If you’ve ever heard the Christmas carol ‘Angels we have heard on high’, you will have pictured the scene that took place over two thousand years ago in a little manger at Bethlehem, as one with scores of angels singing “Gloria” to our Lord and the mountains echoing their sweet song. It seems only natural that angels should always be glorifying God, yet it doesn’t seem natural for us humans to glorify God at every moment of our lives.
Yet that’s exactly what the Word of God tells us to do. In his first letter to the Corinthians (10:31), St. Paul tells us that whether we eat or drink; whatever we do, must be for the Glory of God. Glorifying God is a basic requirement of any religion. But aren’t the words “whatever you do” stretching things a bit too far?
The Bible as we know is not to be interpreted literally every time. There are after all, parables and many other passages, which have to be understood in the context they were written. But the Lord put it upon my heart to take this Word of God very seriously and very literally. I was doubtful. “Is this even possible?” I asked Him. He assured me that is definitely was.
We can glorify God everyday in everything that we do. We can start our day by glorifying Him for the very gift of life! Who else but God can ensure that we live to see another day? Isn’t it worth all the praise we can give?
And what about the wondrous blessings of our families or the food we eat or the job we hold? Wouldn’t it be considered extreme if we started glorifying God for these? Not at all! Sirach 43:30 says, “Glorify the Lord, exalt him as much as you can; for he surpasses even that. When you exalt him, summon all your strength, and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise him enough.” Sirach makes it very clear that no matter how much we glorify God, it will never be enough, simply because we could never praise Him enough!
The Name of the Lord should always be glorified. We should not only not take the Name of the Lord in vain, but also make sure that the Name of the Lord is always gloried. The Psalmist says that the Name of the Lord will be glorified forever – “I give thanks to thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify thy name for ever.” (Ps 86:122). Even when His soul was troubled, Jesus asked that the Name of the father be glorified (Jn 12:28).
We should therefore try consciously to glorify God in everything we do. The Bible teaches us several different ways of glorifying God. Besides our deeds, we can also glorify God in our thoughts and words.
Our deeds should never be for our self-glorification. Too often people start good deeds with the right intentions, only to fall prey to self-glorification. A good way to counter this is to try to do our good deeds as far as possible in secret. 1 Pet 2:12 tells us how our good deeds can lead other people to glorifying God too. Glorifying God with our words can be through controlling the type and the amount of words we speak. Abusive words also have no place in the kingdom of heaven.
All the glory we give God through our words will be negated by the abusive words that we speak (cf. Jam 3:10). We can imitate Christ by letting gracious words come from our mouths (Lk 4:22). Glorifying God in our thoughts is a beautiful way to build a relationship with God – after all He and He alone knows our every secret though and wouldn’t it be lovely if our secret thoughts (Ps 139:1-2) too glorified Him? We should also glorify God through our work. Not everyone is called to do full-time ministry. Instead in whatever field God has placed us, we can glorify Him and the glorification of God through our work will become an evangelisation in itself.
1 Corinthians 6:13 onwards teaches us how to glorify God in our bodies. We should not over eat or under eat. We should not indulge in any sexually immoral activities. Covering of the body, so as to not be immodest is also very important. Our choice of clothes is often a good indicator of whether we seek to glorify God or ourselves.
The glorification of God through suffering is perhaps the most ignored area of glorifying God. After all it is very difficult to glorify when in pain. The best example we have is of Jesus Himself, who glorified God through His painful death (Jn 21:19) and who was in turn crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death (Heb 2:9).
A young nun that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing intimately recently, told me of her experience with suffering. In her very first year as a nun, she was suddenly struck down with an illness, which made her legs pain so terribly that she was unable to use her legs, even for walking. Moving from side to side when sleeping too brought tremendous pain. By her own admittance, she spent two of the worst years of her life in agony and pain because not only did she refuse to glorify God, she could not accept the situation as being from God.
When through a God-made situation she came to Tabor Ashram (in her wheelchair) she finally realised that God gave her the suffering. It has been four years since she was initially struck down and God has given her healing little by little – she says that if healing had been instant it would not have brought her as close to the Lord as she is now. She now walks with a slight limp and little pain and continually glorifies God for her suffering. Through her many nuns have been able to experience God in a personal way.
There are several other ways we can glorify God in our everyday life, be it by almsgiving, (Sir 35:8 asserts that we have to glorify the Lord generously, and do not stint the first fruits of your hands.) or by our obedience in acknowledging the gospel (2 Cor 9:13) or by the way we deal with other people – after all what we do unto our neighbour that we do unto God (Mt 25:40), and by a myriad of other things, little and big. The key is to realise that no matter what we do, no matter what we’re going through, no matter what circumstances we’re faced with, we should and must glorify God. And our beautiful God of the impossible will work wonders in our lives.
Published as “Glory to God in the highest!” in Tabor Voice, Nov-Dec 2002 & Divine Light, Dec 2003