“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
1 Corinthians 10:31 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized. It struck me the first time I read it. I was caught off guard. I expected to read a list of “do this” and “don’t do that,” but what I found was a principle for an entirely new way of living. I did not at the time understand the context in which Paul made this statement. However, I knew that in this verse Paul spoke beyond context and provided me with guidance I could use in every situation of life.
The circumstances in which Paul makes this statement are important. The Christians in Corinth did not agree about what they could and could not do in the face of the local pagan culture. For example, food that had been sacrificed to idols was sold in the local market. Some Christians knew that idols were nothing and would eat the food without any concern, even if they learned it had been sacrificed to an idol. Others would abstain. The Christians in Corinth argued over the issue. They made their do this and don’t do that lists and included eating this food near the top. Paul devoted a reasonable portion of 1 Corinthians to the issue, and this statement in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is the culmination of his discussion on the topic. My description hardly captures the context of the statement, but even if we took the time for an in-depth examination of the situation it would not alter the importance of the principle Paul is giving.
The verse reads, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” If you have not memorized this verse, your first assignment is to commit it to memory. The verse is short and sweet. Do it all for the glory of God. No selfishness, no sin, no living by do this and don’t do that lists, no forcing your personal interpretation of righteousness regarding peripheral matters on fellow believers; only joyful and willing obedience as we glorify God through each and every moment and task of life.
In this statement, Paul provides a principle to follow rather than taking sides in some self-serving legalistic arguments. I am amazed and saddened to see that there are situations in the church today where believers attempt to force their own understanding of right and wrong about peripheral matters on other Christians. Christians condemn one another over music, worship styles, clothing, Bible translations, politics, and more. Paul’s lesson applies in our own churches. Set selfishness aside. Serve one another in ways that glorify the Lord. The do this and don’t do that lists address little more than external activities. Our Christian life is about establishing a new and eternal relationship with God through Jesus; it is about becoming a new creation in Christ. That is why Paul describes how a new creation approaches life as a whole. In all your relationships, choose to do what brings glory to God.
The principle applies to the rest of our life as well. Paul addresses their arguments by saying “whether you eat or drink,” but then he throws the rest of our life activities into the mix as well when he adds “or whatever you do.” Every moment of every day is an opportunity to proclaim God’s glory. Try a quick exercise. List a few of the things you do during a normal week. Your list might look a little like mine: commute to work, work, eat, cut the grass, water the plants, go to church, relax in the house with my wife,read, sleep, and so on. Look back through your list and see if there is anything in it that dishonors God, such as sinful behavior. If so, then pray and begin to seek the Lord to remove this part of your life and replace it with ways that give glory to God.
Look through your list again. Everything we do glorifies someone, and in our society that is generally ourselves. Let us determine we will live so that God receives all the glory. No matter who we are, or where we are in life, this principle is necessary. Who receives glory through our business affairs, our church activities, our personal dealings, or our private time? Every one of these normal activities of life are times when we can and should give glory to God. This is not limited to saying glory once or twice and considering the task complete, although learning to say glory might help you remember to offer it to God. This means working with all your might as serving the Lord and not men (Ephesians 6:7). This means understanding that wherever you are you are the Lord’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). This means giving thanks to him in all circumstances (Colossians 3:17). This means that by the work of the Holy Spirit “…we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory,…” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This means that we, “might live for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12). This means that we glorify God by bearing fruit as we remain in Jesus (John 15:7 – 8).
I want you to know it is possible for us to give glory to God in everything we do, and in the midst of every experience of life. I know that because the Lord would not direct us to do something he is not prepared to enable us to accomplish. We can, and should, help one another fulfill this passage. I would encourage you to openly talk about this with other Christians with whom you are close and who are also committed to living this passage. Your first assignment, memorizing the verse, is the easy one. Your next assignment is to begin from this moment praying that you would understand this verse and offer every moment of every day to God for the sake of his glorious name. You will find it to be the passageway to phenomenal joy and peace.
Imagine with me for a moment. What would your life be like if you took Paul’s teaching to heart? What would your relationships be like if you were more concerned for God’s glory than your own? What would our churches be like if we together sought his glory above all else?