Living Coram Deo

By Mark D. Roberts

August 1, 2017

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation.”

Genesis 7:1


Stargazing telescope looking downward at the earth.In Genesis 6:11 we encountered a curious and suggestive phrase. This verse said that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight.” More literally, the Hebrew could be translated, “the earth was corrupt before the face of God [lifnei ha’elohim].” Thus, God determined to “make an end of all flesh” (6:13).

Yet, among all of the evil people of that generation, God found one person who was righteous and he “found favor in the sight of the LORD” (6:8). Noah was not just righteous in general, however. Genesis 7:1 attributes to him a particular kind of righteousness. In this verse, the Lord says to Noah, “[Y]ou alone are righteous before me.” This phrase mirrors what we saw in 6:11, and could be translated, “You alone are righteous before my face [tzaddiq lefanai].”

The Hebrew expression “before the face of God” or “before my face” poetically depicts God’s presence. As the people on earth lived in wickedness, God was present: observing, grieving, and judging. As Noah lived righteously, God was present: observing, rejoicing, and blessing.

According to classic Christian theology, we live our lives coram deo, literally, “before God.” God is present with us, not just in our religious activity or our private lives, but everywhere. Our entire lives, including our work as leaders, are coram deo, “before God.” Thus, we have a choice about how we will live coram deo. We can go the way of the world in Genesis 6:11, contributing to the world’s corruption through our sin before God’s face. Or we can walk in the way of Noah, living rightly coram deo.

When many of us think of living coram deo, our minds race immediately to our sin. We remember the things we do that dishonor God and we feel ashamed because God is watching. We may even remember when we have tried to pretend that God wasn’t present. We resolve not to sin any more because we don’t want God to look upon us with displeasure.

While it’s true that the thought of living in God’s presence might keep us from sin, I would suggest that this is not the primary implication of living coram deo. There is a profoundly positive sense in which living before God’s face encourages and inspires us. I’ll say more about this in tomorrow’s Life for Leaders edition. For now, you may wish to think about the following questions.


Do you ever think of your life as coram deo?

What helps you to think this way?

If you were to live intentionally coram deo today, what difference might this make?


Gracious God, thank you for the honor and privilege of living “before your face.” Help us, we pray, to live in a way that honors you. May we be like Noah, who was righteous before you. May we discover how to live coram deo in every part of life, especially as we exercise leadership in our work. All the glory be to you, O God. Amen.


This post originally published on August 10, 2015.


Image Credit: Telescope, 2009. Ryan Wick. CC BY 2.0


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryGod Calls Noah and Creates a New World (Genesis 6:9-8:19)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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