Tyler and Mary are in another familiar conflict. Mary is reminding Tyler how he never listens to her and is only concerned about his own schedule and life. He has scheduled another out of town meeting in three weeks, completely forgetting that she had planned for the two of them to get away together. Mary continues her criticism while gladly providing Tyler with plenty of examples where he has not remembered the plans they had previously made. After the heated exchange, Tyler retreats in order to reconsider his decision but he gets distracted by this reoccurring thought that has plagued him for the past 10 years of their marriage. “She never honors me. I work hard to provide and protect but all I get is complaining and ungratefulness. God commands her to honor me and she refuses to obey.” Tyler returns to Mary, foolishly going on the offensive, and reminds her that she is supposed to honor him and she is being disobedient to God by being dishonoring to him. Mary responds that if Tyler loved her, like he is commanded to do, then he would remember plans they had previously made. While there are a variety of issues going on with both Mary and Tyler, Tyler has believed a lie and is deceived. Tyler believes that, since God commands wives to honor their husbands, it is good and right for him to desire honor from Mary.
In my marriage, and in the counseling of countless married men, the desire for honor (value and worth) is at the core of many relational troubles. While that desire can quickly become an idol, the very presence of the desire is evidence of a prideful heart that is seeking worth and value from a source that God never intended. Some will argue (like Tyler) that if God commands wives to honor their husbands then it must be right and good for a husband to have that desire. Others will argue that the desire for honor is right and good as long as it does not become an idol.
In part 1, I propose that the desire for human honor within marriage (or any other earthly relationship) is wrong because God alone can rightly desire honor from His creation and delegate that honor because He alone is worthy of His creation’s honor and praise. In other words, the scriptures are clear and make evident that God alone is worthy of desiring human honor, and the delegating of honor. Additionally, we’ll observe how an individual’s desire for human honor will lead to destruction. In part 2, we will explore the solution found at the cross of Christ, or in other words, the humbling of oneself and the reorientation from desiring human honor to desiring God’s honor.
God Alone Can Rightly Desire Human Honor and Delegate Honor
Throughout the storyline of Scripture, God alone is worthy of honor. He alone is worthy of honor because He is the sovereign creator of all that is created. Revelation 4:11 proclaims, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” The only one deserving of human honor is the one who created all things. Why is He the only one who should desire honor? The answer is simple, we were created by Him, and we were created for Him. In Romans 11:36, the Apostle Paul proclaims, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” In other words, we were created to honor Him. All of creation was created to honor Him, so He, alone, is worthy to desire (and receive) human honor. Again, the Apostle Paul understood this. In 1 Timothy 1:17, after writing about the grace which Christ had given to him, calling him, the worst sinner, into the ministry of His Word, he pauses to express his heartfelt praise, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul is not wishing to draw attention or honor to himself, for he is only a servant of this great King. Rather, he desires that all glory be directed to the One who made him, saved him, provided for him, and who will keep him unto the day of Christ.
The truth is, we do not deserve honor but, because of our sin, we deserve hell. In her book Because He Loves Me, Elyse Fitzpatrick proclaims:
We forget that we are sinful, flawed and don’t deserve respect. We also forget that we’ve been loved and welcomed by the only Person whose love really matters.
She goes on to imply that we shouldn’t be asking why my wife doesn’t honor me. Rather we should be asking, “Why would God send His son to die for me, His wretched enemy?” “Why would He make Him who knew no sin to become sin so I might reap all the benefits?” “Why should I be a partaker of his never-dying life? Why am I not hanging on the cross?”
Honor belongs to God as He is the source and the endpoint of all honor on the basis of who He is. He is sovereign King and Creator. He is also worthy of honor because of His position and character as our loving Father. If He alone is worthy of honor, then He alone can rightly desire it. Psalm 148:13 heralds, “Let them praise the name of the LORD: for His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” Since all honor belongs to God, He is free to confer honor on whomever He wills. So God the Father has bestowed honor on Jesus Christ (John 5:23). He confers honor on humanity by creating man in His image (Genesis 1:26). He has also created positions of authority within the government, the workplace, the church, and the family. These positions of authority are to receive honor (I Peter 2-3; Ephesians 5-6).
Now, someone may argue that the scriptures are replete with imperatives to honor others and, since those commands are in place, it only goes to reason that those who are to be the recipients of human honor are good and right to desire that honor. They would say the Bible exhorts us to express honor towards our parents, the aged, others, and those in authority (Ephesians 6:2; Leviticus 19:32; Romans 13:1; I Peter 2:17). The Bible also gives us the commands to honor our employers and employees (1 Timothy 3:17; 6:1; Ephesians 6:5-9), and for the husband and wife to be honoring to one another (Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:23-33; 1 Peter 3). While this is all true, they miss the fact that all authority and honor belong to God alone (1 Chronicles 29:11; 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 5:13). Though He can and does delegate His authority to others, it still belongs to Him (Ephesians 4:11-12). In other words, the idea of honoring others, especially those in authority, comes from the fact that they are but representatives of God’s ultimate authority.
An Individual’s Desire for Honor Leads to Relational Destruction
A cursory flight over God’s storyline of scripture is quick to shine the light of truth on the reality that the desire for human honor leads to relational destruction. Consider the Evil One. He desired the honor that is reserved for God alone. Out of a prideful heart he desired to be exalted but instead lost the glory and that once was his (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28:16-17). Consider Haman in Esther 5:11-12. Haman was consumed with pride as he sought the honor of men. His desire for honor only brought him dishonor. He was dishonored by the king, his family and those closest to him and in the end lost everything. Saul became consumed with the honor of the people. He sought to please the elders of the people because he desired their honor rather than Gods. This is evidenced in his reply to Samuel in I Samuel 15:30. Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.” Saul was more concerned about the honor of the people than of God. Ironically, the very thing he desired he lost and the people dishonored him by rejecting him. In Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar desired the honor of men and went to the point of legislating that everyone in the kingdom must honor him. Later on, God humbled him by taking away his kingdom and banished him outside the kingdom until he repented of his pride and gave honor to the one true God. Interestingly enough, once he redirected the honor towards God, God restored his honor and kingdom (Daniel 4:34-35).
During Christ’s time, the Pharisees were preoccupied with receiving the honor of men. In Luke 11:43 Christ observed and pronounced woe on the Pharisees, because they loved the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. In Matthew 23:6 Jesus observes their same heart felt desire when he comments, “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the marketplaces, and being called Rabbi by men.…” A few verses later He pronounces woe on them and asks them how they will escape hell (23:23-33). Jesus is implying that the condition of their heart was the very opposite of faith. In other words, faith fights to commit our hearts to God by having the utmost regard to his views, opinions and pleasure. That is in stark contrast to the heart that desires honor from men rather than from God. This is at the core of our depravity.
When we give our desires over to be influenced by man’s opinion more than by God’s, it will have a direct affect on our hearts and behavior. Put another way, it will take control of the will and create more pain in the long term than if we had sought to please Him and receive honor from Him. How many Christian men and women would be devastated if their reputation was tarnished because others discovered a secret sin, but have little regard for what God thought or the displeasure they brought Him? The implication is that we should seek God’s approval and honor above all else and leave man’s approval to God’s sovereignty because honor is His to delegate.
One may argue, but what about Romans 2:7 where Paul proclaims, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life”, isn’t Paul legitimizing that a desire for honor is good and right? Yes, Paul is saying that a desire for glory and honor is good. The problem is that Paul is pointing that the desire for honor and glory should be directed at God and not to mankind. He is signifying that by being obedient (persistently doing good), we are seeking to please God and receive honor and glory from Him. Verses eight through eleven help provide more clarity. “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism”. This is serious business. To regard and live for man’s honor and praise, more than the God who created us is, a grave issue.
Many Christians are in bondage to the opinion of others and/or to public sentiment. Many Christians live out each day with little to no conscious thought about living to please God and to receive His honor. Many Christians live each day consciously thinking about and desiring the recognition and honor of others. May God give us the grace to see clearly, repent and live to please Him and to receive His honor and praise. Otherwise, our lives will be marked by relational destruction. So what are the solutions to Tyler’s desire for honor? In part 2 we will consider the solutions.
 By honor I have in mind both the Hebrew form of כָּבַד (kabad) and Greek derivatives of τιμή (timao). Both terms are generally used with reference to the honor granted to others and, in some cases, they’re used to describe the honor a person grants God. The root of כָּבַד (kabad) literally means ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty’. The idea behind honor is to assign weight or value to someone or something. To honor someone is to give weight, value or worth. So the desire for human honor is a desire for another to assign worth, value, weightiness to oneself. While the receiving of honor from others can be a favorable and good experience, it is not to be desired or sought (Luke 14:7-8).
 All scripture quoted is from “The Holy Bible: New International Version”. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984
 Fitzpatrick, Elyse M. Because He Love Me. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. Page 57
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Emlet, Michael R. CrossTalk:Where Life and Scripture Meet. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press. 2009
Finey, Charles G. Receiving Honor From God and Not From Men. Preached 8/29/1849.
Fitzpatrick, Elyse J. Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Lives. Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2008
Jones, Robert D. Uprooting Anger:Biblical Help For a Common Problem. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005
Kelleman, Robert W. Soul Physicians . Taneytown, MD: RPM Books. 2005
Keller, Timothy with Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage. New York: Riverhead Books, 2011.
Lane, Timothy S., Paul David Tripp. Relationships a Mess Worth Making. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2008.
Pierre, Jeremy Paul. Marriage and Family Lecture Notes. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Louisville, KY. 2014
Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage, a Parable of Permanence. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.
Thomas, Gary. Sacred Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemers Hands. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001
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Welch, Edward T. When People Are Big and God is Small. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997
The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.