What is Worship?
I’ve heard this question asked before and sort of dismissed it. Well…duh. It’s putting something/someone above everything/everyone else. It just didn’t seem like much of a question to me. I mean, I’ve always known that worship isn’t just the music on Sunday. Worship is a way of life. It’s what you focus on.
But today the exact same question hit me in a different way. Have you ever had that happen? It’s a strange thing… Same words, but after reading Isaiah 44:9-20 and thinking seriously about idolatry and how it affects us today, I was faced with these words in Isaiah 2:8.
Their land has also been filled with idols;
They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made.
And then in my Bible study came that question, What IS worship? What does it mean to worship the work of your hands? And suddenly, it was a new question for me. I had always thought it was asking, “What is the dictionary definition?” But suddenly I was faced not with the abstract What, but instead with the hands-on How. HOW do we worship? What does it looks like, feel like, to worship? What is our method?
“To worship the work of your hands” naturally leads us to think of our work. Businesses and careers can certainly become idols. When you think of the job constantly and make that the center of your existence, you begin to sacrifice other good things in order to focus on your work. I would guess that many successful business people are guilty of some degree of idolatry. When you sit in church and plan the week ahead in your mind, it’s time for a heart check.
Lifestyles vary, but this is a very common theme. I once heard of a woman whose spotless, perfectly decorated home had become her idol. Her children played outside, and she rarely allowed them to spend much time indoors because they messed up her clean floors. Her neighbors remember the children knocking on the door of their home asking to come in, but being refused. Her children remember that, too—with bitterness. When relationships suffer because of time and attention devoted to other things, it’s a good time to check for idols.
In years past, Christians heard quite a lot of admonitions about pride. Lately, that has become a much less common theme, but there’s no escaping the fact that pride is an abomination to God and we shouldn’t allow it in our lives. Pride is most definitely wrong, giving credit to ourselves for something God has accomplished.
But is that worship? I never bow down to myself or sing songs to myself or tell myself how much I adore me, nor do I set out sacrifices or offerings to show myself how eager I am to serve me. So those words and actions aren’t really the crux of worship, are they? Those are just the trappings.
I heard a message this weekend about how we have lost, to a degree, the awe that people once had for God. Many people portray God as just a good buddy with cool super powers, rather than an omnipotent Creator of the Universe who holds all life in His hands—a fearsome God who we could never possibly please on our own. I think we may have lost, at the same time, our understanding of worship. When worship becomes the singing of love songs and an inspirational speech, we have missed the real point. It becomes something we do for us, to receive a particular feeling, rather than something we offer to God in thanksgiving.
So how exactly should we worship God? What are the things that comprise true worship? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’ll post more of mine in a day or two when I have sorted them out a bit better..