It’s definitely a churchy word, but the fact of the matter is – everyone worships something.
While it’s certainly a good thing for people to associate worship with God, do we ever pause to examine what that word actually means?
In the English etymology, “worship” is actually combination of two words – “worth” and “ship,” meaning loosely an act toward that which is worth it. So, in its simplest form, worship is what we choose to give the greatest worth.
How do you evaluate what you give the greatest worth?
Living at a seminary connected to an undergraduate university, I have the joy of meeting many different college students. In particular, I have a lot of interactions with student-athletes. I often find them to be extraordinarily talented and driven people. They have their sights on incredible goals and dreams. All of this is quite admirable. There’s great worth. Academics, athletics, and career success are all fine things to aim for – but they can never be that which we worship – or give the greatest worth. Simply on a human level, these things are fleeting and extrinsically contingent. Cognitive ability, physical health, and job opportunities are by and large contingent upon external factors.
Unfortunately, in a society which can mindlessly spend much of its time and money on fleeting things, it seems we inadvertently allow our freedom to be given to things which do not leave us in place of lasting peace and happiness. There are always more degrees to attain, more games to win, and more money to be made.
So, these things have worth, but because they are fleeting and maybe even flimsy, they don’t have the highest worth that call for true worship. But, if our whole world is centered on them, perhaps we are worshipping them after all – in error.
The Lord, however, made us for eternal peace and happiness, and that’s not just far off in the future. He wants us to worship Him now to begin our completely fulfilling life in Him. In fact, that’s the whole point of the story. God almighty wants nothing more, or less, than the happiness of His beloved children – so much so that He was even willing to sacrifice His only Son. Further, he gave us His commandments as a guidebook for happiness.
In particular, the Lord’s first commandment calls us to worship Him – not because He is some needy attention seeker – but precisely so that we can live lives of peace and happiness. In fact, our worship of Him adds nothing to His glory but only benefits us! When God is given true worship, in which we give Him the ultimate worth, all other things find their proper place. By worshipping Him first, we will avoid the pitfall of worshipping the wrong things. We are then free to enjoy them in their proper place and order.
Success, athletic prowess, and business prestige quickly become ancillary and seen as passing things. Moreover, our investment in the worship of God has a guaranteed profitable return in the form of our own freedom and happiness.
To me, that sounds like a pretty good deal.