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Ministry Ethics
by Rabbi Nick Liebenberg


In This Lesson
About Honour | What Does the Bible Say about Honour? | About Respect
About Reputation | About Purity | About Integrity


About Honour
The words "honour" and "respect" are synonymous with "good reputation", "purity", and "integrity". In the ancient world, the concept of honour was frequently linked to one's tangible possessions. The honour of Odysseus1, for example, was bound up with the restoration of his material goods; Achilles'2 honour was dependent upon the gifts given to him.

Later, the word acquired the strong ethical nature we now associate with it. Plato was among the earliest to establish the personal moral element of honour, what he called "inward honour". The distinctions accorded a man by the world — "outward honours" — were not of the same value as a virtuous person's inner worth. The Romans, as well as the Greeks, placed great emphasis on the indispensable role of honour in an individual's life. Only in the Bible, however, do we gain a true perspective on honour.

The Old Testament requires children to honour their parents (cf. Exodus 20:12), a command that re-appears in the New Testament (cf. Ephesians 6:1-2). Undergirding such action is an even more basic obligation: the giving of honour to YAHVEH, who worthily merits our devoted obedience (cf. Revelation 4:11). Proverbs 3:9 presents the Law's requirement that one should honour our Adonai with his gifts and with the first fruits of his entire harvest. Honouring YAHVEH then, is expressed in the commitment of both life and possessions to Adonai's service. That people do not honour YAHVEH as they should is a lamentable truth of Scripture. In all of history only Yeshua HaMashiach truly honoured the Father by submitting Himself totally to the divine will. His submission led Him to the cross; the means whereby HaMashiach is now extremely exalted (cf. Isaiah 52:13-53:12). YAHVEH the Father raised HaMashiach to His permanent position as our great High Priest, an honour of incalculable significance (cf. Hebrews 5:4-5). Yeshua taught that the one who serves Him would also be honoured by His Father (cf. John 12:26); conversely, those who reject Him also reject YAHVEH our Father (cf. John 15:23).

Christians are called upon to honour one another; that is, each is to consider his fellow believer more worthy of esteem than himself (cf. Romans 12:10). In 1 Peter 1:7 Christians are said to possess honour. Showing honour to others should affect one's entire lifestyle. Husbands are to give honour to their wives by showing loving regard for them (cf. 1 Peter 3:7). Christian servants are expected to show honour to their masters so as to affirm the cause of HaMashiach (cf. 1 Timothy 6:1). Beyond the immediate community of the redeemed, honour must be displayed appropriately by all those who revere the teaching of Scripture (cf. Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17).

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What Does the Bible Say about Honour?

Those Who Honour YAHVEH Will be Honoured
"Praise Him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honouring me before the king, his council and all his mighty princes! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of ADONAI our YAHVEH was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem." (Ezra 7:28)

Ezra praised YAHVEH for all that He had done for him and through him. Ezra had honoured YAHVEH throughout his life and YAHVEH chose to honour him. Ezra could have assumed that his own greatness and charisma had won over the king and his princes, but he gave the credit to YAHVEH. We too, should be grateful to YAHVEH for our success and not think that we did it in our own power.

Giving Honour is Better than Receiving Honour
"Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring each other." (Romans 12:10)

We can honour others in one of two ways:

  • One involves ulterior motives. We honour our bosses so they will reward us, our employees so they will work harder, the wealthy so they will contribute to our cause, the powerful so they will use their power for us and not against us.

  • YAHVEH's other way involves love. As Christians, we honour people because they have been created in YAHVEH's image, because they are our brothers and sisters in HaMashiach, and because they have a unique contribution to make to HaMashiach's Church.

Does YAHVEH's way of honouring others sound too difficult for your competitive nature? Why not try to outdo one another in showing honour? Put others first!

Honouring Parents Is Particularly Important to YAHVEH
"Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land ADONAI your YAHVEH will give you." (Exodus 20:12)

This is the first commandment with a promise attached. To live in peace for generations in the Promised Land, the Israelites would need to respect authority and build strong families. But what does it mean to "honour" parents? Partly, it means speaking well of them and politely to them. It also means acting in a way that shows them courtesy and respect (but not obeying them if it means disobeying YAHVEH). It means following their teaching and example of putting YAHVEH first. Parents have a special place in YAHVEH's sight. Even those who find it difficult to get along with their parents are still commanded to honour them.

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About Respect
Respect is recognizing someone else's worth, honouring them for what they have done and for who they are. In a very real sense, it is a gift you confer on someone, a gift of valuing them highly. To honour and respect others requires humility on our part, because we are making others look good without trying to make ourselves look good at the same time.

YAHVEH Is Worthy of Great Respect
"'Do not come any closer,' YAHVEH told him. 'Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.'" (Exodus 3:5)

At YAHVEH's command, Moses removed his sandals and covered his face. Taking off his shoes was an act of reverence, conveying his own unworthiness before YAHVEH. YAHVEH is our Friend, but He is also our sovereign ADONAI. To approach Him frivolously shows a lack of respect and sincerity. When you come to YAHVEH in worship, do you approach Him casually or do you come as though you were an invited guest before a King? If necessary, adjust your attitude so it is suitable for approaching a Holy YAHVEH.

Those in Authority Are Worthy of Respect
"But then David's conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul's robe. 'ADONAI knows I shouldn't have done it,' he said to his men. 'It is a serious thing to attack ADONAI's anointed one, for ADONAI Himself has chosen him.'" (1 Samuel 24:5-6)

David had great respect for Saul, in spite of the fact that Saul was trying to kill him. Although Saul was sinning and rebelling against YAHVEH, David still respected the position he held as YAHVEH's anointed king. David knew he would one day be king and he also knew it was not right to strike down the man YAHVEH had placed on the throne. If he assassinated Saul, he would be setting a precedent for his own opponents to remove him some day.

Romans 13:1-7 teaches that YAHVEH has placed the government and its leaders in power. We may not know why but like David, we are to respect the positions and roles of those to whom YAHVEH has given authority. There is one exception, however. Because YAHVEH is our highest authority, we should not allow a leader to pressure us to violate YAHVEH's Law.

Those Who Are Faithful to YAHVEH Are Worthy of Respect
"The high priest and his friends, who were Sadducees, reacted with violent jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the jail." (Acts 5:17-18)

The religious leaders were jealous; Peter and the Apostles were already commanding more respect than they had ever received. The difference, however, was that the religious leaders demanded respect and reverence for themselves; the Apostles' goal was to bring respect and reverence to YAHVEH. The Apostles were respected not because they demanded it, but because they deserved it.

How Do I Gain Respect?
"You dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith." (Jude 1:20)

"Do for others what you would like them to do for you." (Matthew 7:12)

Romans 2:10—

1 Kings 13:8—

We gain respect in much the same way as we show it — by building our lives on YAHVEH's Word, treating others the way we would like to be treated, not compromising our character, and standing up for truth no matter what.

How Do I Show Respect to YAHVEH?
"Show reverence toward My sanctuary, for I am ADONAI." (Leviticus 19:30)

Deuteronomy 10:12—

2 Kings 17:36—

"O nations of the world, recognize our ADONAI; recognize that our ADONAI is glorious and strong. Give to our ADONAI the glory He deserves! Bring your offering and come to worship Him. Worship our ADONAI in all His Holy splendour. Let all the earth tremble before Him." (Psalm 96:4-9)

"Since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please YAHVEH by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. For our YAHVEH is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29)

We show our respect for YAHVEH by serving and worshiping Him with reverence.

Psalm 22:23—

Isaiah 33:13—

"Praise our YAHVEH, all His servants, from the least to the greatest, all who fear Him." (Revelation 19:5)

One way to show YAHVEH our respect is by praising Him for what He has done and for who He is.
Ecclesiastes 5:1—

"Our Adonai is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20)

Zephaniah 1:7—

Our reverence for YAHVEH should keep us from sinning. "'Don't be afraid,' Moses said, 'for YAHVEH has come in this way to show you His awesome power. From now on, let your fear of Him keep you from sinning!'" (Exodus 20:20)

"Do not treat My Holy Name as common and ordinary. I must be treated as Holy by the people of Israel. It is I, ADONAI, who makes you holy." (Leviticus 22:32)

Respect for YAHVEH means that we show reverence for His Name. Psalm 115:11—

When we trust in YAHVEH, we show that we truly respect Him. Ecclesiastes 12:13—

Obedience to YAHVEH is a way to respect Him. "Always think carefully before pronouncing judgment. Remember that you do not judge to please people but to please our ADONAI." (2 Chronicles 19:6)

"This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides a pound of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because of my fear of YAHVEH, I did not act that way." (Nehemiah 5:15)

If we truly respect YAHVEH, we should treat other people with fairness and justice. Acts 10:2—

Giving to charity is a way to show our reverence for YAHVEH.

How Do We Show Respect to Others?
"Then a despised Samaritan came along and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds..." (Luke 10:33-34a)

Romans 12:10—

Philippians 2:3—

1 Peter 2:17—

Romans 13:7—

1 Corinthians 8:1—

"How can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Adonai Yeshua HaMashiach if you favour some people more than others?" (James 2:1)

Respect involves showing more concern for people than for agendas, thinking highly of others, building them up in love, and treating everyone with fairness and integrity.

Whom Should We Honour and Respect?

  • We must show respect to YAHVEH above all else.
    "Do not come any closer, YAHVEH told him. 'Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.'" (Exodus 3:5)

    "Be sure to fear our Adonai and sincerely worship Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you." (1 Samuel 12:24)

    "O Adonai, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honouring You." (Nehemiah 1:11)

    Revelation 4:11—

  • We must honour and respect our parents. Exodus 20:12—

  • We must treat our spiritual leaders with respect. "Dear brothers and sisters, honour those who are your leaders in Adonai's work. . . . Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because of their work." (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

  • We should respect the elderly. Leviticus 19:32—

  • We should show respect to those in authority over us. Exodus 22:28—

    "Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don't make fun of a rich man, either. A little bird may tell them what you have said." (Ecclesiastes 10:20)

    "It is a serious thing to attack our Adonai's anointed one." (1 Samuel 24:6)

  • Employers and employees should treat each other with respect.

    "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve HaMashiach. And in the same way, you masters must treat your slaves right. Don't threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven and He has no favourites." (Ephesians 6:5-9)

  • We must treat all people with respect. Luke 14:11—

    "Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring each other." (Romans 12:10)

    1 Peter 2:17—

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About Reputation
We all have a reputation, whether we like it or not. Whether we intentionally try to project a certain image or couldn't care less what others think, people do form an opinion of us through our behaviour, personality, or abilities. A good reputation can help us make friends and get jobs. A bad reputation can also help us make friends (with others of ill repute) or leave us isolated, shunned, or disrespected.

The Bible encourages us to build our reputation on solid character rather than on external image. A reputation built on image without substance eventually becomes a crumbling facade.

A Good Reputation Comes from Obeying YAHVEH's Word
"If you obey them carefully, you will display your wisdom and intelligence to the surrounding nations. When they hear about these laws, they will exclaim, 'what other nation is as wise and prudent as this!'" (Deuteronomy 4:6)

Some people work hard to make others think they are smart. The books they carry and the facts they quote are impressive. But Moses said that a reputation for wisdom comes by obeying YAHVEH's Word. This may not be the easiest or most glamorous way to earn a reputation, but it is the most authentic.

Do you fall into the trap of trying to make others think you are intelligent because of what you know or pretend to know? Obeying YAHVEH's Word will give you a far greater reputation, because it's not just what you know, but what you do that really counts.

A Good Reputation Comes from Consistent Living
"Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. 'Why are you being so kind to me?' she asked. 'I am only a foreigner.' 'Yes, I know,' Boaz replied. 'But I also know about the love and kindness you have shown your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.'" (Ruth 2:10-11)

Ruth's life exhibited admirable qualities: she was hardworking, loving, kind, faithful, and brave. These qualities gained for her a good reputation, but only because she displayed them consistently in all areas of her life. Wherever Ruth went or whatever she did, her character remained the same.

Your reputation is formed by the people who watch you at work, in town, at home, in church. A good reputation comes by consistently living out the qualities you believe in — no matter what group of people or surroundings you are in.

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About Purity

True Purity Comes from Radical Commitment
"They completely destroyed everything in it; men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, donkeys; everything." (Joshua 6:21)

Why did YAHVEH demand that the Israelites destroy almost everyone and everything in Jericho? Because He was carrying out severe judgment against the wickedness of the Canaanites. This judgment, or ban, usually required that everything be destroyed (see Deuteronomy 12:2-3; 13:12-18). Because of their evil practices and intense idolatry, the Canaanites were a stronghold of rebellion against YAHVEH. This threat to the right kind of living that YAHVEH required had to be removed. If not, it would affect all of Israel like a cancerous growth (as it did in the sad story told in the book of Judges).

YAHVEH wants us to be pure. He wants us to clean up our behaviour when we begin a new life with Him. We must not let the desire for personal gain distract us from our spiritual purpose. We must also reject any objects that are reminders of a life of rebellion against YAHVEH.

True Purity Comes from the Heart
"How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious Law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy-full of greed and self-indulgence!" (Matthew 23:25)

The Pharisees strained their water so they wouldn't accidentally swallow a gnat, an unclean insect according to the Law. Meticulous about the details of ceremonial cleanliness, they nevertheless had lost their perspective on inner purity. Ceremonially clean on the outside, they had corrupt hearts. Yeshua condemned the Pharisees and religious leaders for outwardly appearing saintly and holy but inwardly remaining full of corruption and greed.

Living our Christianity merely as a show for others is like washing a cup on the outside only. When we are clean on the inside, our cleanliness on the outside won't be a sham.

True Purity Comes from YHVH
"Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth." (John 17:17)

A follower of HaMashiach becomes sanctified [set apart for sacred use, cleansed and made holy] through believing and obeying the Word of YAHVEH (cf. Hebrews 4:12). He or she has already accepted forgiveness through HaMashiach's sacrificial death (cf. Hebrews 7:26-27). But daily application of YAHVEH's Word has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts. Scripture points out sin, motivates us to confess, renews our relationship with HaMashiach, and guides us back to the right path.

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About Integrity

Integrity Is a Long-Term Character Trait
"I'm asking you to give me the hill country that Adonai promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the Anakites living there in great, walled cities. But if Adonai is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as Adonai said." (Joshua 14:12)

Caleb was faithful from the start. As one of the original spies sent into the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 13:30-33), he saw great cities and giants, yet he knew YAHVEH would help the people conquer the land. Because of his faith, YAHVEH promised him a personal inheritance of land (cf. Numbers 14:24; Deuteronomy 1:34-36). Here, forty-five years later, the land was given to him. His faith was still unwavering. The integrity with which he had boldly contradicted the cowardly advice of the ten other spies years before was as strong as ever. Although his inherited land still had giants, Caleb knew Adonai would help him conquer them.

Like Caleb, we must be faithful to YAHVEH, not only at the start of our walk with Him, but through our entire lives. We must never allow ourselves to rest on our past accomplishments or reputations.

Integrity is Being What We Say WE Are
"May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in You." (Psalm 25:21)

If ever we needed two powerful forces to preserve us along life's way, we need integrity and honesty. The psalmist asks for these to protect him step-by-step. Honesty makes us learn YAHVEH's requirements and strive to fulfill them. Integrity — being what we say we are — keeps us from claiming to be honest while living as if we do not know YAHVEH. Honesty says, "This is the Shepherd's way" and integrity says, "I will walk consistently in it."

One of the Most Difficult Tests of Integrity Is Wealth
"Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?" (Luke 16:10-11)

Our integrity often meets its match in money matters. YAHVEH calls us to be honest even in small details we could easily rationalize away. Heaven's riches are far more valuable than earthly wealth. But if we are not trustworthy with our money here (no matter how much or how little we have), we will be unfit to handle the vast riches of YAHVEH's Kingdom. Don't let your integrity slip in small matters and it will not fail you in crucial decisions either.

1 Odysseus — the Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the "Odyssey". He is renowned for his deceitfulness and is most famous for his Trojan Horse trick in the 10-year war with Troy [Trojan War]. Read more at Wikipedia — Odysseus

2 Achiles — in Greek mythology, a hero of the Trojan War and the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's epic poem the "Iliad". Read more at Wikipedia — Achiles