To God goes the glory! Really? Maybe it should go that way, but there are plenty of times that it does not. When we have done a good deed, quite often God is not the first person to come to mind. If we are honest, we have to admit that we regularly think of ourselves first. Our mindset is, “After all of the hard work that I have done, after all of the good that I have accomplished, I deserve some credit around here.” It translates, “To me goes the glory!”
Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Your light must shine” and “People should see your good deeds” (paraphrase, Mt 5:15,16), so we take his words to heart and put his teaching into practice. We do good deeds exactly as Jesus wants. It might be cooking a delicious dinner, doing an excellent job at work, getting a high grade on a test, completing a big chore at home, or offering a thoughtful gift. It could also be a donation to the food shelf, volunteering at school or church, or helping someone who is sick.
After doing our good deed, we wonder, “Will anyone notice?” We eagerly wait in expectation. Our ears perk up, longing for a word of thanks or a compliment on a job well done. We feel like we deserve some appreciation, maybe a card, a gift, or flowers. When our good deed has been exceptional, we feel we deserve some recognition: a favor, a privilege, an award, a pay increase, a promotion, or a bonus. Our mental framework is: “After all of the time and energy that I have put into this, after all I have done for you or this group, it is about time someone pays attention to me. I deserve thanks, appreciation, and recognition.” It translates, “To me goes the glory!”
It is very easy to be self-centered when we have done something well. My high school basketball coach had a saying, “No matter what success you may have had, your hat size should never change.” He would go on to explain, “If you were the high scorer for the game, named the most valuable player for the season, or selected All State, you should never get a fat head.” It is a temptation to get caught up in our good deeds and accomplishments. We congratulate ourselves and think others ought to congratulate us. “To me goes the glory!” We may not be blatant about it, but it is prideful, egotistical, arrogant, and conceited.
Jesus frames this in a way that is contrary to our human nature. He taught, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16). When I moved from my playing days to my coaching days, we used the words of Jesus to keep our hat sizes the same. Many players had stellar performances. Even more put in stellar efforts. Their lights shone before their teammates, classmates, and the crowds. After their good deeds, I would ask, “Who gave you your life and your health?” “Who gave you your talents and abilities?” “Who gave you this opportunity?” To those with faith, it is eminently clear that it is all a gift from God. We often turned to a quote from the prophet Isaiah, “O Lord … it is you who have accomplished all that we have done” (Is 26:12). Once the realization sets in that the ability to do good deeds is a gift from God, Christian athletes, whether they receive accolades or not, redirect attention from themselves to God, and with humble appreciation are able to say, “To God goes the glory!” The ideal is that our good deeds would glorify God, and that others, upon seeing our good deeds, would be led to glorify – not us – but almighty God.