“I do not seek my own glory” (John 8:5). With these words Jesus set a precedent for all those who claim to follow him. Fundamental to the call to discipleship is the renunciation of seeking to glorify, to magnify, to enhance and promote oneself.
It is often thought that this calling is based on the distinction between God and humanity. God should be glorified, not us. Therefore we refuse to glorify ourselves and instead glorify God. Indeed, aspects of the Reformed tradition insist that God’s whole aim in being involved with the world is to glorify God’s own self. Thus, we glorify God rather than ourselves because God wants to glorify God’s self rather than humanity.
However, this is all entirely wrong. Jesus, according to the Christian confession is God’s very self come among us. Thus, when Jesus reveals that he does not seek his own glory, he is stating something that is not only to be true about us, but preeminently about God’s own life. God’s life consists in the refusal to seek self-glorification. Rather, the life of the Godhead itself consists in the loving mutuality of the trinitarian persons who only seek the glory of one another. Thus, Jesus seeks the glory of the Father rather than his own, and so also the Father seeks to glorify Jesus (John 7:18). Finally, God also fundamentally desires to glorify humanity: “those he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30).
So, we do not reject the quest of self-glorfication to somehow “make room” for God’s desire to self-glorify. Rather we reject self-glorification because that’s precisely what God is like. To reject the quest for self-exaltation is, counterintuitively, the very epitome of what it means to be God-like. We don’t reject self-glorification because self-glorification is reserved for God alone. We reject it because self-glorification in any form is demonic.