Many of you will have come across Victoria Osteen’s most recent internet hit. In leading the audience to participate in a time of worship, she offered her case for why they should be motivated to do so. Her argument, without trace of irony, was the following: “You’re not doing it for God, you are doing it for yourself, really.”
If you haven’t seen it, here is a clip of the aforementioned video:
Stated another way: (1) Obeying God makes you happy; (2) God is pleased when you are happy; (3) Therefore, obey God for the sake of your own happinness
This is the unfortunate logic of Victoria Osteen’s exhortation. Obey God because it will make you happy. That sounds fine. That is, of course, until I find my supposed happiness and God’s commandments seem to conflict. It suddenly makes my happiness my central purpose in life. Glorifying God takes second place to my happiness.
As Ligon Duncan comments here, “the fundamental purpose of human existence is God’s glory”. The summum bonum of our existence is not our own personal happiness. Rather, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly states, the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever”.
If our happiness is our chief end, propped up by a God-just-wants-me-to-be-happy mentality, we can justify anything we please, no matter how sinful it may be. I obey God because it makes me happy quickly becomes I won’t obey God on this issue because it won’t make me happy, and that’s all he wants for me, right?!
It is one of those amazing paradoxical claims of scripture. Pursue your own happiness, even if we pretend we are glorifying God, and we will find ourselves wanting much. Pursue God’s glory, making it our chief end, and we will be happy to enjoy God forever, sharing in the blessings he promises.