What do you say to someone who asks you, “Doesn’t God being a glory-hogger or wanting all the glory make Him seem selfish, like an egomaniac?”
This is a common question that not only WIDER group leaders but also many Christians have encountered. Many people see God being a glory-seeker as Him being selfish. He created the heavens and the earth for His glory, Jesus saved us for the Father’s glory, etc. Where do we come in the picture? Where is the love? Why must it always be about Him?
The following are some justifications in defense against the allegation that the God of the Bible is selfish.
- God is Perfect; He Does Not Sin
Being perfect, God will only live for that which is perfect. He cannot glorify anything that is not perfect. God will only glorify that which is perfect. Everything else is flawed: creation, angels, and us. God will not live for something inferior to Himself. Therefore, He can only glorify Himself for He alone is perfect. But while God glorifies Himself, we can trust Him to take care of us. God is love. When God lives for Himself, He helps or blesses people. When we live for ourselves, we hurt people. God can live for Himself and not sin, we can’t. God is the only person who can live for Himself and still love others perfectly.
Does this make Him seem selfish? Yes, but we do not want to use that term because it carries a negative connotation. Instead of selfish, we would rather use the term ‘self-glorifying’ or even ‘glory-seeker’. When God lives for Himself or seeks to glorify Himself, He does it with perfect love for us.
- God Deserves All the Glory
God has more than earned it; He deserves all the glory. Revelation 4:11 declares, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
We owe everything to God, everything we have are from Him. He gives and gives, and keeps right on giving. He is a God who never sleeps. He is always available to us. Imagine if God were to turn away from His creation for one moment, would not everything fall into chaos? How then can we call a generous and loving God, who gave us everything and did not even withhold His only beloved Son, as selfish?
Being loving and being selfish are on opposite ends of the spectrum. How can both terms be used to describe the same person? The Bible that tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8) also says that love is not selfish (1 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus even demonstrated this selfless love in this way: He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
- God is Sovereign; He has the Right to Expect Exclusive Worship
God is supreme, He is Lord over all. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, also its Sovereign Lord and King. God is the rightful owner of the heavens and the earth and all that dwells within them. Because of these, He is free to do all things according to His own will, and to do them for His own glory and good pleasure. The sovereignty of God is the exercise of His supremacy. God’s sovereignty is His “absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure.”
“The Scriptures teach us that God created all things for His glory and good pleasure (i.e. to manifest His greatness and receive from us the honor and worship that is due Him).”1 And so we obey what Psalm 150:6 tells us, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
- Praise Deepens Our Bond of Love with God
God does not need our praise. He is self-existent and self-sustaining. He is El Shaddai, God all sufficient. We cannot give anything to Him that He has not; He owns everything.
He does not need anything from us, praise is for us. Praise deepens the bond of love between us and God. God’s love for us is never diminished, but ours for Him often grows weak. We often stray from the path set before us; our hearts are unfaithful. In praise, we affirm God’s love for us and, in effect, fan the fire of love for Him that the Holy Spirit has started within us. It is for our own good that we remember and acknowledge how wonderful God is, how much He deserves our praise. This confirmation strengthens us in Christ and increases our desire to be like Him in His greatness, which then increases our joy. It is in worship that we express our calling to glorify and enjoy God forever.
- In the Presence of the Glory of God, We Enjoy the Greatest Good
“The greatest good God could ever do for us, and the greatest kindness He could ever show us, would be to direct all things in such a way that His greatness might be fully displayed before us. If God is of infinite worth, beauty, and majesty, then the most valuable, beautiful, and majestic gift He could ever give us would be to show us His own glory (Washer, 135).”
Giving God all the glory not only deepens our love for God and draws us closer to Him, it not only increases our joy; being able to behold the majesty or glory of God is also a great honor and privilege for us. Furthermore, we greatly benefit from God revealing His glory to us. By seeking to be glorified, God is being generous because the worshipper receives an incomparable blessing.
He blesses us with many things. Why? So He can impress us with His greatness, then we will choose to glorify Him and not ourselves. This is why there are myriad varieties of flowers, trees, etc. – all of them pointing to God’s glory.
He put taste buds in our mouths. Think of the pleasure you experience when you taste ice cream, hamburger, a large crab, etc. God made food not only nutritious but tasty; so the next time you eat and enjoy food, pause and say, “God, this food reminds me of Your goodness and greatness.” And God might say, “I love it when you get the message. I put taste buds in your mouth to remind you of Me.”2
Imagine: God wades out into the ocean He’s just created, He reaches down grabbing mud. He forms a fish, putting fins and a tail. He gives the fish life. It flops around and jumps into the water. God says, “Come back here. I’m not finished.” God grabs His paint brush and gives the fish a blue base with white stripes outlined in black. He adds a tint of blue. The angels go berserk with excitement. They say, “Wow, what a God!” God says, “That’s right. I love it when you get the message. It’s all about Me.”2
Since the highest aim of our God is to reveal His glory—He does all things for the sake of His name and will share His inherent divine glory with no one else (Isaiah 48:9-11)—then His glory must be the highest good possible. If this is the case, then we will find our greatest joy in the revelation and proclamation of that glory, for there is nothing greater in existence than His glory and therefore nothing that could bring us greater joy.3
Jonathan Edwards, in his book The End for which God Created the World, says that “God’s pursuit of His own glory is not contrary to our happiness. In fact, by seeking to display the fullness of His glory, the Lord is at the same time seeking our joy.” To sum it all up, His glory is our joy. What a God indeed! Our God is certainly NOT selfish.
The whole earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3). Te Deum Laudamus (Thee, O God, we praise)!
1Paul David Washer, The One True God, Copyright Ó 2004 by Granted Ministries Press, A Division of Granted Ministries.
2Revealing His Glory (RHG), the seminar from UnveilingGlory.com. Based on the book, Cat and Dog Theology by Bob Sjogren & Gerald Robison.
3Ligonier.org, God’s Glory and Our Joy, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/gods-glory-and-our-joy/, accessed 8/10/2021.