You open your Bible to read a familiar passage, but this time a particular word catches your attention – “homage.” Most modern translations use this word, but what does it actually mean? Understanding the meaning of “homage” can shed new light on many scripture passages and give you a deeper appreciation for God’s word.
A Look at the Word “Homage”
The word “homage” appears over 20 times in the Bible, primarily in the New Testament. But to really understand it, we need to start in the original languages. In the Greek, the word is “proskuneo” (προσκυνέω). This word comes from roots meaning to “kiss toward” and was used to describe the ancient custom of bowing down to kiss the ground or feet as a sign of profound respect and submission.
Some key things to understand about the background of “homage”:
- It represents an act of worship and willingness to serve
- It acknowledges the superior position and worth of the one receiving homage
- It is an external display reflecting inner reverence and devotion
So in essence, paying homage is showing deep honor, respect, reverence, and submission to someone as an act of worship. This background helps us better grasp the meaning of “homage” in scripture.
Jesus Received Homage as Divine
Jesus accepted homage multiple times in ways that shocked onlookers, because paying homage was considered an act of worship, and only God deserves worship. Here are a few examples:
- The magi who sought Jesus – “When they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11).
- The man healed of leprosy – “Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” (Mark 1:40-45)
- The synagogue leader Jairus – “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live’” (Matthew 9:18).
- The Canaanite woman – “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’” (Matthew 15:25)
- The mother of James and John – “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.” (Matthew 20:20)
- The disciples after the resurrection – “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.” (Matthew 28:9)
As you can see, Jesus repeatedly accepted acts of homage from people that acknowledged His divinity and worshipped Him as Lord. This shocked onlookers, because a pious Jew would immediately forbid this kind of veneration of anyone but God. By accepting their worship, Jesus claimed equality with God the Father.
God Alone Deserves Our Homage
Paying homage to anyone or anything other than the One True God is strictly forbidden in scripture. God alone deserves worship and unrivaled allegiance.
- When Satan tempted Jesus to bow down and worship him, Jesus replied, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10).
- Peter refused homage from Cornelius, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man” (Acts 10:26).
- An angel forbid John from paying homage, saying “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10).
As believers, we must be careful to reserve true spiritual worship for God alone. Paying homage to anything else is idolatry. We are called to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Homage to Earthly Authority
While ultimate homage belongs to God alone, the Bible shows appropriate honor should be given to earthly authorities. Subjects would bow before kings and servants would kneel before masters as gestures of honor and obedience.
- “My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not associate with those given to change” (Proverbs 24:21).
- “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13).
- “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear” (Ephesians 6:5).
But this honor is qualitatively different than the worship and total life allegiance belonging to God alone. We see this when the apostles declare, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
So passages about homage to kings or masters refer to civil gestures of honor and obedience, not the spiritual worship owed to God alone.
Insincere Displays of Homage
Sometimes biblical figures gave insincere displays of homage out of deceit and evil motives:
- Joab pretend to pay homage to Amasa, but actually assassinated him. “Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not notice the sword in Joab’s hand. Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his intestines on the ground without striking a second blow, and Amasa died.” (2 Samuel 20:9-10).
- Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss when betraying him to the authorities. The gospels say, “Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely…Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him” (Mark 14:44, 45).
These examples show that homage can be faked and used for deception and evil intents. We must differentiate true reverence from false pretense. Actions do not always reflect the heart’s true allegiance.
As believers, we must ensure our displays of respect and honor are sincere, not just empty ritual. God sees the heart.
Homage as Allegiance and Imitation
Paying homage to Christ means more than words and rituals – it requires loyal allegiance to Him as King and Lord of our lives. We not only honor Christ with our lips, but also follow Him in obedience and imitation.
- Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
- Christ accepts homage from those who walk in His ways: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6)
Giving Christ true homage means patterning our lives after His character and values. This goes far beyond Sunday worship. Our lives must declare, “Jesus is Lord!”
Homage as Whole-Hearted Commitment
The most important aspect of homage is the heart’s inner posture – not just outward actions. God wants wholehearted devotion, not just lip service.
- “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
- “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 1:6)
- “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26)
Giving homage to God means dedicating every aspect of our lives – time, resources, relationships – to loving and serving Him. This goes far beyond Sunday morning worship. It impacts all we say and do, becoming our highest aim and loyalty.
Key Takeaways on the Biblical Meaning of “Homage”
- Paying homage means showing deep honor, respect, reverence and submission as an act of worship
- Jesus accepted homage from people as acts of worship, acknowledging his divinity
- True homage belongs to God alone; any worship of idols is strictly forbidden
- Insincere homage can be used for deception and betrayal
- While some homage is given to earthly authorities, our highest allegiance belongs to God
- True homage means loyal obedience to Christ as Lord and patterning our lives after Him
- Homage goes beyond outward acts – God wants our wholehearted devotion and commitment
Understanding this background helps us better appreciate what it means to pay homage to God in our lives today. It’s more than Sunday morning rituals. God wants us to honor and revere Him with every fiber of our being, pledging our complete allegiance to His kingdom and living each day in obedience to Him.
As you read scripture, use this understanding of homage to reflect on your own heart. Are you honoring God with more than lip service? Does your life reflect the inner submission and devotion that true homage requires? Let this inspire you to fall on your knees in awe of our great God, declaring with all you are, “Jesus is Lord – I worship and adore Him!”