Doesn’t God Being Happy with Himself, and Seeking His Own Glory, Seem Smug or Self-Centered?

In my books and on my blog, I’ve written about the happiness of God. But some might ask, “Humans who are happy with themselves are often considered arrogant and self-obsessed. So how can it be a compliment to say that God is happy with Himself?”

For a time, C. S. Lewis struggled with God’s demand that we praise Him and give Him glory. Eventually Lewis realized that he’d misunderstood the truth:

The most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value. [1]

If God is indeed the primary source of all that’s good and praiseworthy, wouldn’t it be unloving for Him to withhold from us the happiness of praising Him?

Lewis concluded,

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. . . . Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him. [2]

Remember, what’s for God’s best is ultimately for our best too. God says, “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise. . . . For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it. . . . My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:9, 11). A human being who repeatedly says “for my own sake” demonstrates selfishness. But we didn’t create the universe. When people seek glory for themselves, it rubs us the wrong way because they aren’t worthy of that glory. It’s different with God: He is worthy of all the glory—more worthy than we can possibly comprehend.

When an audience gives a standing ovation after a concert, don’t we expect the composer, the director, and the orchestra members to be happy? And doesn’t the fact that the performers find happiness in the audience’s happiness—which is so great that they erupt into spontaneous praise—negate the idea that the performers are selfish? Is it selfish to want to make people happy? Similarly, why should it disappoint us that God would be happy to receive the praise that makes us so happy when we offer it to Him?

The doctrine of the Trinity explains how God can appropriately be God-centered. First, because He’s worthy. Second, because He properly exalts what’s worthy. Third, because in delighting in the other members, each person of the Trinity is others-centered. The Father is Son- and Spirit-centered. The Son is Father- and Spirit-centered, and the Spirit is Father- and Son-centered.

God’s desire for us to please Him is not only for His good but also for ours. Spurgeon said, “The chief end of man . . . in this life and in the next, is to please God, his Maker. If any man pleases God, he does that which conduces most to his own temporal and eternal welfare. Man cannot please God without bringing to himself a great amount of happiness.” [3] John Piper says, “God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is not the act of a needy ego, but an act of infinite giving. The reason God seeks our praise is not because he won’t be fully God until he gets it, but that we won’t be happy until we give it. This is not arrogance. This is grace.” [4]

Excerpted from Randy's book Happiness

[1] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958), 93–95.

[2] Ibid., 95, 97.

[3] Charles H. Spurgeon, “Faith” (Sermon #107).

[4] John Piper, “Is Jesus an Egomaniac?” Desiring God, January 4, 2010.

Photo by Carolinie Cavalli on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries