Seek Glory for Yourself, But Don’t Be Self-Seeking

by Mar 14, 2009Exegesis, Piety

Here’s a paragraph from Romans 2 that has occasioned no small discussion among Protestant commentators:

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Rom. 2:6-11, ESV)

Moo’s top-rated NICNT Romans commentary says that Paul is either 1) talking to Christians or 2) saying something that is quite true but that no human can attain.

Whichever view you take, the good Paul describes is still good, the bad still bad.

So think of what the bolded section above does. It enjoins people to seek glory, honor, and immortality, three things which are unquestionable benefits to their seekers (Moo says that these are “blessings the righteous can hope to receive in the eschatological future”). And these are not benefits tacked onto the end of the lives of people who were not aware they would get them. Paul says that (consciously) seeking these benefits is essential to true obedience.

And yet the next clause says that self-seeking* is wrong!

So there is a holy “self-seeking” which obeys the truth by seeking after eternal benefits. And there is a sinful self-seeking which does not obey the truth but obeys unrighteousness—at least in part by not seeking eternal treasure.

So seek today the benefits God offers! Lay up treasures in heaven! May God give us grace to do that even this moment.


For more on appropriate and inappropriate reward motivations, I recommend C. S. Lewis’s address, The Weight of Glory.

*There’s a little uncertainty as to the meaning of this Greek word, but other passages, of course, condemn pure self-love.

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