What does it mean to glorify God?
Weiren David Ong // November 20, 2018, 3:10 pm
Perhaps the best initial approach to this question is to rule out what “glorify” isn’t.
Some would think that glorifying God is like adding glory to God. As if when something great is done, God gets a +10 Glory from our endeavours.
But who are we – worms and dust – that we might produce glory that can be added to God? Glorifying God does not equal to adding glory to Him.
There was an analogy going around when I was younger, that equated glorifying God to magnifying God’s glory: That is essentially taking a magnifying glass to make God’s glory look bigger.
This insinuates that God’s glory is so small that He needs your help to make it look bigger so that others can see it. Glorifying God does not equal to magnifying God’s glory.
Sometime later, I heard another analogy. It did give me a slightly better framework to use for awhile: “Perhaps it is not a magnifying glass that makes a small object visible, but a telescope, which helps make large celestial objects visible.”
The thing that seemed incomplete to me about this assessment was how it suggested that God’s glory is so distant and far away, which to me is not the case.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:20-23)
To me, the glory of God is made plain for all to see – all we have to do is look at Creation itself. The problem lies with us: The only reason why a person is unable to recognise something so blatant is because they do not see.
This is one precious thing robbed from us ever since the Fall, when we exchanged the glory of God for lesser things. So glorifying God does not mean bringing a distant glory nearer.
To understand what it means to glorify someone, we need to first understand what “glory” is when boiled down to simple words.
If I were to explain it to a 7-year-old, “glory” would refer to what is wonderful about someone or something.
For example, a football team gets glory if they can score many goals and win matches, because that would make them a wonderful football team. A conquering army has glory only if it fights well and wins many battles, because that would make them a wonderful one.
Glory comes when something is great. If something is purposeless, useless and lame, it definitely has no glory.
If I had to use an object to better illustrate this, it would be a torchlight: It has to be able to shine light for it to work. If not, it is useless. Glory is like the brightness and radiance of that torchlight.
So if God is like a torchlight, His glory is so great that it shines brighter than a supernova.
So back to “glorify”. Since it is not about adding more light, or making the light brighter, or making the light come closer – I believe it’s about modulating (shaping) light into the visible spectrum.
God’s glory is all around us.
- His creative power, exercised in Creation
- His holiness, displayed in His character and laws
- His justice, meted out at the Cross
- His mercy, poured out from the Cross
- His redemptive love, expressed at the Cross
The list is inexhaustible, but do we always see all this brightness? To glorify God is to take the wonder of all these attributes of God, and to express them for others to see – much like how a prism works.
Since it is not about adding more light, or making the light brighter, or making the light come closer – I believe it’s about modulating (shaping) light into the visible spectrum.
It may not be a perfect analogy, but in following with the concept of light being invisible when the whole sum of glory is coalesced, a prism helps to distinguish out the different colours of light.
There are many wavelengths that a prism cannot translate for the naked eye, but that reflects the reality of God’s glory as well – we will never be able to come to a conclusive understanding of the glories of God. They are unending.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“Prism” alone probably doesn’t cut it. It’s more like a hybrid prism-mirror: It has to reflect that light and also express it in a visible way for a blinded soul.
One Man did this best, and He is the perfect link to the next question: How do we glorify God in everything we do?
- “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)
- “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)
Jesus was the perfect prism-mirror: Not only was He the reflection of God’s glory, He is the literal personification of God. And in His time on earth, He showed the glory of God to those who were in darkness.
There are a thousand and one things we will do in life. But the question of how to glorify God in all things is a firm foundation to work from.
Working for God’s glory reins us in; it means we can’t just do anything we please. But this is a good thing; a lived lived in divine purpose is one brimming with unrivalled joy.
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)
I want that. I only want to be doing what I see the Father is doing. Jesus didn’t go around doing what He wanted to accomplish – He went around doing what the Father wanted to be accomplished.
People often say to do everything unto the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). That verse was not meant as a guarantee that every action you fancied taking would be one that glorified God.
What it really says is this: Make sure that every choice you decide to make is one that glorifies God.
I can sum up this question with a discussion that happened between me and some friends on a bus ride.
As humans, we live to glorify something. So life usually boils down to one of two possibilities:
- We live for our own glory
- We live for someone else’s glory
Which option we’ve taken can be distinguished by what motivates us in life.
Am I studying because I want good grades? Or am I studying because I know this is what God is calling me to do to the best of my ability? Am I excelling in my career because I want to be promoted and recognised – or do I want to be a blessing to my colleagues around me?
It is obvious if we are glorifying ourselves or God. We just frequently choose to feign ignorance of our self-seeking nature.
So how do I ensure that I am glorifying God in what I am doing? The first step is to stop looking at myself and being so self-centred. Not everything is about me. In fact, in the end, nothing is about me – everything is meant to reflect my God.
Do what you see the Father is doing, and you will reflect His glory on earth.
This article was first published on Weiren’s blog and is republished with permission.