Glorifying God in your vocation – wrong ways of doing it
I recently had the opportunity to do some talks for a camp (Grace CCC), which made me do some thinking about how God is glorified in our day to day life. Especially during all the hours we spend at work, or doing housework, or studying – all those hours doing non churchy things.
This is an important issue because it goes right to the heart of our created purpose – but surprisingly, many people have answers that are not very well thought out.
Today I want to share a number of ways in which people might suggest to you that God is glorified. You’ve probably heard some of them. You may even believe some of them – but I think these are all ultimately wrong…
Doing your best
Quite a few people may have suggested to you that it is by excelling in all our work that God is glorified. It is by being the very best that we can. If you are a baker then by baking the best bread that you can. If you are a student by getting the best mark that you can. If you are an employee, it is by working your hardest. And somehow that is meant to glorify God.
Being the best
A variation on that is to say that it is when we are the very best, when we reach the top that God is glorified (not just when we try our best). And so it is when I become the youngest partner in the law firm. or when I top my school in maths. or when my team wins the soccer game – that is when God is glorified.
Doing good to others
Another approach is to identify when it is in your work that you are doing good to others – and then put your focus on that. So if you are a baker, then you focus on how the bread you make feeds families. If you are an accountant, then it’s how you are helping your clients sort out their affairs. The thinking here is that it’s in the doing good that is glorifying to God.
Abandoning the devices of the flesh
Others will tell you that God is glorified when you abandon the devices of the flesh and rely entirely on the spirit. This relies on the teaching Watchman Nee, and the idea here is that when you make your daily decisions by spirit-infused intuition and not by using human reason, not by using skills and methods that you might have learnt, God is glorified. When you are relying on God in that ‘spiritual’ kind of way, that is when you glorify God.
Here people will say that it is when we are sharing the gospel with someone, that God is glorified. It’s not really through your work at all. Work merely provides the opportunity for you to meet people in order to evangelise. And so God is glorified when people pause from their work of being a baker or a mother to hear the gospel.
Abandon secular work
And a variation of the one above is to say that secular work is of no real value. And so it’s actually by abandoning secular work and doing full time ministry or missions work that you can really start to glorify God.
There are two versions to this: one that elevates ministers and missionaries to a higher spiritual state. And another that says that this world is passing away and so anything to do with this world is wasted, so we should only give ourselves to work that will last into the future world.
The problem with the first few is that you can actually perform objectively ‘good’ actions – and have your heart in completely the wrong place. You could excel in business – like the rich fool of Luke 12 – and yet be found at the end to not have been rich towards God. You could pray – like those who ask God for things in James 4:3 – but who do so with false motives. You could do good ever since you were a child – be like the rich young ruler in Luke 18 – and still love wealth.
And so doing one’s best, being the best, and even doing good is not necessarily glorifying to God. In fact all these things could be done with hearts that do not love God – but instead love wealth, honour, or the approval of parents – and that is sin.
I’ve dealt with how the spirituality of Watchman Nee is not biblical in another series of posts (here is one). But in short while while it sounds appealing, Nee’s doctrine of man, doctrine of providence and doctrine of sin are actually wrong. His spirituality has more to do with Eastern Asceticism than it has to do with biblical Christianity. The spiritual man does not bypass reason, he makes the appropriate use of reason.
And the last two essentially say that God can’t be glorified in work – only apart from it. Only when we step away from it (either for a few moments or for many years) to speak about Jesus. Which doesn’t seem to fit with Paul’s assertion in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that God can be glorified in whatever that you do.
So how do we actually glorify God? More about that in our next post… :)