What Does "All for the Greater Glory of God" Mean?
There is an old motto started by St. Ignatius, and still in use not only by Jesuits, but also implicitly by many Christians wishing to live Holy and upright lives. "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam", or "For the Greater Glory of God", is the belief that our actions give glory to God, and that, even indifferent or neutral acts can reflect God if done with the intent of giving Glory.
I believe it important to examine this phrase and how we actually give glory to God. In reality, what does it even mean to "give glory" to God?
The Language of Glory
As always, we must look at the etymological roots of "glory" to understand the true meaning of the word.
Doxazo-- The Greek word for Glorify is "Doxazo" (δοξάζω) and appears 62 times in the New Testament. While most often translated as "Glorify", it can also be translated to give honor or magnify.
Hadar-- One Hebrew word for glory is "Hadar" (הָדָר) and it appears 30 times in the Old Testament. This word is also quite often translated as Majesty, Honor, and Beauty.
Kabowd-- Another Hebrew word for glory, Kabowd (כָּבוֹד) appears 200 times in the Old Testament. While most often translated as Glory, it can also mean Honor.
Other-- Other ancient languages such as Old French, Latin, and Old English translate the word's root as also meaning Honor, Fame, Renown, and Magnificence.
What is Glory?
Keeping in mind the previous linguistic roots of the term "Glory" and a multitude of Bible verses too numerous to list, we can outline the following elements of Glory:
1) Glory is seen: Glory is not some eternal, mysterious, and unseen attribute of God. It is not like trying to see the Trinity, Christ's presence in the Eucharist, or even God's hand behind every day events. God's glory is an overwhelming manifestation of God's perfection. Therefore, while showing or giving glory to God is somewhat dependent on the inner disposition of the human person, it is, in essence, an ACT, and therefore is dependent upon agency.
2) Glory is Honor: To bring glory to someone is to honor them. Traditionally, especially in ancient Hebrew culture, honor is a status derived from respect and upright action. Just like a child doing something good causes people to think the parents "raised them right", and thus reflect positively on them, so is it with God. Therefore to give honor to God is to allow our actions to reflect positively on Him. Conversely, to dishonor God is to do negative actions in His name. It is this unfortunate practice that causes many people to proclaim Christians as hypocrites.
3) Glory is Magnification: To bring Glory to God is, like Mary, magnify Him. Since his very nature is glorious perfection, we should aim to "make known" that nature to the world. Any action we do, or prayer we say, should help others more closely see the fullness of God's nature.
4) Glory is renown: To bring Glory to God is to make him known. If you love God deeply and worship him privately, you are praising him, but you are not "bringing Him Glory". If we are to truly bring Glory to God, we must proclaim His message and evangelize Him to the world--even if is through our actions alone.
Private worship of God is great and needed. We should take time to pray in silence and private to God, and give worship to God in ways that are not public. Without this we will not be disposed to publicly proclaim God. It is also important to remember that, while works manifest Faith, without an intimate relationship with God, any public praise, proclamation, and works will be empty. Faith must always come first.
We now can see that the difference between worship/praise and "giving glory" is the public and intentional aspect. It is my opinion that you cannot give glory to God privately. Often, when I am suffering, I tell myself, "It's all for the greater Glory of God". But this may not be true--while my suffering may purify, and cause me to praise, adore, and seek God, it does not glorify Him unless I use that suffering as an example to the world.
Keeping this in mind, what should the Christian remember? The Christian must always remember Eph 4:29. If we claim to be Christian, we must have integrity, for at all times our actions will either reflect God or reflect our hypocrisy. We must remember to keep our close relationship with God if we are to proclaim him, but also that we should use our personal relationship for public proclamation.
"For the greater Glory of God", may all our actions magnify, honor, and make known the beautiful, perfect, loving, and almighty nature of God.
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© 2011 R D Langr