Glorifying God: Giving Him the Glory
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
– Westminster Shorter Catechism
As one used to write the name of Christ over his door—so should we write the name of Christ over our duties. Let him wear the garland of praise!
– Thomas Watson, from A Body of Divinity
“That was a good sermon.” I used to really struggle with hearing those words and knowing how to respond. On one hand, I am very glad when the LORD blesses the preaching of the Word and it brings conviction or encouragement or comfort or a deeper knowledge and love for God. On the other hand, I struggle with taking credit for any of it. It is not that I don’t work on the sermons I preach. I do. In fact, I would say that working on sermons, i.e., meditating on God’s Word and trying to figure out how to communicate what the LORD is saying clearly and plainly with integrity and energy is one of the greatest enjoyments the LORD has given me. I spend time on sermons and my heart is in them. But I know that without the work of the Spirit, then it is all in vain. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Herod the king used to receive accolades. The Scripture tells of a time when Herod gave a speech. It says that those who were listening “gave a shout, saying, ‘It is the voice of a God, and not of a man.’” Herod received that as true – he took the glory to himself. The consequences of that choice were quite unpleasant … and yet Herod is hardly alone in this. There is a great danger because the LORD blesses His people so abundantly, so often and in so many different ways, that we can begin to take things for granted and slip into taking the glory for the things we receive from His hand. Of course, we often are working for those things, and this is where the difficulty is – A boss may compliment your work when you do a good job, and he should! A child thanks a parent for cooking dinner, and he should! A congregation encourages their pastor and elders with words of gratitude, and, if Paul has it right, they should (“Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches”).
What do you do with this? I think that when we receive applause / gratitude from others, our response ought not to be an ‘aw, shucks’ refusal to receive the compliment. I think rather that a simple “thank you” / “I’m glad” or something like that would be sufficient … and then we ought to take that compliment and give it to the LORD who gave us the strength, wisdom, energy to do the good works we do in the first place. This is at the heart of what Watson means when he says to “write the name of Christ over our duties.”
There will always be a temptation to keep the glory for yourself. Glory feels nice. It puffs us up inside and makes us feel important and useful. It is of course not bad to be either important or useful, but it is bad to steal glory from God and take it as your own. When we take glory for ourselves, it is only about ourselves – and so it is sinful. God does not operate in that way. He is always giving. So let’s be like Him and give Him the glory in all things, writing the name of Christ on all of our works, even as we receive all things from His hand.