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Do all for the glory of God.
I’m sure you’ve hear that in a sermon or while reading your Bible, but what does it truly mean?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
Do you know what Paul really meant when he said it?
On the surface, we may think that we understand it. I mean, it sounds pretty obvious, right?
And, yes, it does mean to glorify God in everything we do, however, let’s take a deeper look at what Paul meant by “glorifying God”. And, while we’re at it, what he meant by “everything”.
Of course, we are to do everything as if doing it for the Lord. Be it eating our dinner, drinking our coffee, even mopping the floors!
When we take a deeper look, however, we see that Paul’s statement has much to do with how we, as Christians, live in a fallen world.
Bear with me here as we explore 1 Corinthians a bit to better understand the context of Paul’s words to the church at Corinth.
We Have Freedom to Do As We Please
To get a better understanding of why Paul mentioned eating and drinking in his statement, we have to go back to chapter 8.
In the Corinthian church, there was a tendency for the Christians there to offer food to idols. Keep in mind that most of the Corinthians Christians (with the possibility, perhaps of some of the Jewish ones), had a background in pagan idol worship.
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. – 1 Corinthians 8:1
When they became Christians, they renounced these idols and all the expressions of worship associated with them.
You may enjoy this series of posts on food in the Bible.
However, idol worship was so prevalent in that time – it was everywhere. Idol temples were common and where people went to socialize – almost like restaurants today. (Well, pre-Covid, that is).
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? – 1 Corinthians 8:10 (ESV)
And, because most of the meat sold in the markets then, and served in homes had been ritually offered to idols, which meant that eating that meat or meal could be looked at as an act of idolatry, which would be against Christian beliefs.
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. – 1 Corinthians 10:25 (ESV)
If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. – 1 Corinthians 10:27 (ESV)
Fortunately, some of the Christian in Corinth realized that there is “no God but one”, and that any of the pagan idols had “no real existence”.
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” – 1 Corinthians 8:4 (ESV)
And, because they realized that idols “had no real existence”, they knew that the meat that had been sacrificed to idols had been meat sacrificed to nothing. So, eating meat could not be considered idolatry if the people eating knew that idols didn’t exist. They were free to eat this meat without regret or concern for breaking the law in Christ. Paul agreed with their line of thinking.
What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. – 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 (ESV)
Freedom Isn’t Always a Good Thing
Paul, however, was not in agreement with the Corinthian Christians on how they were carrying out this new freedom.
In effect, some of the Corinthians had placed a higher value on enjoying this freedom than on the spiritual good of other souls. First, not all the Corinthian Christians “possessed this knowledge”. Some of them, maybe the newer converts or those who, had a softer conscience, still felt like eating meat sacrificed to an idol was a form of idolatrous worship. For them, to eat sacrificial meat was to deny Christ.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. – 1 Corinthians 8:7 (ESV)
Second, others, who may have even believed idols were nonentities, would face temptation to a different kind of idolatry by eating such meat. Many Corinthian converts likely paid a high price to become Christians. Renouncing the false pagan religions meant renouncing social customs, family traditions, and friendship networks. Some, even may have lost their jobs due to their conversion to Christianity.
Can you imagine the temptation they may have experienced to give at least an appearance of complying with the idol religion in order to avoid losing employment, their social status, and family disapproval?
Finally, there was the issue of gospel witness among non-Christians who were watching the Christians. What would pagans think of Christians who knowingly ate meat sacrificed to idols? They would likely assume that the Christians worshipped the idols in the way they did, and therefore there was no real reason to give heed to Christians’ witnessing. What would Jews think of this behavior? That Christians were pagans and that Christianity was demonic.
Because of this, Paul firmly reminded the Corinthians that there was far more at stake than eating this meat. If Christians who felt it OK to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols weren’t extremely careful, their freedom could destroy the faith of another or tarnish Jesus’ reputation among those non-Christians.
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. – 1 Corinthians 8:9-11 (ESV)
Think of it this way: If your neighbor sees you go to church every Sunday, then runs into you at the casino, gambling on Friday, what kind of a witness would that be to Christ Jesus?
True Freedom in Christ
Because of this possibility of harming Christ’s reputation or causing the weak to stumble, Paul said “food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble”.
Believers may have the “right” to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. Paul used the illustration of eating meat that had been dedicated to idols. To him, such a dedication meant nothing since idols are not real gods. However, he would abstain from eating meat for the good of others who might sin by following his example. Believers serve the Lord both through their personal lives and in their actions toward others.
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13 (ESV)
Paul, throughout chapter 9, described additional ways that he voluntarily abstained from – even though, as Christian, he was free to enjoy, including taking a wife, wine and income.
Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? – 1 Corinthians 9:4-7 (ESV)
Paul’s only goal was to bring the gospel to as many as possible and to do this, he removed as many obstacles as he could. For him, this was true Christian freedom.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (ESV)
If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 9:12 (ESV)
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. – 1 Corinthians 9:19 (ESV)
When Paul found out that the Christians in Corinth had been arguing over whether or not they were allowed to eat the sacrificial meat, he boldly told them that they were missing the whole point.
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (ESV)
To Paul, this was true Christian freedom: to do whatever it takes to love one’s neighbor for the sake of Jesus.
Paul was a great advocate for our freedom from all false, legalistic abstinence from food or anything else.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:1-3
He stated that:
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. – 1 Corinthians 8:8 (ESV)
So, Paul would take no offense by our applying 1 Corinthians 10:31 to enjoying our food, as long as we haven’t lost sight of glorifying God through sacrificial love.
The context of this verse, “do everything for the glory of God”, then, has to include this discussion of the freedom we have in Christ. We are free to make personal choices in life, but we are not to do anything that causes another person to “stumble” or sin in his own walk with God. We are to seek the good of others.
Do All For the Glory of God
Now that you have a background on what was happening in Corinth when Paul wrote this letter, you know a bit better what Paul had in mind when he wrote:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
We glorify God when, because we love Him, we set aside our rights, our freedoms, in eating or drinking and everything else in order to do what is most loving toward others, serves them and provides a good model for Jesus showing sacrificial love.
Of course, God is glorified when we genuinely enjoy the fullness of the earth he created for us and for our enjoyment.
But this type of sacrificial love is still needed, maybe especially so, when I comes to our Christian freedoms today. We still have cultural idols, believers with softer consciences, and our observing unbelievers.
So, in living your life, don’t use your freedom to simply pursue what you want to enjoy, but use your freedom to pursue the ultimate spiritual good of your neighbor. As a Christian, you are free from all constraints: the external constraints of false religion and the internal constraints of your selfishness. You are free to enjoy all God has provided, and free to abstain for the sake of love. Do all you do to the glory of God.
God wants us to glorify Him and as we are transformed by His Spirit we too become more and more about God’s glory! So in whatever we do, we should be seeking to glorify Him – striving to please God, praise God, thank God, and pursue God.
So what does this mean for you? It means that in the boring tasks at work, in those stressful times with your kids, in the homework that is draining, in the time we feel is wasted in traffic, in that quick bite to eat at Chick-fil-A – and so on, we are to be glorifying God. But how do we do this? Take the time to dwell on God’s glory, be motivated to glorify Him rather than yourself, do things in the name of the Lord, and be thankful for the blessings He has given you.
Even when I mop (a task that I despise), I pray and thank God for floors to clean.
It is helpful to remember the words of John the Baptist:
He must increase, but I must decrease – John 3:30 (ESV)
Our lives should be a demonstration of that: God must be glorified in all things, not ourselves.
Glorifying God in everything also means that we honor Him in our thoughts and actions. Our thoughts are to be set upon the things of God and the Word of God. When we focus on God’s Word, we know what is right and can follow through with doing what is right.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.-
Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV) – italics, mine
To glorify God requires full commitment to Him.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, –
Colossians 3:23 (ESV)
The proclamation from Paul includes his directions for Christian slaves working for human masters. Even as a slave, their work was to be done as if they were serving Jesus. To honor or glorify God in everything includes having a strong work ethic, even when we work for those we do not like or work in difficult environments or situations.
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:24 (ESV)
Jesus always glorified His Father in heaven. There was never a moment when He did not glorify God. Our Lord’s every thought, word, and action was totally devoted to the glory of God. When Jesus faced the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1–11), Jesus quoted Scripture all three times.
Jesus was a man completely of the Word, fully committed to God’s will, and His example in overcoming temptation offers hope to all of us who seek to stand firm during times of testing.
We can also glorify God through the proper treatment of our bodies. From avoiding sexual immorality and taking care of our bodies and our health.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. –
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)
To glorify God in everything, we have to exercise faith (Hebrews 11:6), love without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9), deny ourselves (Luke 9:23), be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” to God (Romans 12:1).
Every area of life is important to take a good look at and live to its fullest for the glory and honor of God. We should strive for every thought and deed to bring joy to our Father in heaven.
You may enjoy this brief video from Desiring God, Ask Pastor John on what it means to do all for the glory of God.
Or one of these recommended resources on doing all for God’s glory:
Running your business to do all for the glory of God:
Caring for your bodies (after the age of 40) for the glory of God:
How can you more fully live and do all for the glory of God?
Because He Lives,