God does everything for his own glory. Another way that God says he does everything for his own glory is to say that he does everything “for his own sake” (Isa 48:11). And why wouldn’t he? He is God. He does things for others, for sure, but even that is for himself. I think most of us who are Christians are OK with the fact. Jonathan Edwards did a masterful job of explaining why it is good for us that God does everything for his own sake and for his own glory. He explains that he is the most glorious being, and it would be imperfect of him to want the most glory to go to anything less glorious than the most glorious thing (Jonathan Edwards).
But what does that mean for us? Let me stand on a shakey limb and say that we must learn to do everything for our own sake. In my previous post, I said that we do everything for our own glory as the way to do it all for the glory of our Creator. In the same way, we do everything for our own sake, as the way to do it all for God’s sake.
If you don’t feel comfortable with that, you will probably not enjoy the life God has assigned to you.
But consider a principle that runs all the way through the Old and New Testaments: the principle of stewardship.
Talents and Minas
In the parables of the minas or the talents, Jesus explains and illustrates the fact that God gives to each one according to his or her ability. Whether it is resources, gifts, skills, faith, or anything else, what we start with, we get from God, the Creator, creating us (for his glory and his sake) with these raw materials and in these environments. That is his job, or at least part of it.
Our job is to then take those skills, materials, chances, and opportunities and make something of them to show to him when he comes to demand an account.
We Christians believe that will happen for sure at the judgment, but it is right to say it is always happening. Every minute of every day we are accountable for how we are living.
If I have been given one talent. Then I am responsible to use that for God’s business. But I have to see it also as my business, because I am the one who is accountable. I and I alone will stand before him to give that account. No one else is responsible for what I am responsible for. God has created me to exist, therefore i am. And I am responsible to be an image-bearer, fulfilling the mandate given to mankind, at least my lot, to produce, multiply, subdue some earth somewhere (by which I mean innovating).
If I am going to be held accountable for producing out of what I’ve started with, and if I am supposed to be motivated by the reward of standing before God and hearing him say, “Well done,” and if part of that reward is an increased amount of responsibility in an eternal kingdom (“come be in charge of ten cities”), and if that is supposed to be appealing to me, then why would I not see the business with my one talent as something I am doing for my own sake? Whose reward am I trying to secure? Mine!
Also, stewardship starts at the irreducible minimum of one’s self. If I am going to subdue the earth, I have to start by subduing me. Remember, I exist, which means care has to be taken to prolong that existence if I am to produce and subdue anything else. Who is responsible for keeping me alive? After I leave my parents, I am (or “i am”!).
Furthermore, it is not just the reward at the end that I’m supposed to be working for (which sounds like it will be more work). I think part of the reward is the ongoing reward of working in the calling that God has given me with the gifts and resources he has given me. Stewardship is a privilege. It is a joy. If it weren’t, then would we think of being in charge of cities as a reward (Lk 19:17)?
Being a Christian and following Jesus is its own reward. And being the older brother of the prodigal, in charge of all that property, producing, multiplying, subduing is its own reward. And the Father is always with us, and everything he has is ours (Lk 15:31), so long as we prove capable of managing it his way and effectively, for his glory and his sake, by living for him for our own glory (now and eventually) and our own sake (now and eventually).
This, to me, has become self-evident, but I know it sounds weird if you are used to a theology that says to hate everything about yourself, and be wary of any enjoyment of life unless you are praying or singing hymns (preferably boring ones), or listening to sermons, (preferably boring ones).
Jesus died to take all the punishment for sin and fallenness. You don’t need to cheapen his death and rob it of its purpose by refusing to accept it, seeking your own misery to make atonement. For now, understand that stewardship is being like God in that you are loving the world by taking responsibility for whatever is in the realm of your responsibility. Again, this starts with you. If you are not responsible for you, then who is? If you are responsible for you, then what you do, you do for your own sake. Who does that sound like? Your Creator! Makes sense since you are made in his image. Don’t you want your son or daughter to grow up and live like you? That’s how God feels.
Clues in the Commandments
You Shall Not Murder
The unit that is You entails your existence, your spirit, and your body. You are in charge of those for the glory of God. This is why God says to man, “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13). Murder is wrong because human life is sacred. Most people know this intrinsically without knowing they know it. But our sense of justice gets triggered when this law is violated. God gives authority to the state to take life because the state is an extension of him when it comes to seeking justice (Ro 13). This is why he tells us not to take our own vengeance. The murder of an individual is a grave thing, because human life is sacred. If human life is sacred, then you are sacred. Your life is sacred. If your life is sacred, then living is sacred. If living is sacred then the most God-glorifying activities are the ones which promote and produce your life.
You Shall Not Steal
Then it branches out to your stuff. You have to take care of what has been given to you. That is why, right from the start, God said that we are not to steal from others. He sees private property as a sacred extension of the one who owns it. You have to take care of what is yours. That is stewardship, knowing that what is yours is ultimately God’s. His laws protect us as an entity who can own stuff. Part of our stewardship is ownership, provided we never forget that we are a steward. When God returns to see what we made of the talents he gave us to own on his behalf and do something with, we cannot come to him with anything that we stole from another or achieved unjustly.
It’s All About the Choices and Opinions
Choices: What do you want?
What else belongs to you? How about your choices? I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe in the biblical paradox that says on one side that God is in control of everything, makes everything happen, including our regeneration, without which we cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn 3). But I hold equally tightly the other side of the great paradox:
That to be human is to make choices. To be an image-bearer of the Creator is to be a creator. To be a creator is to be a maker of choices.
The most basic choice for we creators to make is whether or not we will pursue life, or death. Most fundamentally the pursuit of life means deciding that one wants to live, and then using one’s rational faculty to figure out a way to survive. Why? Because we have decided to live. Having chosen to live, it won’t just happen automatically. We must do what we were made to do, produce a means for our survival and that of our young.
This is why God commands us to do that very thing right at the beginning, in Genesis 1: “Produce.” So every minute of every day I am called to choose something that either promotes my life, or my death. (By-the-way, this is also why we would have children. My son asked me today, “Why did you decide (choose) to have kids?” I answered, we weren’t planning to until we got saved, then we just wanted to. Aren’t you glad we became Christians?” He said, “Yes.”
If I were an animal I would simply follow my instincts and eat. Instincts for survival are more-or-less built in to animals. Not so with humans, at least not to enough of a degree that we could survive that way. We don’t have the tools. We have conscious minds instead, like our Father in whose image we have been created. Every moment of every day for our entire lives we are choosing between life and death, light and dark, good and evil, better or best, short term pleasures or long term good, health or unhealth. We are glorified by the choices we make for our own sake for the sake and glory of our Creator. Our choices belong to us. We are responsible and we are accountable. God controls the outcomes, but more on that later.
Opinions: What do you think?
Something else we own, or at least we should own, is our opinions. To be, that is, to exist, is to think things, to know things, to discern truth. This is underrated, and it is underdone. Part of our fallenness is that we have abdicated this image-bearing responsibility to others out of fear, love for approval, or laziness. All these originate in our sinfulness, but we are hindered by them in various degrees. But it is part of being godly to own a personal opinion that is honest, uniquely your own, and open to scrutiny. Your opinions are another part of the class of things that you are to steward. It is shameful how few Christians bear the responsibility of independent thinking.
In short, being an image bearer is being like God and having strong opinions. When you find that there are contradictions in your thinking, stop everything and solve them, no matter what. The outcome of the truth is the right outcome every time. What does this have to do with loving life? Plenty. Christians who have not come to terms with what they think, and the choices they are making based on what they think, will be unhappy. They won’t really know why they are unhappy, but they will be. It glorifies God to love our life, because it glorifies God for us to live the way we have to live to love our life. By that, I mean that if we know who we are; image bearers, i am, creators, then we can do what we are called to do; produce, multiply, subdue earth, create, promote and produce life, for our own sake, for our glorification in him, both now and forever, for his own sake and for his own glory.
This is a life of meaning, fulfillment and peace. It is abundant life. By undertaking life as stewards, for our own sake, we say to God, “You are wise and good and right in how you have ordered things. I love what you have given me to do and to care about, starting with myself, working out to my fellow man, for your glory.”