Why “Giving The Glory To God” For Your Good Deeds Is A Whole Lot Less Holy Than It Sounds

WLO_doinggood“In Jesus’ name” is among the most used but least understood phrases in Christendom. The Rev. Ken Collins has a helpful post on what it means–and what it doesn’t mean–for us  to do things in Jesus’ name:

If you appoint someone to act in your name, it means that they can act as your agent within the restrictions you impose. Jesus has empowered His followers to act in His name to do certain specified deeds: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, preach the gospel, and so on.

If you do something in Jesus’ name it means that you do it with the authority He gave you and not on your own authority, and that you act within the limits of your authorization, whatever those limits may be. You act as His agent, in His stead, to His credit and for His benefit. You have no benefit from your deeds except His thanks and whatever reward He chooses to give you.

“Certain specified deeds” is the phrase I love in what Rev. Collins writes. There is, in other words, a world of difference between doing good things and giving Christ the credit and doing the Works of Mercy (or, as they are called in Ephesians 2:10, NIV), “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The latter is commended (and commanded) in Scripture; the former is a gross misunderstanding of the Christian life and actually quite the slippery slope to works righteousness.

Think about it: If you are constantly having to deflect credit to Christ–e.g., “Christ’s the one who deserves the glory for what I just did”…”I just want to give all the credit and the honor to my Lord Jesus for what you just saw me do”–then implied in that statement is that there is credit to be had here, credit which by all appearances is most reasonably attributable to you.

But as Rev. Collins points out,

If you do something in Jesus’ name it means that you do it with the authority He gave you and not on your own authority, and that you act within the limits of your authorization, whatever those limits may be. You act as His agent, in His stead, to His credit and for His benefit. You have no benefit from your deeds except His thanks and whatever reward He chooses to give you.

The issue of “giving all the honor and glory to Jesus” is, in other words, almost always the wrong issue. The right issue is: What works are we to be working in the first place–or, to be more theologically accurate, whose works are we working?

This is the field of meaning behind Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:16 (NIV, emphasis mine):

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

If you are doing your own deeds and people are spoiling to give you credit, you haven’t done your job when you say, “Hey, the glory goes to God.” If, on the other hand, you work the works that God prepared in advance for you to do (you’ll know them; they’re specified in Scripture), it will not occur to people to give you credit. That is because the works that God prepared in advance for you to work, done the way God prepared for you to do them, will always draw attention to God, not to you.

Take a few minutes to read and reflect on Acts 14:8-18, where Paul’s healing a man leads to he and Barnabas being mistaken for Zeus and Hermes. It’s not as if the crowd credited the healing to Paul the human being and then Paul humbly pointed his finger up to the heavens to deflect the glory to God. What happened was that the crowd assumed that Paul and Barnabas must be gods, because only gods could do the kinds of things Paul and Barnabas were doing.

In other words, the crowd was correct that a god was at work. Their  mistake was in misidentifying which God.

“Giving God all the glory” sounds holy. But it’s a whole lot closer to works righteousness than it sounds. When you do the Works of Mercy God has prepared, in the way he has prepared for you to do them, those to whom you do them will, according to no less an authority than Jesus Christ, give glory to God.

Then it’s your job to make sure they know which one.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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3 Responses to Why “Giving The Glory To God” For Your Good Deeds Is A Whole Lot Less Holy Than It Sounds

  1. Jacquelynne Titus says:

    Great article! I do say praise God when people compliment “my” “work” Depending on the situation, I quote, explain or both Eph. 2:8-10. Sometimes there can be no conversation because the comment was made in passing. Sometimes it may not come from a brother or sister but an unbeleiver. If there is time, an explanation of Eph. 2:8-10 is choice!!! But if there isn’t “praise God” has to do. God bless you 🙂 :-)Pray for you and Mrs. F daily XOXOXO

  2. Pingback: How do we actually “Do Good?” | Do the Word

  3. Linda says:

    These are powerful thoughts which are changing us, Pastor Foley. This blog post leads us to much prayer and study on exactly how God will direct us in our thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions…

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