A book I recently finished reading highlighted an intriguing (possibly even enlightening) concept. The author noted that in our contemporary culture we look at human activity from the perspective of guilt vs. innocence. We’re always trying to assess who’s guilty, who’s responsible, who’s right and who’s wrong.
Yet the people of the Old Testament had a different outlook. Their angle on life was not guilt vs. innocence, but rather shame vs. honor. Shame is the belief that your personal efforts are futile and your public reputation is ruined. Honor is the opposite—it’s the outlook that your efforts are worthwhile and your reputation is noble.
What does this mean for us today? I wish I had more of an answer—it’s a tough concept to get my mind around (yet probably one that’s worthy of our additional time and thought). This is what I do know: shame and honor are concepts that grab the attention of the Old Testament writers. That’s especially true of today’s Psalm 25. Notice the opening and closing pleas of our poet:
- Verses 2-3: “I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in your will ever be put to shame . . . “
- Verses 20-21: “Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me . . .”
Guess I have more questions than answers for you today. (That’s not an unusual experience for me.) Yet, I’m curious:
- When and where do you experience shame?
- When and where do you experience honor?
- How does your relationship with God guide your understanding of shame and honor?
As you read through Psalm 25, pray that God will show us all how to live truly honorable lives. Yes, that’s a big prayer—but a really good one.