Pastoral Perspectives

Whatever You Do

The apostle Paul says: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This resonates with Westminster Shorter Catechism where the very first question asked is: “What is the chief end of man?” to which the response is: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

What does it mean to glorify God? It is to recognise and acknowledge him for who he is – his character, his beauty, his excellency, and to give him the honour by praising and worshiping him. When the Psalmist declares how great God is, he is glorifying God. The opening verses of Psalm 145 are a good example of how David glorifies God as he praises him for his greatness:

1I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.

We too can glorify God every time we gather for worship. We sing songs of praise and adoration and many of these songs direct our attention to God’s attributes – holiness, justice, compassion, love. When we sing songs about the cross and our salvation, again our attention is drawn to God’s wrath and mercy. A favourite hymn of mine “How Great Thou Art” takes us from creation to the cross to Christ’s return, and the refrain “Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art” rings with much joy. It is thus good for us to pay attention whenever we sing to the Lord and to do so sincerely so that we glorify him in our worship. 

We not only want to recognise and acknowledge God for who he is, we also want to point out to those around us who God is. We can do this through word and deed.  When we share our testimony and tell of how God is working in our lives, when we share the Gospel and how Jesus saved us from sin and how the Holy Spirit is transforming our hearts and minds every day, we glorify Him before others. Even though others may not want to hear us when we acknowledge God, he is more than pleased by our efforts to make him known.

We can also give glory to God through our works. Matthew 5:16 says: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” When I deliver meals on wheels, when I give free tuition to the kids in the neighbourhood, when I reach out to people who are lonely, I am displaying the love of God; when I am patient with a problematic colleague or a difficult child, I am displaying the patience of God; when I forgive someone who has hurt me, I am displaying the mercies of God; when I am standing up for someone who is being bullied, I am displaying the justice of God. In all these, I am making God’s goodness and beauty visible and in so doing, my good works bring glory to God.

What about Paul’s exhortation? “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” With regards to eating and drinking, the context is about eating food offered to idols. Although an idol has no real existence, Paul urges the Corinthians not to eat in pagan temples because it may lead to the destruction of a weaker brother, weaker in terms of his conscience (1 Cor. 8). Paul offers himself as an example of one who is willing to give up his rights for the sake of spiritually building others up (1 Cor. 9). He also urges the Corinthians not to eat in pagan temples because doing so is idolatry (1 Cor. 10:1-22). Finally, a lot of the food sold in the market has already been offered to idols and if one is invited to eat in a house of an unbeliever, likely, the food served would have also been offered to idols (1 Cor. 10:23-11:1). Well, Paul says that the believer should just eat without raising any questions. But if a weak believer whose conscience does not permit him to eat such food, then for his sake, the strong believer should abstain so that no one is stumbled. The latter is exercising love in giving up his rights, displaying the love of God, thus bringing him glory.

What catches my attention is the clause “whatever you do”.  Whatever really means whatever – eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, driving, commuting, reading, cooking, feeding the baby, playing with your child, talking, listening, working, looking for a job, pursuing a hobby, volunteering, rendering help, attending a concert, watching a movie, seeing a doctor, seeking medical help, merely breathing, and the list goes on. How can we do all these to the glory of God?

Start with a grateful and thankful heart. Sometimes, such a posture will result in us breaking out in prayers or songs of thanksgiving. When going to bed, I can say: “God, I thank you for a roof over my head, a comfortable firm bed, a warm quilt, and a spouse that lies next to me.” When attending a concern, I can say: “God, I thank you for the beautiful music, inspirational composers, skilled musicians, wonderful company and the great ambience in a grand concert hall.” When seeking medical help, I can say: “God, I thank you for a good and attentive doctor, for nurses who take blood without inflicting any pain, for drugs that are effective yet posing minimal side effects, for people I can talk to while I wait for my turn.” Yes, Paul says to give thanks in all circumstances, both good and bad. And even in the latter, there are still blessings to be counted for which we give thanks and in doing so, give glory to God. Even when we don’t verbalise our thanksgiving, as long as we find our contentment and joy in the secure arms of Jesus, the Lord will delight in us having such a posture of the heart.

Another way we can bring glory to God is for us to do everything as an act of worship unto him, always being very mindful of his presence in our lives. When we have this mind-set, we can be sure that we will do everything out of our love for God and we will offer him our very best, which is what the King of kings and Lord of lords is worthy of. I find in Brother Lawrence such an example. He was a 17th century French monk who spent most of his life as a humble monastery cook.

He said: “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

It was said that: “Even in the busiest times in the kitchen, Brother Lawrence still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its turn with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquillity of spirit. ‘The time of work,’ said he, ‘does not with me differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.’”

With such an attitude, surely whatever Brother Lawrence did, he did it to the glory of God. Perhaps we can follow in his footsteps as we make glorifying God our chief end in life!

Rev Lee Kien Seng

April 7, 2019