The Giving of Glory
When I was in college, I didn’t always use my brain to its full capacity. One of these moments was at Christmas with my family. I knew what I wanted to get every person in my family. I had it all planned out. I was going to get everyone a DVD that was on their Christmas list. I could go to one store and be done, plus, I was in college…this would be a cheaper than normal Christmas. So, I went to best buy and purchased all of the DVD’s. I hid them all in my room and one evening, I had a brilliant idea (or so I thought). I could watch all of the DVD’s I bought for others. All of the movies were ones I desired to see or re-see, so I took this idea and ran with it. I opened all of the packaging and watched every single DVD I bought as gifts. My excuse was going to be: everyone hates all that plastic on their DVD’s anyways, so I was helping them out. Well, Christmas came and one by one, everyone opened their DVD’s and noticed the packaging gone. Finally as my sister-in-law opened hers, she couldn’t help but ask: “Marvin, did you watch all of our DVD’s!?” I had to sheepishly admit my act of self-gratification and mourn this selfishness.
Your stories of selfishness may not be as extremely obvious as mine, but we are all selfish people. We are told to do what feels right for us. We are told to look out for our own good, no matter how it affects other people. We believe deeply that we should have everything our way, or as we like it. Commercials speak to our selfish side by creating longing for their product and get us to purchase their product because we want it. When we live for ourselves, we are seeking to bring glory to ourselves. When we idolize our selves and our wants and needs we take glory from the Lord and give it to ourselves.
We all have a tendency to be selfish and to seek our good and out glory for our self-gratification. We live for our gain and not His Glory. Paul in this portion of Scripture states this very thing to the church in Corinth- they live for themselves and neglect living for Christ. He then, by way of reverse argument answers this question: “How can we live so the Lord is glorified?” In this particular passage, Paul answers the question of how we can live so the Lord is glorified. He first goes after the individual’s response to community and states that in order to glorify God with our lives, we would:
- Sacrifice Self for the Benefit of Others (vs. 23-30)
Paul in these verses echoes back to something he said in chapter 6, discussing the life and conduct of those within the church. He says again that many have freedom to live in certain ways others cannot, due to conviction. In this he reminds them once more that living for simply yourself and not considering your brothers and sisters in your conduct has potential to be detrimental to community. Community is built on common trust. This is why he then states: “Let no one seek His own good, but the good of others”. Selfish living brings glory to self and destroys trust. This is so, because your comfort and desires become the primary lens with which you see life. You desire your good and thus you are glorifying your needs. Paul here brings attention to a powerful truth for common trust within community: when I look out for you and you look out for me, we are in the safest position we could be in. When we live selfishly many times in relationships we will be looking out for our good and someone else might be looking out for our good as well, but that leaves the other person vulnerable. When we look out for the good of others, we begin to love all as we love ourselves. When we make others more important than ourselves, we begin to live into the fullness of being known by our love for one another. Jesus stated that this love of one another causes the world to know we are His. In essence, our selfless living brings Glory to God, because it shows only he could make capacity for such love. Living for the glory of self hinders the ability to love. If I am more important to myself than you are to me, I end up loving myself and not you. This then causes the glory of God to be diminished in our midst. I think the American Church has lost this ideal of sacrificing self and has opted for simply a “personal relationship” with Christ. The Gospel was not meant to simply be personal, but also communal. This causes much surrender, because our natural tendency is to live for self. The rest of this portion (vs. 25-30) give examples of what living for others would look like in the Corinthians context. Paul then continues this discussion of glorifying God with our lives by challenging the Corinthians and us to:
2. Desire to Make Our Lives a Mirror of the Lord (vs. 31)
He gives the Corinthian’s pause with this statement. This is the crux of this whole segment of Scripture. He basically asked them the question within this statement: are you doing what you do in your life to glorify God or yourself? If it is the latter, things must change. Glorifying self only has temporal ramifications, but being a mirror of God’s glory to this world has potential to have eternal ramifications. When we do things in our lives, what is the main purpose? Who are we trying to point to with our lives? Who is our life pointing to? These are tough questions. This statement implies that everything should be brought under the Lordship of Christ for His glorification. When we do this, we are stepping off the stage of life and allowing the true star to shine. It has to be an intentional act. Surrender never comes natural, but it is necessary. Paul, with this statement in vs. 31 also implies even the small aspects of our lives (eating and drinking) can be sanctified (made holy) in order to glorify God. The holy way we can glorify God is if we do things that the natural man can’t do. In order to do this, we have to allow the Lord to sanctify us through and through (1 Thes. 5:23) Paul takes this a step further with the next two verses. The inference is, that if every aspect of our lives is sanctified in order to glorify God, our lives will be lived in such a way that we:
3. Seek to Live for the Sake of Other’s Salvation (vs. 32-11:1)
If our lives are in fact glorifying God, testifying that we are living in such a way that only God could enable such living, people will come to know Christ. This is the empowerment of living the incarnational lifestyle- surrendered to the Lord’s empowerment to encourage the sanctification of our lives to the point of glorifying God with them. Paul then states that this life style will cause us not to seek our own advantage through selfish means, but will in fact bring people to salvation in Christ. Our lives tell a better story than our words. Soards says of Paul: “He lived so that God might work through him for the salvific benefit of others, because he understood that God acted through his (Christlike) selflessness and saved others in the operation”. This then is the impetus for Paul saying in 11:1- Be imitators of me as I am of Christ. He, with this statement sounds arrogant, but as he stated previous to this, it is not for his advantage but for the salvation of others. He encourages all believers to live in such a way that their life glorifies Christ and draws people into a deep relationship with Him. When we seek to live for the sake of other’s salvation, we are living lives that glorify the Lord.
Sacrificing, Desiring and Seeking in this context are not easy. We know however, that the Word is a manual on the Love of God and His description of how we work best. When we can surrender to these aspects of glorying God, we truly will be living into the fullness of our lives.