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TO WHOM IS THE GLORY   

Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory.
            1 Corinthians 10:31 (GNB)


This is one of many references we so regularly hear and read that speaks of giving glory to God. But what does it really mean? What of giving glory to men - is that okay?

One of the interesting aspects (and dilemmas) we English speaking people face is the drastic laziness of our language. By this I mean that in so many cases one word is used to cover a multitude of words from another language. These words from the other languages express a whole range of things including ownership and tense, yet the English language lazily lumps them all together. Take, for example, the word love: in English we have just this one word which incorporates at least 14 different Greek words. Sometimes the context (both in the way it is written and the in the way it is spoken) of the word may explain the actual intent of the word but often it does not. So we can be left with a dilemma that we are painting too vague a picture to those hearing or reading the words that it is open for misinterpretation.

So it is with the word glory.

But with this there is an added issue that will come to play when we utilise the word in our everyday language.

There are those who say that, as Christians, glory is due only to God. Whilst there are passages from the Bible that will support this argument, there are other passages which shatter the idea completely.

In the first instance, let’s look at a few of the references that support the argument for glory belonging to God.

“Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your Son, so that the Son may give glory to you.”
            John 17:1b (GNB)
“Father! You have given them to me, and I want them to be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory, the glory you gave me; for you loved me before the world was made.”
            John 17:24 (GNB)
"They were calling out to each other: Holy, holy, holy! The Lord Almighty is holy. His glory fills the world."
            Isaiah 6:3 (GNB)

We could continue for some time as both the Old and New Testament are full of references to glory belonging to God. However, it is interesting to note that, whilst these refer totally to God’s glory, there is no mention of it being exclusive.

This glory is rightly His. He made us: He is our creator. To that end He has a right to claim that glory. What man has done even a minute fraction of what God has done.

However, the Bible is also quite clear that man is also entitled to glory. This comes in two basic ways. The first is the glory that God affords to man.

"Your Majesty, you are the greatest of all kings. The God of heaven has made you emperor and given you power, might and glory."
            Daniel 3:37

Daniel here is talking to King Nebuchadnezzar, interpreting his dream. This is glory (or honour) that God gives to men. This is not glory that man has taken upon himself, it is God given. Thus being God given, it shows that man is entitled to glory because God has given it.

We can also look back to the beginning and the story of the fall from God’s grace was, in fact, the withdrawal of mankind having a share in God’s glory, which foolishly he chose to give away.

There is also the glory that man gives to man. Again there are many examples throughout scripture. The following two, from the Book of Proverbs are just two of such references:

"Children’s children are the crown of old men: and the glory of children are their fathers."
            Proverbs 17:6
"The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head."
            Proverbs 20:29

As with the other references, we could spend literally hours going through all such references throughout the word of God. There is enough material on this subject to be able to run a full scale Bible study on it for several months.

What does it all mean. Simply this: that there is a special glory that is given only to God and that there is a glory which God has allowed men to receive. Each has their rightful place in the ever great plan that God has for mankind.

Where the complication comes in is when pride is mistaken for glory. There appears to be no place in the Bible where God has said that we may give ourselves glory. Because there is no reference to this tends to suggest that it is not a part of God’s plan.

In fact when we realise that such self-glory is better known as pride, we can find countless references to say that this is wrong.

"Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall."
            Proverbs 16:18 (GNB)

With this in mind, it leaves but the glory received from others as being the only man-glory (as well as the God given glory) that is acceptable in the sight of God. The man-glory is when we reward those in our community for wonderful things they have done, and in this country of ours I can think of no group that deserves to be given glory more than the selfless volunteers we have who give up their time to help others: men and woman such as volunteer firefighters, community workers (the genuine variety) and so many other such people. Many of these workers known only to a few, often only to those they have helped in times of crisis. These people deserve such glory.

Where does this all lead? In this day and age there are often some very subtle forces that run in our community that bring about a degree of pride. I think the U2 song called Pride In The Name Of Love as probably a modern example of this self glorification that we tend to think is quite okay because the motives appear to be right.

Sadly this idea is seeping into our church community and being accepted. There is a tendency to think that because we are doing things in the name of God, that we can give ourselves a good pat on the back and say how good we are. On top of this, church elders (and others) tend not to condemn such behaviour, thus giving credence to it being okay. Besides, to say something about this behaviour would probably be labelled as “sour grapes” that it wasn’t us who was doing it.

I know this in a personal way in two different perspectives.

Firstly, I know I have been guilty of the self praise aspect within my music where sometimes I have done things with my praise and worship music that has not altogether been quite right, simply because there has been an element of self-pride in what I have done. This is not to say that I cannot be proud of what I have done. It is how I go about it that is the issue. If I praise myself, then what is that praise actually worth - nothing at all. As a musician/songwriter of long standing, I know just how difficult it can be not to tell people “how good I am” as this is totally wrong, and it is not  the way God wants it to be. I know, only to well, how fine the line is between self praise and self promotion. It is so very hard at times.

Today’s Christian music is also stepping into this minefield and sometimes we see great Christian musicians, singers and songwriters fall from grace because they become puffed up with pride. The sad part about it is that we hear their next release of music and judge it on the name associated with it and not the content. I recall a few years ago one such Australian who really had fallen from grace, ultimately being forced out of the music ministry for a while until he repented, who had two albums in that period that were “raved” about because it was him. The content of those albums, in fact, reflected his fall but people did not see it. The music “sounded good”.

Success has a subtle way of breeding pride.

The second area I have found, from experience, is when we are asked to deliver prophetic messages to others, either individuals or groups, where the message is informing them that they are out of line with God’s plan. The immediate reaction of people is that the bearer of the message is jealous of the success (or whatever) of the recipients of that message and it’s a part of the great Australian “tall poppy syndrome”.

Bringing such a message to others can be very disturbing. I am very glad that, up until now, I have never been given names (though sometimes I have had some idea who it might be) of who the message is actually for. Which is probably just as well because some of the messages God has asked me to deliver have been quite harsh, with warnings of dire consequence to the recipients. The task of delivering the message is frightening enough because you know that people are being told they must change their ways. If we also knew who it was for and named them then (apart from the obvious litigation aspect in Australia) it would appear to be a personal thing which could be misconstrued as jealousy.

One reason this latter course is an issue, is that these people may have somehow or other become puffed up with pride in what they are doing - and that is not saying that what they are doing is wrong (though sometimes it can be). What it is saying is that they have let pride become the driving force behind what they do and they can, in fact, cause a lot of harm to people because they become insensitive to God’s leading in what they are doing.

With the advent of pride we leave ourselves very open to being controlled by the powers of evil. Satan is so very subtle in how he controls people, particularly Christians. I mean: “See all the good you are doing with your talent - if you let people know how good you are, then you will reach more people.”

Just look at Christ’s own temptation. This was the very approach satan used with Jesus (see Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 4:1-11).

With that subtle approach, satan has got an inside edge into influencing what you do and you then start to be open to suggestions that will take you further away from what God has planned.

Now I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t put themselves “out front” when it comes to working for Christ. If we took that approach, it could be just as wrong. What I am saying is that we have to be very mindful of what and where God wants our plan to go. The person who works anonymously behind the scenes can be just as important as the person out front where everyone can see them and vice-versa. If we are where God wants us to be then we will receive the glory from Him and that is the glory we need to be always seeking.

When it comes to glory, only that which God allows from others is what is acceptable in His sight. We must prayerfully consider our actions, particularly when they do put us in the spotlight, so that we can know for sure that what we are doing is truly God’s plan and purpose for us.

Now this doesn’t mean that we must practice the Gideon or Thomas trick and be constantly seeking “hard evidence” about what we are doing. Yes, be sure of things, particularly where the delivery of something special is involved, before you go about it. I think that if we feel even the remotest aspect of self-importance about being chosen to do a special task, then we need to question whether we are the one to do it. We may well be the one, but it may be satan trying to put a false message into place that will deceive others into thinking it is the truth so that they won’t accept the truth when it is finally given.

When there is going to be some sort of glory involved, first give the glory to God. Then, if you are entitled to glory, He will most certainly give it back in ways that you will know are right. When you are faced with such an issue, take it to others and share it with them with prayer so that others may be able to encourage you in the Lord about the matter.

Remember:

"Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall."
Proverbs 16:18 (GNB)

Be sure that you are not guilty of not giving the glory where the glory is due and that you are not guilty of receiving glory that is not rightly yours to receive.

R. J. Burling