“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” Mark 6:4
I have been pondering this verse quite a bit lately over the last year. It has come to mind randomly and situationally quite a bit. There are lots of ways to apply and interpret this verse, each with their own benefits and risks. As I think about this verse, I wanted to highlight how I see it playing out in a variety of ways.
- A prophet is without honor in their own hometown.
I have interpreted this as primarily referring to the town of origin, but that may be inaccurate. Certainly a prophet is without honor in their town of origin, but there may be more to the story. The places we grew up often see us in a limited capacity. They see us through the lens of how they knew us, especially in childhood. Very few of us remain as we were as kids when we are adults. I also think its fair to assert that this also refers to the current town in which we live, again because we are known well and in a certain way. I have found my voice to be more well received by strangers than by residents of my current town and the town I grew up in.
- A prophet is without honor among relatives.
I often say that the people who get the most upset when I set boundaries for my own health are Christians and extended family. Being known well often allows for people to more easily reject the prophetic voice that God will give you. Your own family culture struggles to listen to challenging words from you. Knowing your faults, sin, hangups, and challenges provides ample opportunity to dismiss words that are unwelcome, hard, or harsh. There is a strong expectation that the culture of your extended family will trump any messages that would rattle that culture.
- A prophet is without honor in their own home.
Familiarity can breed contempt. It is hard to listen to the hard, uncomfortable voice of the prophet if you know the intimate details of their life: their strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, and blind spots. The default assumption is that there is a self-serving bias. While this can be sometimes accurate, it is not always the case. When you have seen someone’s failure, it is hard to hear any criticism from them.
- A prophet is without honor in their own home church.
I have seen and experienced this as a staff member, pastor, and church attendee. So many times, my voice and gifts have been ignored in the very church I have committed to loving and serving. One would think that hearing a voice who is a committed part of our community would be more natural than from an outsider, but the opposite is more often the case. The assumption is that someone already in the community is too invested and biased to offer a prophetic voice, but this is not always the reality, We often more readily honor those outside the community than those who are ingrained in and committed to the community.
The reality is honor is overrated especially when it is in tension with obedience to God. Obedience to God will always trump the praise of the world. Yet, every person is a child of God and deserves honor. Every voice should be at least heard and more often than not, prayerfully considered. Far too often, it is the voice of the prophet that we ignore the most because we cannot handle challenge, criticism, or anything perceived as negative. This is the consequence of a consumer church that worships comfort.
Where do you find yourself as a prophet without honor?
Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Carlson, Executive Director, Preparing for Amazement Ministries