So …whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31.
A simple question: What are you living for?
When you put your feet on the floor by your bed in the morning, what motivates you? Is it mainly a sense of duty and responsibility? The need to make money? The desire to enjoy yourself? A commitment to your work? None of these things, of course, are bad. But should they be our top priority?
According to the Bible as a whole, and spelt out here by Paul, we are called to live first and foremost “for the glory of God”. Note that word “whatever” – which means “anything and everything”.
Glory: it’s a hard word to pin down. It conjures up the idea of God’s majesty and power made known on earth, the outshining of his being – as when Moses saw him on Mount Sinai, or when the disciples saw the glorified Christ at the transfiguration.
In the Old Testament glory has a root meaning of “weight”, “heaviness”. Heavy things often tend to be worth more than light things. Nina and I have a set of dinner plates given us as a wedding present – and they are heavy. You only have to pick one up to sense its quality. So the glory of God is to do with his worth, his value, his sheer importance.
In the New Testament glory can have the sense of “reputation”. I find this a helpful way to understand what Paul is talking about in our verse.
It may seem strange, but he is referring here to the most ordinary thing you could imagine – eating and drinking. (I said that word “whatever” is important!)
He says that Christians may have differing views on, say, being or not being vegetarian. “But don’t worry about it!” he says. “Just make sure that whatever you eat and drink you do it to the glory of God.” In other words, in your attitude to this most ordinary thing, remember that God’s reputation is at stake.
What we need to get into our heads is that in all the everyday things of life we have the duty and responsibility to ensure that God’s reputation – his name – is unsullied. This means we need to ask ourselves a few questions…
Do I do my supermarket shopping to the glory of God? Am I polite to other customers? Do I exchange a friendly word with the person at the check-out? Do I drive my car to the glory of God? Am I courteous to other road users (not least pedestrians!)? Do I let the bus out first? Do I jump the lights? Do I keep to the speed limit? Do I do the house-hold chores to the glory of God? Cheerfully or grumblingly? Whole-heartedly or shoddily? And what about my day-time job, assuming I have one? Do I do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay? Do I try and get away with the bare minimum required, or really give of my best?
And in life’s bigger things… How do I conduct my relationships? Patiently? Kindly? Sensitively? Is my way of speaking good? Is my humour wholesome? Am I strictly honest? Do I look out for the stranger, the person the rest of the world passes by?
I could go on. The seventeenth century poet George Herbert put it like this: “Teach me, my God and King,/ In all things Thee to see,/ And what I do in anything/ To do it as for Thee… A servant with this clause/ Makes drudgery divine:/ Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws/ Makes that and the action fine”. Yes, we can even “make drudgery divine” if we have a truly God-glorifying attitude.
In fact (here’s a thought) there’s only one thing in our lives which we can’t do to the glory of God. What is it? Sin. A person who aims to do everything to the glory of God will make every effort to get rid of every trace of sin from his or her life. God is sinless, so we should be too. No compromises!
If only we could adopt this attitude consistently day by day – it would make new people of us. And it would make a real impact on the people who know us. Let’s go out this week and do all things – yes, literally all things – for the glory of God.
Father, forgive me that my life tends to be so me-centred. Through the power of your Holy Spirit please teach me to live for your glory, and your glory alone. Amen.