How to Do Everything to the Glory of God

Use your freedom to pursue the ultimate spiritual good of your neighbor.

To Paul, this was true Christian freedom: to do whatever it takes to love one’s neighbor for the sake of Jesus. This is 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). We glorify God when, out of love for him, we lay down our rights, our freedoms, in eating or drinking or whatever in order to do what is most loving toward others, either for the “progress and joy [of their] faith” (Philippians 1:25), or that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 9:22).

 

Explain this verse in your own words: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If someone walked up to you right now and asked you how 1 Corinthians 10:31 worked — in eating, in drinking, in everything — how would you respond? Do you know what Paul really meant?

The verse is so familiar, we can easily assume we understand it, even if we don’t. By itself the verse’s meaning seems patently obvious: glorify God in everything you do. Well, of course that’s true at the highest level. But what does Paul specifically mean by glorify God, and what does he mean by everything?

If our primary application of this verse is thanking God for the tasty pizza we’re eating, we haven’t understood Paul — even though he certainly would want us to thank God for the tasty pizza we’re eating (1 Corinthians 10:30). Paul has something quite specific in mind — something quite relevant to us. When we look at the verse in its wider context, we see that Paul’s command to do all to the glory of God relates to cultural idols, the Christian conscience, and how we live before an unbelieving world.

A Wonderful, New Freedom

Paul begins his point in chapter 8. There we discover that food was a major issue of Christian liberty in the Corinthian church — specifically, “food offered to idols” (1 Corinthians 8:1). All the Corinthian Christians (except perhaps the Jewish ones) would have had backgrounds in pagan idol worship. When they became Christians, they renounced these idols and all the expressions of worship associated with them.

The problem was that idol worship was woven into the very fabric of Corinthian civic, trade, and social life — it was culturally pervasive. Idol temples were social centers, and could function similarly to public restaurants (1 Corinthians 8:10). And much of the meat sold in the markets and served in homes had been ritually offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25, 27).

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