In different seasons of life we are called to do different things: raise children, keep homes, look after others, study Scripture, carve out time with the Lord and work long hours with little rest. We may do these things in a way that glorifies God, or we may not, but on the outside it can look the same.
So, what makes our day-to-day activities Christ-exalting? The answer lies at the hidden root of our behaviour - our motives. Motive is a tricky thing to examine honestly, but is laid bare to us by the way we respond when our efforts fail. It is seen: when my child rebels and I’m embarrassed because I’m conscious people are watching; in my response when an unexpected visitor is announced and my home is wearing the ravages of four boys; or when I have made a mistake that is plain for others to see. The key factor in all of these situations is the presence of other people; the fear of my capabilities being judged by those around me.
The human heart craves admiration and approval from its peers, so we set up a mental (and what we hope is achievable) list of what a godly person looks like. It’s a stereotype of godliness that ties our righteousness to our performance. I think, if I do x, y and z, I am a good mother, wife, friend...so I make my performance, and not Christ’s death on the cross, the standard-bearer for my righteousness. My home, my children, my busyness, are all evidences of my godliness, aren’t they?
When we dig deep and acknowledge the subtle desires of our hearts, we realise that we have feared men more than we have feared God, that our delight has been in other people’s approval of our external performance and not in bringing glory to Him. We have thought that delicious meals, tidy homes and well-behaved children will prove that we are godly but, when things fall apart, we are crushed under the failure to meet the standard that we set. When things go wrong and we respond in frustration or embarrassment, it is not worship of God that is taking place, it’s worship of ourselves; it is not God’s glory we are looking for, it’s our own; it is not His word that is our guide, it’s the opinion of our neighbours.
Whilst in prayer with the Father, the Lord Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven and said... ‘I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do’” (John 17:4 emphasis mine). Christ set the example for believers of obedience to the Master in daily work. We are called to serve God, just as Christ did. We are exhorted to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice” as He did before us (Romans 12:1). Paul also reminds us, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV, emphasis mine). And again, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV). Our labour is for our Master who has purchased us at great cost and chosen us for work He has prepared for us to do.
Our days might still consist of raising children, keeping our home, getting involved in the work of the local church, teaching, serving and being hospitable, but the motive of our heart is everything. Let us endeavour to honour Him through the hours and minutes of each day. Let us lift any praise as a gift to Him, remembering that even the breath we breathe is a gift of grace, and let us live in the good of that grace, treating even the messes, failures and tantrums as opportunities from God to be used for His glory. Yes, we absolutely should pursue excellence in whatever He calls us to, but for His glory alone.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).