Honor Where Honor is Due
Monday - January 25th
Devotionals from the Book of James
Scripture to Read Today: James 2:1-13
Do not withhold honor from those who deserve it.
During my first visit to Uganda in 2010, Pastor Bethuel Dongo (who became a dear friend) took Pastor Kirk Dewitt and me to a pastors' conference in the bush. We traveled several hours outside of the nation's capital of Uganda. Pastors and other church leaders gathered in a makeshift tent in the high humidity and heat of Africa. These folks had very little in life but came looking for fresh encouragement in their ministries.
As I spoke with a group of ladies during a break, several of them would bow as they approached to talk to me. It made me uncomfortable. Who was I that they should bow to me? I did not want these ladies to treat me this way. I also did not want to offend them and their culture by asking them not to do so.
When Pastor Dongo and I talked about it later, I asked him if they had done this because I was a man. He answered, "no." I asked if it was because I was a pastor. Again, the answer was no. Dongo also indicated it was not because I was a foreign guest or any other reason I asked him.
I had to know. "But, why then?" My friend paused to answer. Then the answer came.
"It is because you are old. They are honoring you for your elderly age."
I was sorry I had pressed for an answer. Pastor Dongo explained that the life expectancy for men in Uganda was short compared to the United States. He cited the biblical principle of giving honor to whom honor is due (Proverbs 3:27).
"They are giving you the honor you are due because you are old," he said with his unforgettable and giant smile. He enjoyed saying "you are old" a bit too much. Ugandan culture values honoring the elderly - even if they are American and not quite fifty.
The Bible encourages us to give proper honor to those who deserve our respect. Within the Ugandan culture, the ladies that bowed themselves to speak with me fulfilled the biblical principle of giving honor to whom honor is due. While it left me uncomfortable because I did not think I deserved that gesture of recognition, I came to appreciate the beauty and appropriateness of the ladies' hearts in it.
The danger comes when people of any culture show favoritism to people of wealth, status, or power to gain something for themselves. James 2:1-13 warns us of moving beyond proper respect playing favorites. Favoritism in the church leads to destructive and divisive ends. It must not be a part of a local church's culture.
Look at how you treat others. Do you give honor to those who should be honored by you, or do you play favorites to get something for yourself?
We should demonstrate respect for those who deserve it. But we should never play favorites!