The priesthood of all believers in George Herbert’s poem “The Elixer”

One of the great truths the Reformation brought back to the Christian church was the truth of the priesthood of all believers. A key component of this doctrine is the reality that no matter what God has called you to do vocationally (as a job), you can do it to His glory. You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary or a seminary professor to be pleasing to God and to do work that honors Him. In the words of Martin Luther, ““All Christians whatsoever really and truly belong to the religious class, and there is no difference among them except in so far as they do different work. That is St. Paul’s meaning in I Cor. 12, when he says, ‘We are all one body, yet each member hath his own work for serving others…A shoemaker, a smith, a farmer, each has his manual occupation and work; and yet, at the same time, all are eligible to act as priests and bishops. Every one of them in his occupation or handicraft ought to be useful to his fellows, and serve them in such a way that the various trades are all directed to the best advantage of the community, and promote the well-being of body and soul, just as the organs of the body serve each other.”

This poem by George Herbert, an early 17th c. Anglican priest, well reflects this glorious truth:

TEACH me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action ;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake ;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with this tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine :
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold ;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

May the Lord enable us to do all that we do for His glory, for His sake.


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