Sunday, 14 September 2014

A reason for living

...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 plant 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? Sheer habit? None of these things are necessarily bad. But should they be our top priority?

According to the Bible, we are called to live first and foremost "for the glory of God".
Glory. That word is hard to pin down. It conjures up the idea of God's majesty and power made known on earth - as when Moses saw him on Mount Sinai, or when the disciples saw the risen Christ at the transfiguration. That’s glory.

In the Old Testament glory has a root meaning of "weight", "heaviness". Heavy things often tend to be worth more than light things. My wife 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 also has the sense of "reputation". This is a helpful way to understand what Paul is talking about in our verse from 1 Corinthians: whatever you do, he is saying, have in mind God’s reputation. How will what I am about to do reflect on God?
It may seem strange, but if you read the whole passage you find that Paul is talking about the most ordinary things you could imagine - food and drink. He is saying that Christians may have differing views on, say, being or not being a vegetarian, drinking or not drinking alcohol. They may disagree about what company it’s all right to keep for dinner parties. "But don't get worked up 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.

The fact is that in all the everyday things of life we have a 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? When I’m driving, 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, if 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?

I could go on. I think it was CS Lewis who said that when he became a Christian he found that what changed wasn’t so much the things he did and didn’t do, but the spirit with which he did them.
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. Have you ever cleaned a toilet to the glory of God? (For discussion: What would it actually mean in practical terms to clean a toilet, or cut the grass, or do a tedious office job, or chair an awkward meeting for the glory of God?)

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’s that? 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. Putting it another way, if there’s anything we really can’t do for the glory of God, well, we shouldn’t be doing it at all.

If only we could maintain 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. 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.

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