“To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever.”—REV. 5:13.
1. Why might some individuals deserve to be honored, and what will we now discuss?
TO HONOR someone means to show him special attention as well as respect. Reasonably, we would expect that a person who is worthy of such attention and respect has done something to merit honor or that he serves in a special position. So we might well ask, Whom should we honor, and why is such honor merited?
2, 3. (a) Why is Jehovah especially worthy of honor? (See opening picture.) (b) At Revelation 5:13, who is the Lamb, and why is he worthy of honor?
2 As Revelation 5:13 indicates, “the One sitting on the throne and . . . the Lamb” surely deserve to be honored. We note in chapter 4 of the same Bible book one reason why Jehovah deserves to be honored. Exalted creatures in the heavenly realm lift their voices in praise to Jehovah, “the One who lives forever and ever.” They declare: “You are worthy, Jehovah our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they came into existence and were created.”—Rev. 4:9-11.
3 The Lamb is Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The Bible tells us that he is far superior to all men who are or have been kings. It explains: “He is the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.” (1 Tim. 6:14-16) Indeed, what other king has ever voluntarily died as a ransom for our sins? Do you not feel moved to join with myriads of heavenly creatures in proclaiming: “The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”—Rev. 5:12.
4. Why is honoring Jehovah and Christ not optional?
4 Honoring Jehovah and Christ is not optional. Our everlasting life depends on our doing so. Jesus’ words that we read at John 5:22, 23 help us to see that plainly: “The Father judges no one at all, but he has entrusted all the judging to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”—Read Psalm 2:11, 12.
5. Why should we show a measure of honor and respect to people in general?
5 Humans were created “in God’s image.” (Gen. 1:27) Thus, most of them exhibit some godly qualities, though to differing degrees. Humans are capable of showing one another love, kindness, and compassion. Having been created with a conscience, people normally have an inborn sense—albeit at times inaccurate or distorted—that alerts them to what is right or wrong, honest or dishonest, appropriate or inappropriate. (Rom. 2:14, 15) Most people are drawn to things that are clean and beautiful. Generally, they want to live with others in peace. Whether they realize it or not, they reflect to some extent Jehovah’s glory, and for this reason, they deserve a measure of honor and respect.—Ps. 8:5.
PROPER BALANCE IN RENDERING OTHERS HONOR
6, 7. In the matter of rendering humans honor, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from many people?
6 Balance is needed in determining what kind of honor should be rendered to other humans and to what extent. Most imperfect humans are strongly influenced by the spirit of Satan’s world. That is why people tend to idolize certain men or women rather than just show them appropriate honor and respect. They place religious and political leaders, sports figures, entertainment stars, and other celebrities on pedestals, often considering them to be almost superhuman. Hence, young and old alike look to them as role models, perhaps imitating their mannerisms, dress, or conduct.
7 True Christians refrain from such a distorted view of honoring humans. Christ is the only human who ever lived whom we can consider a perfect role model. (1 Pet. 2:21) God would not be pleased if we extended to humans more honor than they are due. We need to bear in mind this basic truth: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Truly, no human warrants the kind of honor that borders on idolatry.
8, 9. (a) How do Jehovah’s Witnesses view government officials? (b) To what extent is it proper to support officials?
8 In the secular realm, some individuals serve in positions of authority. Government officials are expected to maintain law and order and to care for the needs of their citizens. This brings benefits to all. Accordingly, the apostle Paul advised Christians to view such human governmental authorities as “superior authorities” to whom Christians should be in subjection. He instructed them: “Render to all their dues: to the one who calls for the tax, the tax; . . . to the one who calls for honor, such honor.”—Rom. 13:1, 7.
9 Fittingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses willingly render honor to public servants, even as it may be expected and as may be customary in the land. We cooperate with them as they perform their duties. Of course, our honor and support have reasonable, Scriptural limits. We cannot go to the point of disobeying God or violating our Christian neutrality.—Read 1 Peter 2:13-17.
10. How did servants of Jehovah in the past set the pattern in their relationship with secular governments and officials?
10 Jehovah’s servants in the past set the pattern in their relationship with governments and officials. When the Roman Empire called on people to participate in a census, Joseph and Mary complied. They traveled to Bethlehem despite the fact that Mary was soon to give birth to her first child. (Luke 2:1-5) Later, when Paul was accused of wrongdoing, he respectfully defended himself and showed proper honor to King Herod Agrippa and to Festus, governor of the Roman province of Judea.—Acts 25:1-12; 26:1-3.
11, 12. (a) Why do we make a distinction between government officials and religious leaders? (b) What good resulted when an Austrian Witness showed a politician honor?
11 However, Jehovah’s Witnesses refrain from treating religious leaders as ones who merit extraordinary honor, even though those leaders may expect it. False religion misrepresents God and distorts the teachings of his Word. Thus, we show religious leaders regard as fellow humans, but we do not show them special honor. We recall that Jesus denounced such men of his day as hypocrites and blind guides. (Matt. 23:23, 24) In contrast, our showing government officials due respect and honor can at times have positive, even unexpected, results.
12 Leopold Engleitner was a zealous Witness from Austria whom the Nazis arrested and sent by train to Buchenwald concentration camp. Dr. Heinrich Gleissner was a prisoner on the same train. He had been an Austrian politician. However, he was out of favor with the Nazis. On the trip to the camp, Brother Engleitner respectfully explained his beliefs to Gleissner, who listened carefully. After the second world war, Gleissner repeatedly used his influence to help the Witnesses in Austria. You may recall other examples of the good that can come about when Witnesses manifest appropriate respect for public officials, rendering them the honor that the Bible says Christians should give them.
OTHERS WHO MERIT HONOR
13. Who are especially worthy of being respected and honored, and why?
13 Those related to us in the faith certainly merit honor and respect. This is especially true of the elders who are taking the lead. (Read 1 Timothy 5:17.) We honor these brothers regardless of their nationality, education, social standing, or financial status. The Bible refers to them as “gifts in men,” and they are a key part of God’s arrangement to care for the needs of his people. (Eph. 4:8) Think of congregation elders, circuit overseers, Branch Committee members, and the members of the Governing Body. Our brothers and sisters in the first century had high regard for those appointed to take the lead, and we feel similarly today. We do not idolize well-known representatives of the Christian congregation or react in their presence as if angels were standing nearby. Still, we do respect and honor such brothers for their hard work and humility.—Read 2 Corinthians 1:24; Revelation 19:10.
14, 15. Contrast genuine Christian shepherds with those who only claim to be such.
14 Such elders are recognized as humble spiritual shepherds. As evidence of their humility, they refuse to let themselves be treated as celebrities. In this they differ from many modern-day religious leaders and from those of the first century about whom Jesus said: “They like the most prominent place at evening meals and the front seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplaces.”—Matt. 23:6, 7.
15 Genuine Christian shepherds humbly obey Jesus’ words: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your Teacher, and all of you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:8-12) You can thus understand why elders in congregations around the globe earn their fellow Witnesses’ love, respect, and honor.
16. Why should you continue to work to understand and apply what the Bible tells us about showing honor?
16 Admittedly, it may take time for us to achieve proper balance in regard to how and to whom we render honor. This was also true of the early Christians. (Acts 10:22-26; 3 John 9, 10) But it is definitely worth our effort to put into practice what the Bible indicates about rendering honor. Achieving proper balance brings many benefits.
BENEFITS OF RENDERING PROPER HONOR
17. What are some benefits of showing honor to those in positions of authority?
17 As we respect and show honor to those who are in positions of secular authority, it is more likely that they will defend our right to preach without interference. Often, the result is that our activity is seen in a positive way. Several years ago, Birgit, a pioneer in Germany, attended her daughter’s school graduation. The teachers told Birgit that it had been a pleasure to work with Witness children over the years. They said that it would be a shame if they had no Witness children in their school. Birgit explained, “Our children are taught to follow God’s standards of conduct, and this includes showing respect for teachers and honoring them.” One teacher said, “If all children were like yours, teaching would be like paradise.” Several weeks later, one of the teachers attended a convention in Leipzig.
18, 19. Why is rendering proper honor to elders a concern?
18 Rendering proper honor to congregation elders is, of course, to be guided by the perfect and wise principles found in God’s Word. (Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.) We can and should commend them for their hard work and strive to cooperate with directions that they provide. Our doing that may help them to continue carrying out their duties with joy. But this does not mean that we try to copy a “prominent” elder in the exact way he dresses and grooms himself, his manner of public speaking, or even his style of conversation. Were we to do so, it could give the wrong impression. We should not forget that he too is an imperfect human. The model to follow and imitate is Christ.
19 By giving the elders appropriate honor and respect while not treating them as celebrities, we are helping them. We make it easier for them to avoid falling victim to pride, to having any feelings of superiority or self-righteousness.
20. How does rendering honor to others help us?
20 On a more personal level, showing honor to those to whom it is due keeps us from becoming self-centered. It helps us to avoid having an inflated opinion of ourselves if some honor comes our way. It also keeps us in line with Jehovah’s organization, which refrains from giving humans—whether believers or unbelievers—excessive or undue honor. Moreover, it is the course of wisdom, helping us to avoid being stumbled if some human to whom we showed honor disappoints us.
21. What is the most important benefit of giving proper honor to those to whom it is due?
21 The most important benefit of giving proper honor to those to whom it is due is that we thereby please God. We act as he wants us to and thus maintain integrity to him. That contributes to making a reply to any who would try to taunt him. (Prov. 27:11) The world is full of people whose sense of how to bestow honor is distorted. We are truly grateful to know how to give honor Jehovah’s way.