Coram Deo

The other day I read a tweet honoring the theologian R. C. Sproul, who recently died. In it the writer included “Coram Deo,” and I realized that I really didn’t know the term. I’d heard it often over the years, and while I did know that “Deo” means God and that it is a Latin phrase, well, that’s as far as I’d ever gotten.

Do you know what coram Deo means?

Ironically, when I googled the term, one of the first entries came from Sproul’s site, Ligonier Ministries:

This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

Can I have that inscribed on my headstone? Because I want it to be true of my life on earth as well as my life after death. How does one live in God’s presence, under his authority, and to his glory every day? Don’t we all do mundane things that aren’t holy? Regular old work, chores, errands. It would be different if I were a pastor or teaching the Bible all the time, right?

Wrong. The beauty of the Christian life is that nothing is secular but all is sacred.

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Colossians 3:23–24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

“Whatever you do.” This reminds me of the wistful words spoken by a teenager I know: “I’d like to do something important for God like the mission trip your church sponsors. Something more meaningful than  working fast-food.” Oh how I wanted to hug that child and explain what wrong-headed theology that was. How regular life matters to God, how he wants us to dedicate ourselves to doing that with excellence, humility, and joy as we seek to gift it back to the Savior as a thank-you for what he’s done for us.

Too often, too many people mistake “secular” work for eternally meaningless work. Not true. Are you a teacher, a cashier, a CEO, an accountant, a lawyer, an HR specialist, a soldier, a mechanic, a greeter, a writer, an engineer . . . ? Do you realize how necessary those tasks are for the life of our community to continue so that families can bring home paychecks in order to eat and pay bills? If everyone were a pastor, I maintain we’d all be hungry and homeless. Non-church work can be as holy as Bible study and preaching, many times more so!

The Westminster Shorter Confession proclaims that the chief end, or purpose, of mankind is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That’s another way of saying worship. Our purpose on earth is to worship God, to make him look good or to bring him glory, through our existence and our works. So any good work—positive, moral, and otherwise aligned with scripture—is sacred. Worship isn’t just singing at church. It’s what we do with the abilities and gifts God has given us. Do we use them to glorify him?

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great  street sweeper who did his job well.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s live coram Deo: in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

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