Recently, when I did something good for someone, or even thought about doing so, I detected some vain motives. I noticed an ugly desire within me to be recognized by others for the good works, even when I tried to do some of them secretly. In other words, I wanted to get the glory for myself for my acts of kindness instead of giving God the full glory for them. I realized that what I was really doing was robbing God of the glory that is due only to Him. He said in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” God alone is worthy of glory because He is the One who created us, sustains us, saves us, and gives us His Spirit. He also gives us the opportunity, the strength, and even the will to do all of our works (Phil. 2:13). Everything we have we have received from God (2 Cor. 4:7), so seeking glory for ourselves is the height of arrogance and pride.
More than that, seeking our own glory is ludicrous. Here we are, physically as tiny creatures, specks on a planet which is but a speck in our solar system, which itself is but a speck in our Milky Way galaxy, which in turn, is but a speck in the universe. To God, the nations “are accounted by Him as less than nothing” (Is. 40:17), so we individually are less than less than nothing to him, the great Creator of the universe. More importantly, we fall infinitely short of God in power, intelligence, and character – yet we want glory for ourselves?
So why do we want to take glory for ourselves? It is because, though saved and new creatures in Christ, we have indwelling sin that still remains. That sin causes us to love God far less than we should and to love ourselves much more than we should. Therefore, we honor ourselves more than God and we find more satisfaction in ourselves than in Jesus. As someone once said, the essence of sin is self-glorification or idolatry of the self.
The Seriousness of This Sin
It is tempting to pass my self-glorifying thoughts off as minor sins because they were only in the thought stage and did not lead to serious harm to others. But my vain thoughts could have led to verbal boasting and thanklessness on my part, which are two other ways in which we rob God of His glory (Ps. 50:23, Rom. 1:21). More importantly, my prideful thoughts did cause offence to God. He hates pride (Prov. 8:13) and He does not take such sins lightly. This was the case when Moses failed to glorify God in the wilderness. Recall the incident of the waters of Meribah (Num. 20:2-13). After the people of Israel quarreled with Moses about the lack of water, God commanded Moses to take his staff and with Aaron to “tell the rock before their eyes to yield water” (v.8). Instead, Moses rashly scolded the people and said, “Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” (v.10). Moses disobeyed God by not giving Him the glory, so God disallowed Moses from entering the Promised Land (v.12). Failing to glorify God is serious business.
Furthermore, we are commanded by Him “in whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10: 31) and to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10: 5).
Dealing with This Sin
In thinking about how to put this sin to death by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13), I confessed it to God and asked Him for forgiveness and grace to help with it. I also asked the two other men in my life group from church as well as my family to pray for me about this. Beyond this, God reminded me of the gospel way of sanctification found in 2 Cor. 3: 18: as we behold the glory of Christ, especially in the gospel, we will be transformed into His image by His Spirit progressively, stage by stage. For this sin of self-glorification, which stems from pride, I was led to meditate on the glory of Christ in His incarnation and particularly on His humility. Jesus, as God, shared the glory with the Father for all eternity, yet set aside His glory for a time to do the greatest good work ever: to save us from our sins. He did this willingly and out of love (Eph. 5:2). He did not come to seek His own glory but to give all the glory to God (John 7:18, 8:50). We cannot do good works and serve others to the degree that Christ served us, but we are to emulate His humility, heart of love, and His goal – to glorify God.
May each of us use our gifts to serve one another with “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 Pet. 4: 11).