Who are your heroes? Who are those folks that you honor because of who they are, what they do or have done? Perhaps it’s the folks that run into danger instead of away from it. Or maybe those with a special skill or sterling character. It could be just an ordinary person placed in extraordinary circumstances. They may be someone important to you personally like a spouse, mom or dad. It’s those qualities of honor and respect that we consider in this article of reThink48.
Welcome to our second attribute to “dwell on” and consider from Pau’s letter to the Philippians. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NASB95) If you’re just joining us, we are reThinking Philippians 4:8 by focusing on the various attributes we are to think about and look for instead of only using this verse as a filter for what we see and do.
As I look through Paul’s list of words honorable is perhaps the hardest to dust off. The specific Greek word is only used a few times in the New Testament. The others instances regard the quality of dignity and respectability that Deacons and their spouses should have (1 Timothy 3:8,11 and Titus 2:2). The second difficulty is that in many minds honor is directly linked to an office someone may hold such as a government leader or judge. Honorable seems lofty and high that its very nature defies definition.
There is a humility factor when we recognize honor. Even in the simplest idea of giving someone the honor of going first. An example of honor is seen in John the Baptist. He had grown a vibrant ministry out in the desert. Folks from all over were flocking to hear what he had to say. And then when Jesus came on the scene John recognized that “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, NASB95) It didn’t mean that John was less than but that Jesus was more than.
We often look to the opposite of a word to help us understand its meaning. Honorable’s opposite is dishonorable, that doesn’t help us much. It’s like saying that the lack of heat is disheat (not a word, I know). Other possibilities are corrupt, deceptive, and devious.
Pauls provides some help in his second letter to Timothy. “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20–21, NASB95) In our modern day experience vessels of dishonor would be like the sink we do dishes in or the toilet we use while the dishes we only bring out for a special meal would be vessels of honor.
In a way, we see three levels in Paul’s text. That which is dishonorable and fit to be hidden. After all, we don’t usually show off our kitchen sinks or dish pans. That which is common and every day, consider this to be like our work clothes. And that which is honorable in some way.
The Trap – Honoring that which is not
To be frank and honest I’ve struggled over how to explain the folly of honoring that which is dishonorable. Oh, there are plenty of examples. But here’s the problem I ran into. As soon as I thought of an example the specter of judgementalism soon followed. So let me put it this way. When we honor something that is really dishonorable, we look down instead of up. Do that long enough, and the whole world turns upside down. That which should be honored is seen as dishonorable, and that which should not be honored is lifted up. Even to the point of dishonoring God.
Benefits of dwelling on that which is Honorable
Understanding the trap helps us to also understand the benefit of dwelling on whatever is honorable. As we continue to look up, to honor that which is honorable, we begin to see God better. There’s an old adage among motorcycle folks, you’ll hit what you look at. Or in baseball, the fielder and batter are told to keep their eye on the ball. In Hebrews, we are taught to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Where we look, what we honor, affects our trajectory. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2, NASB95)
Paul taught, “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7, NASB95) Only God is wholly and completely honorable, everything and everyone else is a mixed bag of things dishonorable, common, and honorable. So often the bad in someone (or in ourselves) blinds us to that which deserves honor and recognition. The human tendency is the put down the other person to lift ourselves up. Just watch a political debate sometime. Ever see a candidate say to the other person on the stage, “Hey, that’s a great idea you have there”? Neither have I. But dwelling on whatever is honorable means that we do just that.
We have this ongoing conflict when it comes to paying due honor and respect. So how do we square the circle when someone is due honor but does dishonorable things? (Get your mind off of politics and consider the others in your life, like the neighbor down the street or that unpleasant co-worker.) I think the answer to understanding this is the Hierarchy of Honor – God, parents, rulers, spouse, children…others in our world. It’s how the three Hebrew men of fiery furnace fame could stand instead of worship as commanded. So often we focus on their brave act of disobedience but miss the respectful and honorable tone they struck with the king. They paid honor where honor was due, but they also recognized that a higher honor must also be kept.
Let’s bring this down to everyday life. We may see every bump, wart, flaw, and failure of someone and discount everything they say or do. It’s never quite right, or we fear that their motives are impure. (There’s that specter of judgementalism again) But that is dwelling on what is dishonorable, what would happen if we began to see and dwell on the honorable that is in them? It’s the difference between always pointing out what is wrong with that person, that group, that church and pointing out that which is right with that person, that group, that church.
When we intentionally begin to give honor where it is due to our own outlook and demeanor changes. We begin to look up to God more often instead of looking down in judgment. It may never change the person in view, but it will change you.
- Did you see the picture? I see a face and perhaps some colors that weren’t there before.