God is a “jealous” God. The second of the Ten Commandments forbidding worship of idols includes this declaration: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them [idols], nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:15). He both reiterates and emphasizes this fact later in the same book: “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God” (34:14). Words similar or identical to these recur six additional times in the Old Testament (Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Josh. 24:19; Ezek. 39:25; Nah. 1:2), leaving no doubt as to God’s character in this regard. Jealousy may have either a positive or negative connotation. When used by God about Himself, the word indicates a holy intolerance for unfaithfulness or rivalry. In other words, God alone is worthy of credit.
Disowning any credit and attributing to Him all good in and from us glorifies God. In short, there is room in God’s universe for only His glory. For on the one hand, He alone is holy, and righteous, and good. He alone is the Author of all life, the repository of all power, and the bestower of all blessings. And on the other hand, man is only sinful.
Paul paints a stark portrait of the human state: “As it is written [see Psa. 14:1-4], There is none righteous, no not one; There is none that understandeth, there is none the seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12). If Paul is accurate in his assessment—and he is—then, any good that the believer discovers in Himself and any good that He accomplishes must find its source in God, not man. To take credit for God’s work is to rob Him of His due glory and to commit egregious sin. The world thinks nothing of doing so. In fact, self-esteem seems to have become the cardinal virtue in Christendom and, sadly, in some real churches, as well. But the exaltation of self does not withstand the test of Scripture.
Contrariwise, God is glorified when a believer acknowledges that it is in Christ that “we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). God is glorified when a believer’s life echoes Paul’s testimony to the Galatians: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (2:20). Or his testimony to the Philippians: “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified [“extolled”] in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:20, 21).
When Paul and Barnabas visited the city of Lystra, they encountered a lame man, whom God was pleased to heal through Paul’s instrumentality. The citizens of Lystra were entranced and, proclaiming that “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men” (Acts 14:11), they called Paul “Mercury” and Barnabas “Jupiter” and prepared to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles discovered this, “they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people” (v. 14) and, assuring them that they were just men, they proceeded to preach Christ and give all glory to God.
If we are honest, most of us will admit that our flesh desires credit and praise. But those who have been redeemed and truly love the Lord are, like God Himself, jealous for God and desire Him to be honored. In fact, few things so please the Lord as does the man, woman, or child who lives a life in such a manner that the credit for the blessings he receives and the things he accomplishes goes to the Lord. God desires such people. Will we be among them?
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