Honor Men of All Sorts
“Honor men of all sorts, . . . be in fear of God, have honor for the king.”—1 PETER 2:17.
1. (a) Who besides God and Christ are properly honored? (b) In what areas are humans to be shown honor according to 1 Peter 2:17?
WE HAVE seen that we are obligated to render honor to Jehovah God and to Jesus Christ. Such is the right, wise, and loving thing to do. Yet God’s Word also shows that we are to honor fellow humans. “Honor men of all sorts,” we are told. (1 Peter 2:17) Since this verse concludes with the command, “have honor for the king,” the implication is that honor should be given to those who are entitled to receive it because of their station. Whom, then, should we properly honor? The number deserving of honor may include many more than some may think. We might say that there are four areas wherein we are to show honor to other persons.
Honor Political Rulers
2. How do we know that “the king” mentioned at 1 Peter 2:17 refers to any human king or political ruler?
2 The first of these areas is related to secular governments. We need to honor political rulers. When Peter counseled: “Have honor for the king,” why do we say Peter had in mind political rulers? Because he is speaking about the situation outside the Christian congregation. He had just finished saying: “Subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior or to governors as being sent by him.” Note, too, that Peter sets God in contrast with “the king,” saying: “Be in fear of God, have honor for the king.” (1 Peter 2:13, 14) So “the king” for whom Peter urges us to have honor has reference to human kings and political rulers.
3. Who are “the superior authorities,” and what is due them?
3 The apostle Paul similarly commands: “Be in subjection to the superior authorities.” These “superior authorities” are not Jehovah God or Jesus Christ, but they are political rulers, government officials. With these in mind, Paul goes on to say: “Render to all their dues, . . . to him who calls for honor, such honor.” Yes, such ones who have been permitted by God to exercise political rule are entitled to honor.—Romans 13:1, 7.
4. (a) How may honor be shown to political rulers? (b) What example did the apostle Paul set in showing honor to rulers?
4 How do we show honor to political rulers? One way is by treating them with deep respect. (Compare 1 Peter 3:15.) And because of their position, such respect is due them even though they may be wicked men. Roman historian Tacitus described Governor Felix as a man who “thought that he could do any evil act with impunity.” Yet Paul opened his defense before Felix in a respectful way. Similarly, Paul respectfully told King Herod Agrippa II, “I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense,” even though Paul knew that Agrippa was living in incest. Likewise, Paul showed honor to Governor Festus, addressing him as “Your Excellency,” even though Festus was a worshiper of idols.—Acts 24:10; 26:2, 3, 24, 25.
5. What further way is honor shown to governmental authorities, and how do Jehovah’s Witnesses set a good example in doing this?
5 Another way we show government officials honor is indicated by the apostle Paul when he wrote about rendering to governmental authorities their dues. He said to render “to him who calls for the tax, the tax; to him who calls for the tribute, the tribute.” (Romans 13:7) Jehovah’s Witnesses render such dues regardless of the country in the world in which they live. In Italy the newspaper La Stampa observed: “They are the most loyal citizens anyone could wish for: they do not dodge taxes or seek to evade inconvenient laws for their own profit.” And The Post of Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.A., noted regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses: “They pay their taxes. They are some of the most honest citizens in the Republic.”
Show Honor to Employers
6. To whom else do the apostles Paul and Peter say honor should be given?
6 A second area where honor is due is at our places of employment. Both the apostles Paul and Peter stress the importance of Christians’ honoring those placed over them in a work relationship. Paul wrote: “Let as many as are slaves under a yoke keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor, that the name of God and the teaching may never be spoken of injuriously. Moreover, let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves.” And Peter said: “Let house servants be in subjection to their owners with all due fear, not only to the good and reasonable, but also to those hard to please.”—1 Timothy 6:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:18; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22, 23.
7. (a) How is the Bible counsel for “slaves” to show honor to “owners” properly applied today? (b) What should Christian employees who have Christian employers be careful to observe?
7 Of course, slavery is not widespread today. But the principles that governed Christians in a slave-owner relationship are applicable to an employee-employer relationship. Thus, Christian employees have the responsibility to show honor even to employers who are hard to please. And what if the employer happens also to be a fellow believer? Instead of expecting special consideration or preference because of that relationship, the employee should serve his Christian employer even more readily, never taking advantage of him in any way.
Honor in the Family Circle
8, 9. (a) Whom are children required to honor? (b) Why should children show this honor, and how can they show it?
8 A third area where honor is due is within the family circle. Children, for example, are under obligation to honor their parents. This was not only a requirement of the Law given to Moses but also an obligation for Christians. The apostle Paul wrote: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”—Ephesians 6:1, 2; Exodus 20:12.
9 Why should children honor their parents? They should honor them because of their parents’ God-given authority and also because of what their parents have done, causing their birth and nurturing and rearing them from childhood onward. How should children honor their parents? They should do this especially by being obedient and submissive to them. (Proverbs 23:22, 25, 26; Colossians 3:20) According such honor might require that grown children give added support, material as well as spiritual, to their aged parents or grandparents. This needs to be balanced wisely with other responsibilities, such as care of one’s own children and sharing fully in Christian association and field ministry.—Ephesians 5:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 John 3:17.
10. To whom do wives have the obligation to show honor, and in what ways can they do this?
10 Yet children are not the only ones within the family who are obligated to accord others honor. Wives are to give honor to their husbands. The apostle Paul also said that “the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:1, 2) Showing husbands “deep respect” certainly involves giving them honor. Sarah honored her husband, Abraham, when she referred to him as “lord.” (1 Peter 3:6) So wives, imitate Sarah. Accord your husbands honor by accepting their decisions and working to make them a success. By doing all you can to help your husbands bear their burdens, rather than adding to these, you show them honor.
11. As regards showing honor, what obligation do husbands have, and why?
11 What about husbands? They are instructed in God’s Word: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) That certainly should make every husband think. It is as if a wife bore the label “Precious. Delicate. Handle with care! Bestow honor!” So let husbands remember that unless they accord their wives honor by showing them due consideration, they will impair their relationship with Jehovah God, for their prayers will be hindered. Truly, it is mutually beneficial for members of a family to accord honor to one another.
In the Congregation
12. (a) Who have the responsibility to show honor in the congregation? (b) How did Jesus show that it is proper to receive honor?
12 There is also the responsibility everyone has to show honor within the Christian congregation. We are counseled: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) Jesus indicated in one of his illustrations that it is proper to accept honor. He said that when we are invited to a feast, we should take the lowest place, for then our host will ask us to take a higher seat, and we will have honor in front of all our fellow guests. (Luke 14:10) Now, since all of us appreciate being accorded honor, should we not have empathy and accord honor to one another? How can we do this?
13. What are some ways we can show honor to others in the congregation?
13 Expressions of appreciation for a task well done are tantamount to bestowing honor. So we can honor one another by giving commendation, perhaps for a talk or comment someone presents in the congregation. In addition, we can honor one another by girding ourselves with lowliness of mind toward our Christian brothers and sisters, by treating them with deep respect. (1 Peter 5:5) We thus demonstrate that we value them as honorable fellow servants of Jehovah God.
14. (a) How can the brothers in the congregation accord sisters due honor? (b) What shows that making gifts is one way of bestowing honor?
14 The apostle Paul counseled young Timothy to treat older Christian sisters as mothers and the younger ones as fleshly sisters, “with all chasteness.” Yes, when brothers are careful not to take liberties with their Christian sisters, such as by showing undue familiarity, they are according them honor. Paul went on to write: “Honor widows that are actually widows.” One way that a needy widow is to be honored is by material support. But to qualify for this, she must have “witness borne to her for fine works.” (1 Timothy 5:2-10) In connection with material gifts, Luke wrote regarding the people on the island of Malta: “They also honored us with many gifts and, when we were setting sail, they loaded us with things for our needs.” (Acts 28:10) Thus honor can be shown another by providing material gifts.
15. (a) Toward whom do we have a special obligation to show honor? (b) What is one way we can show honor toward those taking the lead?
15 Continuing his letter to Timothy, Paul writes: “Let the [elders] who preside in a fine way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17) In what ways can we honor elders, or overseers? Paul said: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) When we heed Paul’s words to become imitators of him, we are according him honor. This would apply to those who are taking the lead among us today. To the extent that we imitate them by following their example, we will be according them honor.
16. What are additional ways that honor can be shown to those taking the lead?
16 Another way we show overseers honor is by heeding the exhortation: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” (Hebrews 13:17) In the same way that children honor their parents by being obedient to them, so we honor those taking the lead among us by being obedient and submissive to them. And, as Paul and his companions were honored with material gifts by those kind inhabitants of Malta, many traveling representatives of the Society have similarly been honored time and again. But, of course, never should they solicit such gifts or hint that they would be appreciated or that they are needed.
17. What obligation do those with privileges of oversight have as to showing honor?
17 On the other hand, all those who are in positions of oversight in the theocratic organization—whether in the local congregation, in a circuit or a district as a traveling overseer, in one of the branches of the Watch Tower Society, or within the family circle—have the obligation to accord honor to those in their charge. This requires that they have empathy as well as fellow feeling. They need to be approachable at all times, being mild-tempered and lowly in heart and mind, as Jesus Christ said that he was.—Matthew 11:29, 30.
Work at Honoring One Another
18. (a) What can hinder us from showing honor to those who are deserving? (b) Why is there no justification for a negative and critical frame of mind?
18 We all need to work hard at honoring one another, for there is a powerful hindrance to our doing so. That hindrance, or obstacle, is our imperfect heart. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” the Bible says. (Genesis 8:21) One of the human tendencies that might interfere with our showing due honor to others is having a negative, critical frame of mind. All of us are frail, imperfect humans, having need of Jehovah’s mercy and undeserved kindness. (Romans 3:23, 24) In appreciation of this, let us be careful not to dwell on our brothers’ weaknesses or attribute questionable motives to our brothers.
19. What will help us to counteract any negative attitude?
19 The antidote for any such negative tendency is love and self-control. We need to have a sympathetic, loyal, positive attitude as regards our brothers, noting their fine qualities. If there is something we do not understand, let us always be willing to give our brothers the benefit of the doubt and heed Peter’s counsel: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) We must have that kind of love if we are to accord our brothers the honor that is due them.
20, 21. (a) What is another tendency that is likely to interfere with our showing honor to one another? (b) What will help us to counteract this tendency?
20 Another trait that is likely to interfere with our showing due honor to others is the tendency to be touchy, or unduly sensitive. Sensitivity has its place. Artists have to be sensitive to sounds or colors as part of their profession. But being unduly sensitive, or touchy, in our relations with others is a form of selfishness that can rob us of our peace and prevent us from showing honor to others.
21 Giving us good advice in this connection are the words found at Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” So it betrays a lack of wisdom and good sense, as well as a lack of love, to be unduly sensitive or to be quickly offended. We must be on guard lest our fallen inclinations, such as being negative, too critical, or unduly sensitive, hinder us in showing honor to all to whom it is due.
22. How may our obligation to show honor be summarized?
22 Truly, we have many reasons for showing honor to others. And, as we have seen, there are many, many ways that we can show such honor. At all times we must be on guard lest any selfish or negative attitude interfere with our showing honor. In particular, we need to be careful to show honor to those in our family circle, husbands and wives to each other and children to their parents. And in the congregation, we have the obligation to show honor to fellow worshipers and, in particular, to those who are working hard among us in positions of oversight. In all these areas, it is to our benefit to accord proper honor to those mentioned above, since, as Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
How Would You Answer?
□ Why and how are we to honor governmental authorities?
□ What Bible counsel may be applied to the employee-employer relationship?
□ How should honor be shown within the family circle?
□ What special honor may be shown in the congregation, and why?
□ How may human weaknesses in failing to honor others be overcome?