Obedience is simple—do what you’re told. Honor is not so simple, but it’s far more valuable. Honor respects another person and attributes value to them. Children can obey but still show dishonor in the process. They dishonor by dragging their feet even as they ‘seem’ to obey, or by doing a job poorly, or by showing a bad attitude. When a child is only taught to obey, they usually do the bare minimum to keep from suffering a consequence.
Honor is different. When you honor someone, you go beyond the bare minimum and take initiative. You consider that person’s needs as well as your own. That’s how you show honor to your child. You think of things that would please them. You buy their favorite cereal, or pick up their favorite movie at the movie kiosk. You do things like this because you want to see the delight on their faces.
Obedience is often motivated by external factors, like rewards or punishments. But honor is an inner motivation that remains even when there’s no parent around to reward or punish.
Use this definition of honor to help you communicate this valuable concept to your children:
Honor is 1) treating others as special 2) doing more than expected and 3) having a good attitude. Even discussing this definition helps kids.
Use this definition for talking points throughout the day. Help your child develop an awareness of others’ feelings. Help them consider both the absolute minimum that must be done to obey, but also what would be “more than expected.” Teach them what you mean by ‘attitude’ and to be aware of their own attitudes and moods.
Here’s one suggestion to bring honor into your family patterns: The next time you give a child a direction, encourage them to do that job and then look for one ‘extra’ thing to do.
After you tell them to set the table for dinner, let them pick an “honor job,” something they get to choose to do. Maybe it’s folding the napkins, bringing a flower in from outside, or putting the newspaper in dad’s chair for him to read. Make sure the child gets to pick. This is doing more than is expected. Obedience is something children have to do, but honor is something children get to do. It empowers them!
In the following verses, Jesus lived out the three parts of our definition of ‘honor.’
John 13:5 – Then Jesus poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (He treated the disciples as special.)
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… (He did more than expected.)
Philippians 2:5 –Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped… (He had a good attitude.)
Obedience is fine and necessary, but a house where honor resides is a home that reflects Christ.