How do I ‘glorify God’ when I don’t even know what it means?

We exist for God’s glory. Maybe you learned that from the Westminster Catechism: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Or maybe you learned it from The Purpose Driven Life: “You were made by God and for God” (p. 18). I won’t be a snob about where you learned it. I’m just glad that you know that you exist to glorify God.

But here’s the dilemma: What does it even mean to glorify God? Have you ever tried to explain that to someone? to your children? to yourself? “Glorifying God” is an abstract concept, isn’t it?What does it even mean to glorify God? Have you ever tried to explain that to someone? Click To Tweet

Now for many of us who came to faith within the Evangelical subculture of camps and conferences, the first thing that pops into our minds when we think of “glorifying God” is a darkened room with a worship band on stage and a crowd singing along, eyes closed and hands raised. We think to ourselves that those were the moments—when we found ourselves lost in the experience of singing to God—that we truly glorified God. Of course, that conception of glorifying God leaves us stupefied when we read Paul’s words: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31 CSB). Have you ever tried to have supper with your eyes closed, hands raised, and belting out “How Great is Our God?” As silly as that question may seem, it points out an incongruity in our thinking about what it means to glorify God with our lives.

One of our obstacles to understanding “glorifying God” is our tendency to read Scripture as independent individualists (aka as Americans). Our tendency to think only about our personal relationship with God can blind us to the actual content of Scripture. When Paul commands us to “do everything for the glory of God,” he does so in a context that is addressing community problems.

First Corinthians 8–10 addresses the thorny issue of whether or not Christians should eat meat that has been dedicated to idols. Paul gives the following rule: When eating with an unbeliever, eat whatever they give you without asking questions, but if they inform you that the meat was dedicated to idols, then do not eat it (1 Cor 10:27-28). Why? Because to eat the meat that you know has been dedicated to an idol would be understood by your unbelieving neighbor as participating in the worship of the idol. Thus the Christian would be legitimizing the idol by eating the dedicated meat.We glorify God by loving God completely and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. Click To Tweet

So when Paul commands to eat and drink to the glory of God in verse 31, he means that we should do everything in a way that communicates to others the truth about God. Of course, there is another word for this: Love. The believer must love God in everything by being committed to the truth about God. The believer must love his neighbor enough to risk offending him by refusing his generosity because the truth about God is more important.

To put it simply, we glorify God by loving God completely and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. And, if I’m not mistaken, someone has said that those two loves summarize our whole duty before God (Matt 22:34-40).


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