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Doing something really well and then giving God credit for it—-this is the antidote to pride. When you achieve something that you can really feel good about, such as hitting a baseball, making a sale, helping a client, making a good product, or connecting with an audience, you may be tempted to glorify yourself. You may be tempted to indulge in what the King James translation calls “vainglory” (Phil. 2:3). But instead, you can channel that glory to God Himself, who gave you the ability, the opportunity, and the vocation that made the achievement possible. Paradoxically, the great accomplishment makes you feel humble, instead of proud, whereupon you glorify God.

God’s glory refers to His surpassing excellence, His wondrous goodness, His infinite majesty. We glorify Him—that is, we acknowledge His glory—when we praise and worship Him. The Psalms are full of such praise:

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. (Ps. 29:1–2)

But Scripture says that we should also glorify Him in every facet of our lives. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This includes our God-given vocations. And it applies in our mundane, ordinary lives—even apart from some great accomplishment.

One way we can glorify God in our work is to do our very best. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10). In Colossians, in the context of a passage specifically about vocation—husbands, wives, children, parents, servants, masters—the Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). “Heartily” means “from the heart.” When we do good work, we honor the Lord who called us to that work.

The passage also shows how we can be motivated to do good work. We are to work “as for the Lord.” In his great discourse on the various vocations in Ephesians 5–6, Paul underscores this point in his discussion of how “bondservants” (in terms of our economic system, we could apply this to employees) should serve their “masters” (we could apply this to employers):

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man. (Eph. 6:5–7)

Imagine having the world’s worst boss. How could you give your best work for someone like that? Don’t work for him. Work for God. Doing your work “as to the Lord” will cause you to work “heartily,” and it also glorifies God.

One way we can glorify God in our work is to do our very best.

God providentially rules and cares for His entire creation, choosing to do so in part by working through ordinary human beings. His purpose for vocation is to bestow His gifts by means of what we do—providing daily bread through the vocations of farmers and bakers; protecting us by means of lawful magistrates; healing by means of doctors and nurses; creating and caring for new life by means of parents; proclaiming His Word by means of pastors. Therefore, the purpose of our vocations is to love and serve our neighbors. When we do so, God works through us to bestow His blessings. The Apostle Peter makes the connections between vocation, service, and glorifying God:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10–11)

When we work purely for our self-interests, we glorify ourselves. When we work to serve others, we glorify God.

Wanting glory for ourselves comes to us easily. Even the Apostles James and John were ambitious for their share in the glory of Jesus. “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37). The other disciples were indignant, but Jesus was gentle with them, not rebuking them, exactly, but showing them that sharing in His glory is different from sharing in the world’s glory:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (vv. 42–45)

Christ’s glory is in His cross, and through His cross, with our crosses of self-sacrificing service, God glorifies us (Luke 9:23–26; 2 Cor. 4:1–7).

Most of us have ordinary vocations, yet we can be thankful in our work. “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Ps. 50:23). To feel gratitude to God is to recognize our dependence on Him and to exult in His unfathomable grace. And “as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15).

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From the September 2018 Issue
Sep 2018 Issue