I feel uncomfortable with the idea of worship. It seems to contain an undercurrent of unnecessary self-denigration and sycophancy, and it doesn’t say much for the person being worshiped.
Don’t get me wrong: there are many reasons for us to be humble in our daily lives. Conceit is not a virtue. But worship seems to put a rather unpleasant twist on humility.
Allow me to illustrate.
Imagine a successful toy maker who, having created a popular range of animal toys, decides to create a doll. The doll will be able to walk and talk, and follow a limited number of spoken commands.
The doll is eventually perfected, and brought to mass production. However, as soon as sales begin, a massive controversy arises. It turns out that once the dolls are activated, they take part in what appear to be regular religious rituals, beginning at the same time every evening, and then again at sunrise.
Here’s what the dolls do: at the appointed time, they go down on their knees, and they start worshiping the toy maker. “Dear Maker”, they say, “we are but your humble servants whom you have made. There is no greater Maker than you. All praise to your name.” The dolls then stand up and continue whatever they were doing prior to the ritual.
The toy maker hears of the outcry, and makes a public announcement in protest: “I am the dolls’ maker,” he exclaims, “I brought them into the world, and I deserve to be worshiped. What’s wrong with that?”
What’s wrong, I would claim, is that such behavior is the mark of a megalomaniac on a complement-fishing expedition of unprecedented scale. What sort of person needs his ego continually rubbed in such a way?
Yet the toy maker’s objection is precisely the argument Christians give in defense of God: “He is our creator, ” they say, “he deserves to be worshiped – we even owe it to him.”
Now, there is one way out of this mess. If it could be shown that Christians spontaneously worship God out of love for him, this would remove the problem of egotism that I’ve brought up here. If, on the other hand, God actively encourages people to worship him – or if God’s prophets and apostles actively encourage his people to worship him, then the problem remains.
That, however, will be the topic of a follow-on post. Watch this space.
It does, indeed, seem as if believers are actually commanded to worship God, it is not simply left up to them to do if they see fit. Consider the following scriptures:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phillipians 2:9-11)
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” (Matthew 4:10. Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:13)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)