Is God’s greatest pleasure to make us happy?

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:

If you have seen it already, here is the clip as it ought to be viewed:


Here, we are given an example of some specious reasoning: (1) God wants you to be happy; (2) Whatever makes you happy makes God happy; (3) Therefore, God is glorified whenever you do whatever makes you happy.

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”.


God is the focus of our worship. Our primary purpose in worship is to glorify God. Yet, that does not mean our happiness and God’s glory are in opposition. As the catechism says, when we glorify God we “enjoy him forever”. Our chief end is not our own happiness, it is to glorify God. Yet, when we glorify God, we enjoy him. It is impossible to glorify God and not enjoy the blessings that come from such a pursuit. There is blessing to be had in worship. It is not a case of glorify God and there’s nothing in it for me. When we truly give ourselves over to the pursuit of God’s glory (as opposed to the pretense of God’s glory in the pursuit of our own happiness) we receive from God far more than we could ever give.


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.

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