We all want to make the most of our lives, whether it’s pursuing greatness in sporting achievement, excellence in our career of choice, or pleasure in the innumerable delights this world has to offer. To be human is to desire to give our lives for that which is beyond us. You could say that to be human is to live for glory, for this is what glory is; that which is transcendent, significant, worthy.
The great exchange
If this is what it means to be human — to live for glory — then it’s not hard to discover what is wrong with human beings. In our pursuit of living for what matters most, we spend our energies chasing after little glories, things of real and yet temporary significance. Indeed, the brokenness of human beings goes even deeper than this. In the process of living for little glories, we make a dark and spiritually fatal exchange — ‘exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man … exchanging the truth about God for a lie and [worshipping] the creature rather than the Creator’ (Romand 1:23, 25). We were pre-wired to live for glory, but this glory was to have a subject: God, the all-glorious Creator.
It is here that we encounter our need for the gospel. God, in Christ, became man, to rescue us from our enslavement to little glories and to rewire us to live for his glory alone. This is the incredible truth rediscovered by the Protestant reformers of the 16th century, captured in one of their rallying cries ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ – Glory to God alone. Rescued from enslavement, we are free now to live in such a way that we magnify the One Person who is truly worthy of the place of transcendence, significance and weight. In the gospel, the great exchange has been reversed.
Living for the glory of God
At this point, you may be thinking, ‘This sounds wonderful… but how do I actually live for the glory of God in the messiness of everyday life?’
Thankfully, the New Testament paints a vision of Soli Deo Gloria that is intensely earthy and practical. Listen to these words from the apostle Paul, ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Living for God’s glory can (and must) find its way into the most mundane corners of our existence. From washing dishes to changing nappies, we are now called to orient our lives around the greatness of our Saviour.
So how do we live for God’s glory in the little things? Paul gives us the answer in the preceding and following verses.
Give thanks in all circumstances
‘If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?’ (1 Corinthians 10:30) The Corinthian Church was caught up in an argument about what was appropriate for Christians to eat. In getting to the heart of the issue, Paul points to the fact that all things come from God’s hand, ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof’ (1 Corinthians 10:26), and therefore to live for His glory means giving thanks to him for all things. Back in Romans 1, the passage that talks of the great glory exchange, Paul even describes the root of the human problem as a lack of thanksgiving; ‘For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him’ (Romans 1:21).
Why is giving thanks such a God-glorifying act? Because it accurately portrays his character. In the simple act of giving thanks to God for sunsets, ice-cream, coffee, sleep and friendship, God is acknowledged as being real, good and sovereign. A sense of entitlement stands in opposition to God’s glory, but a posture of humble gratitude magnifies His glory.
Seek the good of all people
‘I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved’ (1 Cor. 10:33). The second way the Corinthians were to live for God’s glory was in their seeking the good of all people. Living for our own glory, or the little glories of this world, is about ‘seeking our own advantage’. Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, spoke of ‘homo incurvatus in se’ — how we as humans are curved in upon ourselves. But when the gospel rescues us from this sinful pursuit, we become progressively curved outward, seeking not our own advantage, but the praise of God and the advantage of others.
Jesus himself spoke of giving God glory in these terms when he encouraged his disciples to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ (Matt. 5:16). As we seek to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as our family and friends who do not know Him, we make a huge statement with our lives – ‘it’s not about me’ – and in doing so, we give glory to God.
Give thanks to God and seek the good of all people — this is what it means to make the most of our lives.