Those of us who are Baby Boomers or older remember comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s line, “I don’t get no respect.” Respect — honor — is a big deal, whether we are on the giving or receiving end. In the midst of a society that has lost the core concept of respect for each other, God wants to restore an understanding of honor.
Receiving respect is necessary to our inner well being. All of us want to be regarded highly by those around us. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen over great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” The man who says he doesn’t care what others think of him is either lying or deceiving himself.
God’s paths to good things are generally different than what we would naturally choose. We tend to get the cart in front of the horse. Although true honor can only be bestowed by God, mankind’s natural inclination is to grasp at it through our own efforts. Some of us constantly strive for position and worry about what others think of us. We try to achieve honor by letting others know how successful we are, who we are connected with, what our title is, or how God has used us. This has the fear of man at its root, and leads us into the same error that some people of Jesus’ day fell into: “Among the chief rulers many believed on [Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43).
Jesus understands the drive in the human soul for recognition, because He has experienced its tug personally. In His wilderness temptation, the devil dangled before Him the promise of premature adoration from men if Jesus would bow down and worship him. He tempted Jesus to prove Who He was, which involves self-honor (Matthew 4:1-11). But Jesus knew the origin of all genuine honor. At a time when men taunted Him, Jesus responded, “If I honor myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father who honors me …” (John 8:54).
Once we enter the place of caring what God thinks about us rather than what people think — a place of resting in His honor and favor alone — the honor of men will come. Sometimes it takes time and the perspective of history. But those who choose God’s honor above all else obtain His “Well done, good and faithful servant” approbation, both here and in eternity. And He makes it His business to give us the esteem of men as well: “Behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9).