We end the week with a great question from Aaron Fletcher, a dad in Manassas, Virginia: “Hello Pastor John, my wife and I recently started going through a catechism with our 4-year-old son. We’ve had a hard time explaining to him what it means to “glorify God.” The best definition I’ve been able to come up with is: To glorify God is to worship him like we know how important he is. But that seems inadequate. Do you have any advice on how to communicate such a huge concept to young children in a clear way?”
Yes, I do, and I had a really good time with this question. Because I think you don’t know what you mean unless you can help a four year old. And so, the first thing to say is: Children, oh, how different they are. Every parent needs to figure out what works best to get across important truths to their children. So, let me simply give the basic principle and then try to provide maybe three illustrations that I think will work with a four year old.
“Every parent needs to figure out what works best to get across important truths to their children individually.”
It has been a long time, but I have five of these: four boys and a girl. The basic principle is that glorify does not mean make glorious, but see as glorious, savor as glorious, celebrate as glorious. And, of course, I don’t mean you have to use those words. I am not giving you what you give your four year old. I am just telling you what the principle is. I use see, savor, and celebrate just because I like the way they sound. You can substitute for see that you have to recognize his glory. You can substitute for savor that you have to enjoy or admire or value his glory. And you can substitute for celebrate that you have to praise or cheer or make known his glory.
“Glorify does not mean make glorious, but see as glorious, savor as glorious, celebrate as glorious.”
And the point is that the word glorify is not like the word beautify. Now, I am still teaching the parents. It’s not like the word beautify. When you beautify a room, you make it more beautiful. When you glorify God, you do not make him more glorious. So, glorify has to be distinguished from any idea of making God glorious. You have got to help your four year old not think in terms of making God glorious.
Now, when we glorify God, we see him as glorious. We love what we see. We help others see him and love him that way. And that may be spoken. It may be lived out. It may be with acclamations or it may be with demonstrations. And I get that from all over the New Testament, but you can just use 1 Peter 1:3 where it says, “Blessed be . . . God.” So, he is using words to acclaim the great mercy of God. And then when he gets to chapter 1 Peter 2:12, he tells them to conduct themselves in a certain way so that people will see God as glorious. So, it may be words. It may be behavior.
“When we glorify God, we see him as glorious. We love what we see.”
So, how do we help a four year old get a handle on this process? Try this: Most four year olds can get the idea that some things are small, and some things are really, really big. They can get the idea that some things are really, really, really valuable, and other things aren’t worth so very much. And they can get the idea that some things are really, really beautiful or really pretty or really nice to look at, and other things are really ugly and make you want to run away. I think we can assume that a four year old can grasp the categories of size, value, and beauty. That is my assumption as I move forward now with my illustrations.
That is what I am going to try to help him understand: the meaning of glorifying God for his size — really, really big — and his value — really, really precious, valuable; we want to have him — and his beauty — more beautiful, more great to look at than anything. So, in each of these cases, we need to come up with illustrations that distinguish between making something big, making something valuable, making something beautiful on the one hand, and helping people see that something is already big, already valuable, already beautiful, even though they might not at first think so. So, here are my three practical illustrations.
1) So, for example, you are driving down the highway, you and your four year old, and you might see a water tower in the distance and ask your child how big it is. Tell him to hold up his fingers — his pointer finger at the top of the tower and his thumb at the bottom of the water tower — and tell you how big it is. And he will say: It is not very big. Then you drive another five miles. You stop the car. You get out. You walk over to the tower and it is one hundred times taller than your child is.
And then you illustrate what you have been teaching him all the while. How do we glorify the bigness of this tower? First, we have to get close enough to see how big it really is, and then we have to be amazed at how tall it is. Scary tall. We wouldn’t want to climb up there. And then we need to show people how tall it really is. And how might we do that? Maybe let’s take a picture of me standing beside it, and then we will show the picture, etc. That is illustration number one.
2) Compare your child’s daddy — you may be the daddy or the mommy — compare your child’s daddy, who is 5’9” tall with another child’s daddy, who is 6’6” tall. And then you say to your child, “Do you want to trade your daddy who is only 5’9” tall for a bigger daddy? Roger, over there, your daddy, your friend’s daddy.” And your child is going to say, “No. I want my daddy. I don’t want his daddy.” And then you explain to the child that the reason you want your daddy is because he is so really, really, really valuable to you. And you prefer — you introduce that word to him, maybe — you prefer him. You want him more than you want the other daddy.
And that is the way it is with the value of God. When you know God and how really valuable he is, you want him more than you want anything else. And when you want your daddy over all other daddies, you glorify the value of your daddy. It doesn’t matter whether the other daddy is taller. And when you want God over everything else, you glorify the value of God.
“When you know God and how valuable he really is, you want him more than you want anything else.”
3) Last illustration, number three, regarding to beauty. There are stories that your child reads or videos that they watch in which there is a very, very ugly, evil character. And then there is a hero who is gallant and strong and handsome — and clearly your child is happy when the hero appears and wins the day and is glad when the ugly, dangerous villain is dispatched, put away, done for. And then you explain to your child what the beauty of character is. It is not just like the beauty of sunsets or flowers. It is the beauty of strength and wisdom — and all of that in the service of being a good hero and a loving hero.
So, you ask your child, “How do we glorify that character? How do we glorify the strength and the wisdom and the goodness and the love, the beauty of this hero?” And then you can help him see that you glorify him by cheering when he appears in the story and by being glad when he wins and by telling other people how great he is and how beautiful he is in compared to that ugly villain that sometimes dresses up in an attractive suit.
We don’t make the tower tall. And we don’t make the daddy valuable. And we don’t make the hero beautiful. We glorify the size and the value and the beauty by seeing it for what it is and by being glad that it is that way and then by acting and speaking in a way that shows other people what we see and what we love. And I think a four year old can get this. And with every passing year, may God grant that his grasp goes deeper and deeper.