In the first century, individuals saw themselves enmeshed in their family and community. They needed the extended family connections (kinship) as a foundation for personal identity; the extended family expectations and the opinions of significant people formed the basis for behavior. In the minds of the people, the idea of honor-shame provided a basis for judging individual behavior and a significant driving force in both behavior and individual relationships.
Honor—“the worth or value of persons both in their own eyes and in the eyes of their village or neighborhood” — provided a driving force influencing behavior and relationships. While a person could have honor simply because the community considered the person’s family as a honorable family, a person could acquire honor through the skill of public debate – a debate form referred to as “challenge-riposte. Acquiring more honor created relationship problems in a culture holding to a philosophy of limit-good. Whenever one gained honor the other person must lose honor and therefore experience shame.
There are two types of shame. First, a negative “shame” is the shame of losing in a challenge-riposte encounter or losing respect in the community. The second “shame” is sensitivity to one’s reputation or the reputation of the family. This “positive” shame exhortation might sound like, “Have you no shame? Have you no concern about your reputation or our group reputation?”
When Jesus introduced the “Kingdom of God” (Matt. 5-7; John 18:36), He shifted the foundations of thinking about honor-shame. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus redefined how His disciples are to play the honor-shame game. Moreover, God bases honor-shame on His holiness (1 Timothy 6:13-16); therefore, for a follower of Christ “honor-shame, in their deepest and truest meanings, have to do with our standing before God.” In the inclusió bookends in 1 Timothy, Paul addresses honor-shame encounters when he instructs Timothy to refocus their attention back to God as the One deserving our honor through our praise (1:16-17; 6:13-16). Only God gives true honor; contrary to first century culture, it does not come from people or this world.
Paul tells Timothy to avoid engaging in the public honor-shame debates which glorify men (1 Tim. 1:4-7, 6:20-21). These characteristics separated the true teachers from false teachers because without a focus on God as the source of honor, the false teachers “opposed the true Gospel” and lead “morally questionable lives.” Paul reminded Timothy the goal of his instruction is “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1:5) – in contrast to the self-centered interests of the false teachers (1:6-7; 6:3-5).
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world