with officers and fire personnel. Hugs, laughs and conversation flow easily. Honoring these men and women lifted us all into a higher level of relationship and encouragement.
Honor changes an environment, whether it’s a house of worship, a classroom or a fire station. What environments are you changing through honor?
- Honor draws attention to greatness.
Israel failed to acknowledge God’s awesomeness. He made them a nation, gifted them with land, protected them, and yet they couldn’t be bothered to worship him correctly. They kept the best produce and livestock for themselves and gave God leftovers. They knew better. I wish Americans knew better.
We elevate Hollywood stars with minimal talent and maximum egos to dizzying heights of cultural greatness while our military veterans struggle to find jobs and afford homes. This speaks so poorly of my country’s attitudes about honor. Yes, many of us go out of our way to honor and care for veterans. (See note at end of post for a fresh idea on that) Nevertheless, a country with godly priorities and right concepts of honor would never treat our veterans, or our elderly, the way many are shamefully treated in veteran and nursing homes.
People who understand honor will always draw attention to those who live sacrificially, whether they are military, missionaries or the elderly neighbor next door who knits blankets for children entering foster care. Who are you honoring who is worthy of honor? How?
- Honor wars against familiarity.
Where was it Jesus couldn’t do miracles? Oh right, in his hometown, with his family. What lives might have been changed forever if only they had honored Christ in their midst instead of dissing Jesus, James weird older brother.
I am cautious in how I treat familiar folk when they are elevated. Maybe I did change that youth pastor’s diaper in nursery or teach that worship leader during their squirrely middle school years. Now, I speak to them and treat them with the respect that position deserves. Too many times I’ve overheard people trash talking their friends and family who achieved status, position or honor. Dishonoring people God chooses to elevate, whether they are believers or not, is not a nice look. Our role in that person’s previous history, does not grant us license to diminish their current position. Even when people are observably not deserving of honor bestowed, I leave that with God. He lifted them up and he will bring them down if they don’t embrace humility. Remember Pharaoh, King Saul and Nebuchadnezzar. I will also point at God’s harvest principle,;sow dishonor and you will reap it.
- God promises long life to those who honor their parents.
In Exodus 20:27 God issues a command with a promise; honor your parents and live long. What that looks like is for you and the Holy Spirit to decide. Your family may be highly dysfunctional. Don’t trash talk them. Ask God for ways to honor parents who may be very challenging to respect.
Ken and I enjoyed loving relationships with our parents and worked hard to honor them and do things that mattered to them. We still do with the one parent we’ve got left, my Dad. I love hosting Thanksgiving, but it’s become increasingly harder for him to travel so we will celebrate at he and my stepmother’s home instead.
Ken and I also did our best to meet many needs of his parents in their last years on earth. Sometimes that involved cleaning up horrific messes and giving up vacation time to care for them. We are left with no regrets and no thoughts of “I wish we had….” Many I know are doing far more than that to care for aging parents.
However weird you might think your parents are, remember, God chose them for you. The command didn’t come with clauses or conditions but it does come with a promise.
Honoring God starts with foundation stones like faithful, frequent church attendance, volunteer ministry, tithing and consistency in quality Bible study and prayer. After that, we build our houses of honor brick by brick with each act of love and respect we show to others. Inside those walls, life is better.
Veteran’s Note: If you are a Twitter of Facebook user, I recommend following and supporting Gretchen Smith founder of Code of Vets. Her Twitter handle is @Codeofvets. Every single day this godly woman processes needs requests from veterans then uses social media to mobilize folks to meet those needs whether it’s prayer for a despondent, suicidal vet or one with a hole in the roof. Check her out if you’d like to be more pro-active in honoring those who sacrificed the best years of their lives for our safety and security.