Is Your Chief End to Glorify and Enjoy Yourself?

Ever since the garden of Eden, sin has been cast as freeing and God’s law as enslaving. Today it’s endemic; sin is glamourized in sitcoms, on magazine covers, on YouTube, in Hollywood, by the influence of peers, and of course, in our own hearts—idol factories as they are (as John Calvin put it). Part of the insidious nature of the world’s influence is that most people involved in this are so ignorant of God’s Word that they don’t realize they are glamorizing sin—and neither do those who listen or watch. Subtly, generations have grown up consuming media like MTV and Tiktok that glorify and excuse sin. We have been taught that the American Dream, or to put it another way, our “chief end,” is to glorify ourselves and enjoy the world until we die.

            Part of the danger to our souls in this is that Christianity is cast not only as untrue, but as repressive. I remember my wife coming home from work when I was in seminary and telling me how one of her coworkers spoke disparagingly about “all the rules” in Christianity. It seemed quite a mischaracterization because for us, Christianity is about grace—the so-called “rules” shape our gratitude to God and show us our guilt—which in turn deepens our thankfulness for God’s gracious forgiveness in Christ. Still, the devil’s lie continues to find purchase—and Christianity is cast as the opposite of fun, cast as an obstacle to the dream of personal peace and affluence here and now.

            The earthly results are devastating even apart from the eternal consequences; a recent Harvard Education report noted that “Nearly 3 in 5 young adults (58%) reported that they lacked ‘meaning or purpose’ in their lives in the previous month. Half of young adults reported that their mental health was negatively influenced by ‘not knowing what to do with my life.’”[i] In other words, there is great need to recover a biblical view of human purpose, expressed so well in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

            Immediately any naysayers lamenting that Christianity makes life dull are challenged here: human beings are not only to glorify God, but to enjoy him. And not just for a moment, but forever. The Bible is full of exhortations to joy in God. As Romans 14:17 puts it, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And a few sentences later, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13).

The Bible in fact presents man’s enjoyment of God as not only surpassing earthly pleasures, but as enduring despite earthly deprivation. “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:7–8). And “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17–18).

The Bible has an answer to man’s plight in every sense—his felt needs, his search for meaning, and the true spiritual need of the forgiveness of sins. One of the great teachings of Christianity is “sanctification,” where God’s Spirit changes a person over time so she more and more loves what is good and hate what is evil. To say it another way, God himself equips us to realize our chief end of enjoying and glorifying God. We are not left to our own devices but have God’s strengthening in pursuing this chief end.

No other calling in life enjoys the greatness of this highest calling to glorify and enjoy God because there is no one like God. Making your life about yourself leads to emptiness. Making your life about your family is good, but dependent on people who change and die. Making your life about serving others, in the vein of Gandi or Mother Theresa, is better than being curved inward but entails you always resting on your own strength, with no promise of results. Our lives must be God-oriented, for our hearts are restless until they find rest in him (Augustine). God has put eternity in our hearts (Eccles. 3:11) and that means earth cannot fully satisfy us. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

            About ten years ago, my wife and I saw Yosemite for the first time. It’s breathtaking; and I can imagine all the ways one might “glorify” El Capitan, for example. You might tell others how beautiful it is. You might spend hours just looking at it; or painting it, taking pictures of it. Climbers will go up to it, touch it, and spend days planning how they will climb it. Yet El Capitan is not made greater by human appreciation, and in the same way, God is full in and of himself—we don’t add to him by glorifying him. Yet, like a mountain on the horizon, our chief end of glorifying God serves as a waypoint in all that we do. “We make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

            As a catechism for children puts it, “How can you glorify God? By loving him and doing what he commands.” This simple aphorism reminds us that doing what God commands, those “rules,” is meant to be tied to love—making it far more than slavish service. God’s law is not burdensome because it is engaged with love—as with Jacob serving in Laban’s fields seven years to be able to marry Rachel, yet “they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20). Truly enjoying and glorifying God go together. As B.B. Warfield once pointed out,

But according to the Reformed conception man exists not merely that God may be glorified in him, but that he may delight in this glorious God… No man is truly Reformed in his thought, then, unless he conceives of man not merely as destined to be the instrument of the Divine glory, but also as destined to reflect the glory of God in his own consciousness, to exult in God: nay, unless he himself delights in God as the all-glorious One.[ii]

Likewise, J.S. Bach wrote, “God’s gift to His sorrowing creatures is to give them Joy worthy of their destiny.”[iii] God made us to behold his own glory and reflect it. Let me invite you to this great meaning and purpose in life—glorifying and enjoying God—the pursuit of which will in fact lead you to be a great blessing to those around you. “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Ps. 34:3)

Andrew J. Miller is Regional Home Missionary in Central Pennsylvania for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He served as a local pastor in Virginia for about a decade and is coauthor of Glorifying and Enjoying God: 52 Devotionals through the Westminster Shorter Catechism

[i] “On Edge: Understanding and Preventing Young Adults’ Mental Health Challenges” accessed online on 10/31/2023 at

[ii] B.B. Warfield, “The First Question of the Westminster ‘Shorter Catechism,’” from The Princeton Theological Review (October 1908), pages 583–87.

[iii] Quoted in Marva J. Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 57.