The Solution to the Desire for Human Honor
So what are the solutions to Tyler’s desire for honor from his wife? How can the cross of Christ help Tyler to live in a way that pleases God and seeks to receive God’s honor versus the honor of others? Before the solution is presented we need to briefly answer the question, “what is the core problem behind Tyler’s desire for honor”? God has a great deal to say about the heart and the desires of the heart.
He says, in Jeremiah 17:9, that the heart is sick and wicked. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says that whatever is in the heart will come out in our words. In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said that whatever we worship (treasure) will be the focus of our heart. James says, in Chapter 1:13-15 that the desires (of our heart) can give birth to sin, and sin, when it matures (because it is not mortified), will bring forth death and destruction. So we take that to mean that our greatest problem(s) is inside of us and not outside of us. In other words, Tyler’s desire for human honor originates inside his heart. The heart is the problem.
So, as we look for the solution in the scriptures, we discover that the scriptures also have a lot to say about the gospel indicatives that the Cross of Christ brings to us and our problems. The gospel indicatives tell us who we are and what we have as a result of our adoption in Christ. Since I am in Christ (Gal 2:20) I am God’s child (John 1:12); I am a friend (John 15:15), I have been justified (Romans 5:1), I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17), I have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27), I have been chosen and adopted by Him (Ephesians 1:3-8), I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins (Colossians 1:13-14 ), I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10), I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16), I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2), I am assured that God works for good in all my circumstances to help me become like Christ (Romans 8:28-29), I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39), I am hidden in Christ with God (Colossians 3:1-4), I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). As Tyler begins to think, feel and live in light of these realities his heart will begin to experience the renewal (Romans 12:2) that comes through the truth of God’s word.
As we move closer to the cross we begin to see clearer the solution to desiring the honor of man or, more specifically, for Tyler, the desire for honor from his wife. Specifically, the solution is for Tyler to humble himself. Nowhere in scripture are we encouraged, exhorted or led to desire the honor of others. Quite the contrary. We are encouraged, exhorted and led to desire and pursue humility. In his book titled, When People are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch observes that when a husband believes he needs honor from his wife, and doesn’t receive it, he believes he has the right to become angry. Rather, he suggests the problem is pride and the solution is to humble ourselves.
In the New Testament Jesus said to humble ourselves (Luke 14:11). When James and John were looking for places of honor in Matthew 10:37, Jesus pointed them to the humiliation they would experience. Mark 10:45 says that Jesus did not come to be honored but to serve and give His life. Jesus gets to the heart of the situation in Luke 9:23 when He says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. This has a significant impact on our understanding of honor. John the Baptist understood this. In John 3:30 he says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” James 4:6 says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Tyler needs to be taken captive by this truth – there is no place in the Christian life for a “desire for honor”.
I Peter 5:6 says to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. James 4:10 says to humble ourselves and wait for God to do the exalting. Therefore, Ezekiel 14:6 is relevant for Tyler today, “Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” In other words we must “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13). The cross makes it possible for Tyler to be a “doer of the word and not just a hearer” (James 1:22) and to“not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those (not me) who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). As Tyler’s thinking is re-calibrated to the truth of God’s word, he will begin to view people and relationships differently, including his relationship with Mary. People and relationships exist for God’s glory and praise, not his. While Mary may be commanded to honor him, that doesn’t give him permission to desire or demand honor. In fact, he needs to be making it easy for her to honor him because he cares about her sanctification and wants her to see and experience Christ, his blessings and his gospel. Tyler would be well served by redirecting his heart to the following:
- To live in light of God’s love – “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:14).
- To be aware of his “defense mechanisms” and “fig leaves” and to call them out in prayer and ask God for the grace to overcome them. He needs to be honest about how God desires and deserves the honor from his life.
- To be more intentional about walking in the Spirit. Realizing that, when he desires honor, or is being ruled by his desire for honor, his language (internal and external) is more alive to himself and less alive to God. Having his language alive to God comes from memorizing and meditating on God and His word (Psalm 1) and through the discipline of prayer. As he meditates on Psalm 1 he will grow in his intimacy and delight with God. As he grows in his intimacy with God, he will be fruitful, resilient, & prospering. Fruitful – He will be fruitful in the lives of others. He will become refreshing and nourishing to be around. People (including his wife) will go away from him fed and strengthened and have their taste for spiritual things awakened. His words will be healing, encouraging and enlightening. His words and actions will draw others toward him versus repelling them away. He will become resilient – When the difficult and warm winds of circumstance blow in his marriage he will be resilient. He will not wither relationally or in his love for others. He will remain strong – strong and firmly planted in the word of God and love of Christ. His labor in relationships will not be in vain (I Cor 15:58). His wife, family and others will see and experience the gospel when they are with him. This leads to real and true prospering. He will begin to relationally prosper in God’s good purposes and build treasures that will last into eternity. His life will make a difference for His kingdom. Instead of living for his kingdom (honor) he will be living for the kingdom of the one true King.
- Meditation on God’s truth: As he meditates on the word he will be more intentional about pondering it and speaking it to himself – thinking more about what it means and what it implies. Perhaps it can become the priority of his early mornings. By beginning his days in this way he will find it easier to keep his mind stayed on Christ throughout the business of the day and remain aware of his need and desire to honor Him and seek His honor instead of needing the honor of his wife.
- Prayer – Focus his prayer on praising and honoring God and focusing on Him as sovereign King and Creator – praying the Psalms. Praying for God’s grace in overcoming his desire for honor and asking Him to help him become obsessed with God’s honor.
So what does a humble heart look like? In his article on humility Brett Barnett offers the following seven evidences of a humble heart. 
- The humble heart understands dependence upon God. John 15:5 makes it clear that apart from Jesus we cannot accomplish anything of eternal value. It is impossible to do God’s will and to store up treasure in heaven if we think that we are fully able without God. The humble rightly understand their insufficiency and powerlessness apart from Christ.
- The humble heart trembles before God’s Word. Isaiah 66:2 says, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” God not only delights in those who tremble before His Word, but He promises to look to them to use them mightily for the purposes of the kingdom. Those with humble hearts don’t read God’s Word carelessly but rather with hearts that are tender to what God’s Word might have to say to them to convict them or teach them. They take God’s Word seriously and the act of hearing it with great reverence. There is a love and value for what God says that clearly sets apart the humble from the proud.
- The humble heart is willing to own up to sin. Isaiah modeled this in Isaiah 6:5 when he cried out to God in acknowledgement of his uncleanness. In light of God’s holiness, he realized that his sin would destroy him. He wanted God’s cleansing, and God forgave him and commissioned him for service. If we want to be used of God, we need to first be humble, a significant part of which involves dealing with any sin in our hearts promptly, readily, and rightly.
- The humble heart is willing to acknowledge human weakness so that Christ can show Himself to be strong. Paul rightly understood that God’s power is perfected in our weakness and that it is in our weakness that He can be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). God allowed Paul to suffer so that he would not be tempted to exalt himself (2 Corinthians 12:7). He knew that Paul could fall prey to pride given all of the wondrous things he had seen and experienced. So God ordained suffering for him to remind him that he was but a very weak human being who needed God for everything. We need to remember our weakness if we want to let Christ be strong through us.
- The humble heart has the fruit of obedience. The Israelites cried out to God in Judges 10:15-16, “The sons of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day. So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer.” As long as Israel held on to their worship of fake, foreign deities, they were opposed to God. God, in His great love for them, allowed them to suffer at the hands of foreign peoples. If their gods were so powerful, they only needed to trust in them. So God taught them a valuable lesson about who has true power, and the people repented and put their gods away from them. Truly humble hearts, that truly repent and turn to God, will no longer be opposed by God. When we draw near to God, immediately He will draw near to us. He only wants us to be humble enough to call sin “sin” and to deal with it by repenting and seeking the forgiveness that He is fully ready and prepared to offer. The humble heart is an obedient heart.
- The humble heart values the welfare of others ahead of its own. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The humble of heart are cognizant of the needs of others, and they are willing to sacrifice so that others can be ministered to.
- The humble heart accepts the role of servant. Jesus said in Mark 9:35, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” The way to greatness in the life to come is by being a servant in the present. Jesus demonstrated this to the utmost in that His purpose in coming was not to make the most people like Him, to gain the most popularity, or to gain a position of great earthly power. His mission was to lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:11-15). He came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Now He is exalted in heaven with great power, but in this life He was a servant. We would do well to realize the importance of being a servant in this life if we want to be great in the next. Humility may not be a characteristic that the world exalts in, but they don’t understand God’s ways.
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 honor because He alone is worthy of His creation’s honor and praise. Our desire for human honor within marriage, or any other relationship, can quickly become an idol and the very presence of the desire is evidence of a deceptive and prideful heart. The desire for human honor will lead to relational destruction because it seeks worth and value from a source that God never intended for it to come from. Rather, our desire should be to please and honor God and desire His honor and praise. The reorientation of where our desire for honor gets pointed to is found at the Cross of Christ and the humbling of ourselves.
Tyler’s desire for Mary to honor him is wrong, self-centered and will not bring peace and reconciliation to their conflict. On the contrary, it will continue to kindle the conflict, push her away and keep him from experiencing the honor and praise that only God can give. In John 5:44 the Apostle John queries, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
Until Tyler repents and seeks to please God by humbling himself (thinking of Mary as better than himself) and becomes a servant to Mary he will continue in this downward spiral and relational destruction that they have been experiencing and continue missing the relational richness that God has designed into marriage. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” There are no shortcuts to true honor and exaltation, something only God can grant. What is sure and true is that those who are humble in heart will, at the proper time, be exalted and honored. Especially those who say with the Psalmist, “My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.”
 By “heart” is I am referring to the control center or whole of person including the cognition (thinking and belief of what is assumed as true), affection, (the feelings, desires, emotions & motivation), and volition (the will ).
 Welch, Edward T. When People Are Big and God is Small. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997. P147
 Barlett, Brett. Evidences of Humility. http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com. Accessed August 1st, 2014.
 Psalm 62:7
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