Give Respect to Whom It Is Due
INCLUDED in the rule, “just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them,” is the giving of respect to whom it is due. To do so is not only right but also the course of wisdom, for it contributes to good relations both with our Maker, Jehovah God, and with our fellowman.—Luke 6:31.
To give respect to whom it is due requires thought and good judgment and so may be said to be an art. And since it is a just and righteous requirement it can also be called a virtue. As the inspired apostle Paul commanded: “Pay all of them their dues, . . . respect to whom respect is due.” (Rom. 13:7, RS) The modern trend is away from giving respect, especially on the part of youths. As one officer of the law put it: “Kids today seldom say, ‘Sir.’”
Respect has been defined as “the feeling of esteem, regard, or consideration, excited by the contemplation of personal worth, dignity or power; that which is due, as to personal worth and power.” It implies a reasoned estimation or evaluation of a person and the measure of recognition due him.
The One above all others that is deserving of our respect is our Maker, for he certainly has ‘personal worth, dignity and power’ above all others. Yet perhaps never before in the history of man has there been such widespread disrespect of Him as today, and that even by clergymen of Christendom whose very vocation, it would seem, obligates them to inculcate respect for God in others. Surely all those who say “God is dead” and who would preach a religion without a living God are offering God an insult by denying that he exists.
However, all intelligent creatures who have true understanding will accord the Creator the respect that is due him. Of course, one way in which we can do this is by always treating God’s name with respect, avoiding all blasphemy and profanity. But there is also another way. As the apostle Peter shows, by our very course of action we can show “respect for Jehovah.” Yes, as the saying is, “actions speak louder than words,” and so by being careful that we do not displease God by our course of conduct, we are according him due respect.—2 Pet. 2:11; Ex. 20:7.
Just as the Creator is entitled to our highest respect by reason of his position, qualities and powers, so to the extent that others have ‘personal worth, dignity and power they are entitled to a measure of respect. Among such are fathers, who by reason of their being the life-giver and provider of their children are entitled to respect, as the Bible shows: “We used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us, and we used to give them respect.” Children can show respect to their fathers (and their mothers) by always addressing them in a respectful tone of voice and manner. Especially can children show respect to their parents by obeying them. However, today many children fail to show respect to their parents, and many parents foolishly tolerate their children’s disrespectful course.—Heb. 12:9; Prov. 15:5; Eph. 6:1-3.
Husbands, by reason of the headship the Scriptures accord them and the security they give their wives, are deserving of the respect of their wives, even as the Bible commands: “The wife should have deep respect for her husband.” This certainly would preclude the wife’s bossing her husband. She does not say, as some do, “I sent my husband to the store to get some milk.” No, she can send her children, but her husband she respectfully asks if he would want to do this, that or the other thing. Christian wives are counseled that they might well win their unbelieving husbands for Christianity by their “chaste conduct together with deep respect.” At the same time the wise and loving husband will treat his wife with due respect, as the modest, virtuous “weaker vessel, the feminine one.”—Eph. 5:33; 1 Pet. 3:2, 7.
A measure of respect should also be given to others having positions of authority, such as a schoolteacher, a foreman in a place of business or workshop, or a government official. Here, again, this respect can be shown by one’s tone of voice and by complying with their proper commands, wishes and requests. On one occasion the apostle Paul referred to a person who had ordered him to be struck as a “whitewashed wall.” But when Paul was informed that the man was the high priest, Paul apologized and quoted the Law: “You must not speak injuriously of a ruler of your people.” Yes, this is another way in which respect can be shown those in authority, by not speaking injuriously of them. And, in particular, whenever those in authority demand of Christians a reason for the hope in them are they to do so “with a mild temper and deep respect.”—Acts 23:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:15; Eph. 6:5.
Then, again, womankind as a whole is to be shown a certain measure of respect. Anything bordering on undue familiarity is to be avoided. Wisely the apostle Paul counseled the minister Timothy to treat older women as he would his own mother and the younger women as he would his own fleshly sisters, all of which means with respect.—1 Tim. 5:2.
This principle of giving respect to whom it is due obviously applies also within the Christian congregation. Certainly those who have been given the oversight and who have to take the lead should be given respect, since they represent Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ. Nor to be overlooked is the fact that the youthful members in the congregation should give respect to those well along in years.—Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31; Heb. 13:17.
The widespread lack of respect for the Creator, Jehovah God, for parents and for others in positions of authority is one of the indications that we are living in the “last days.” However, those who are wise and would do what is right will not go along with this trend but wills give respect to whom it is due.—2 Tim. 3:1-5.