I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the extent to which so much of what I do in life and how I arrange things are all designed to maximise my own glory – to make sure as many people as possible are able to realise just how awesome I am. It’s a wide ranging phenomenon which impacts a whole bunch of different areas:
- My Holiness
So much of my so-called “godliness” turns out to really be mere outward conformity – wanting to behave in a sufficiently conventional way that people look at me and go “Andy Geers, yep, he’s pretty godly. No wild drunken benders for him”. But when it comes to true inward holiness in the areas that only God observes – well then I only care about holiness in as much as it impacts my self-esteem. Sin brings back that dreaded “Oh no, I’ve stuffed up again, I’m obviously not as amazing as I thought I was” feeling, rather than any sense of having offended against the holy majesty of God by rebelling against his right rule. Repentance then becomes about feeling bad, and praying for God to help me be more awesome in the area of personal godliness, rather than about confessing guilt and praying for God to help me please him in all areas of life.
- My Evangelism
If outward conformity is the order of the day when surrounded by Christians, then not looking weird is what it’s all about when in the presence of those who don’t follow Christ. It’s okay to be a bit distinctive, in fact it’s quite glorifying in one sense to be the “other-worldly” Christian nutcase who stands out from the crowd. But not to the extent that you risk people trying to avoid you – that’s a big no-no when it comes to being awesome. And again, my ultimate motivation for wanting to bring people to hear about Jesus is often to rack up points in the eyes of other Christians (“wow! look at how many people Andy Geers knows!”) rather than because I have a deep concern for Jesus’ honour and a desire to see my friends saved from eternal judgement.
- My Ambitions
It turns out that jobs can often be a great way to bring glory to yourself. I recently got invited for an interview for a very well known company that is widely recognised as a fantastic employer – and being able to tell people all about that was a wonderful way to remind people just how awesome I am, that I should be associated with such a company. My ambitions often seem to revolve around finding a set of life circumstances that will bring the most glory to my name – like being able to pull off an amazing coup like making the world’s greatest Bible-teaching computer game, marrying some domestic goddess with looks to die for, or getting some highly glamorous job. I’m frequently running calculations through my head of what such-and-such a choice will do for my image, and rejecting the options that might cause people to think less of me.
The Glory of Service
In one sense, of course, seeking glory isn’t a problem in itself. The problem is where you seek your glory from: will you be like the authorities in John 12:42-43, who “loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God”? Or will you be like those in Romans 2:6-8, “who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality” from God, receiving eternal life as their reward?
As ever, Jesus Christ leads us by example in this area. I’ve benefited greatly by spending a lot of time lately in Philippians 2:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
True Glory is found in humble service of others, seeking their good and the glory of God’s name. Those who are truly praiseworthy are those who don’t even care for your praise, only God’s. They’re prepared to serve in the lowly ways, do the despised jobs, stand up for Jesus in a hostile world even if it costs them their life, to be content in whatever situation God has been pleased to place them in. True glory is found in the way of the cross.