God’s (Morally Appropriate) Self-Aggrandizement

God’s (Morally Appropriate) Self-Aggrandizement

God’s (Morally Appropriate) Self-Aggrandizement

This past Sunday (October 29th, 2017), I preached a sermon with the subtitle, Glory to God Alone. Nodding in the direction of the Protestant doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria, my text was Isaiah 48.9-11. In this text, God tells the Israelites that He is about to send them into slavery in Babylon. Shockingly, God says that He is doing this for His own glory. In fact, God repeats the idea that everything He does with Israel is for His glory at least 5 times. The passage ends with God saying: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.”[1]

Some of you will silently think me impious, but this passage initially made me very uncomfortable. Here’s why: We don’t like people who are dedicated to self-aggrandizement. Indeed, we think that self-glorification and self-aggrandizement are morally inappropriate and a turn-off. Imagine having a friend who did everything with the goal of making themselves look good to others. Here are a few words we typically use for people like this: manipulative, self-seeking, prideful, selfish, vain, shallow, etc. You don’t need me to tell you that these are not compliments.

Perhaps the reason that we have such a universal aversion for self-glorifiers is the natural law which God inscribed on our hearts. We inherently know that some things are wrong: It is wrong to murder, it is wrong to lie, and it is wrong to be devoted to self-aggrandizement. Consider the words of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.”[2] We know through special revelation, if not general revelation, that self-aggrandizement is sinful.

If I don’t like this quality in other people and believe it to be sinful, why does the Bible so roundly ascribe it to God? Here’s the reason: God isn’t other people. God is not my equal, and He is not my home-boy; I am not on God’s level, and I don’t comprehend Him. Thus, there are numerous, important disanologies between God and other people.

Of all the disanologies, this may be the most important: When other people do things for their own glory, they’re seeking something that doesn’t rightly belong to them. When God does things for His own glory, He is merely seeking His due. Thus, God’s self-aggrandizement is qualitatively different than our self-aggrandizement.

Furthermore, it is pretty clear that God isn’t bound by some of the moral laws. For example, if I take a life, it is murder because I have no right to take a life. In contrast, God can take a life at any moment without it being murder. The reason is, once again, that God’s station is radically different from our own. The life God takes was His in the first place, and, given the doctrine of sin, the person deserved death anyway. Thus, if God takes a life, it is not murder. Similarly, God is probably not bound by the law against self-aggrandizement. The reason is that self-aggrandizement is morally unacceptable for us because we’re seeking glory which is due to God alone. When God seeks glory, He is only seeking what is rightfully His; thus, for God to be committed to self-aggrandizement is morally acceptable.

It might make you uncomfortable to know that God seeks His own glory in everything He does; while that feeling isn’t pleasant, it’s appropriate. The reason is that the God who is is not always the God we want. We would not create the God of the Bible; He is much too serious about morality, demands far too much from His followers, and is impossible to control. Unlike the gods of the Greeks and the Romans, our God is not made after our image. He does not fit into our boxes, He pulverizes them. Though this may make us uncomfortable, that feeling of awe at God’s personality is highly appropriate and is a prerequisite for worship. Our feelings of discomfort notwithstanding, God seeks His own glory, because He deserves it.

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Notes & Sources

[1] Isaiah 48.11, all quotes are from the NIV.

[2] Philippians 2.3

Image courtesy of motion worship. http://www.motionworship.com/