What Does It Mean to Glorify God?

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) … “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The idea of the glory of God, or glorifying God, can be slippery. It’s a concept that religious people throw around a lot, but one that is rarely reflected upon. In some sense it is hard to make it unslippery because there’s no place in our culture where the word glory maintains its proper usage. Typically it is used in a negative sense: “That film glorifies violence.” “That is a glorified sense of self-importance.” It is also used in a self-directed way: “No guts; no glory.” “Those were the glory days.” Glory properly defined is “public praise, honor, and fame.” To glorify something is to give glory to it. To glorify is also to light something up brilliantly. Paul suggests that Christians are to live all of their lives, starting with the most ordinary things like eating and drinking, in such a way that God is publicly praised, honored, and made famous. He is indeed weighty and glorious in his being. Paul tells us that all of our desires should ultimately be aimed at making God gloriously known for who he is. Our daily activities, as simple and ordinary as they may be, should be aimed at his glory. The shape of our lives is meant to make the beauty of God light up brilliantly to those around us.

However, people often make the crucial mistake of confining glory-aimed activity to devotion and public worship. Evangelicals have often made the mistake of compartmentalizing their lives and worship. They have neglected the glory-aimed potential of the ordinary because they have focused almost exclusively on matters of piety and explicit praise. As such, they have tended to downplay the importance, significance, and potential for all of life to be glory-aimed. While God does want our piety—our public worship, our spiritual disciplines, etc.—he wants more than that. We need to see the clear connection in the integration of faith and work, God and science, faith and justice, etc., making ourselves available as citizens pursing human flourishing and common good.

It is important to understand that giving glory to God is not simply vertical (between the individual and God) but also horizontal (between the individual and neighbors/communities). God’s glory is designed to be gained comprehensively. If this is indeed the case, then what exactly is the nature of the relationship between our doing good to our neighbors and giving glory to God?[1]

[1] Um, S. T. (2015). 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; pp. 187–188). Crossway.


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