Work, Worship, and Play (Part 3)

Work, Worship, and Play (Part 3)

A quotation attributed to Gordon Dahl laments: “We worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.” What an insightful description of our present generation! God has given us all three of these activities, but He intends we understand their purpose and arrange them in a wise and balanced way. How can we keep ourselves from falling into the modern trap of mixed-up priorities? We’ve discussed the purpose of play and the purpose of work. This week, let’s conclude with the purpose of worship.

The Purpose of Worship

God is perfect. He needs nothing from humanity—not the food of sacrifices, not the shelter of a temple, not even the affirmation of praise (Acts 17:24-27). “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine” (Haggai 2:8). “The world is Mine, and all it contains” (Psalm 50:10-12). God is well aware of His greatness, and does not suffer when we fail to requite His love.

Why then does God command worship? Because it is what we human beings most need to flourish. Worship benefits us! We are designed to recognize our Creator, to be taught and reminded of His greatness, to have an opportunity to say “thank you” for His blessings, and to request that He continue to provide them.

Worshiping God should be a joyous privilege! Korah wrote, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). David said, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). Christians should have those same feelings when attending worship—it is a joy and privilege we don’t want to miss.

It is a shame, then, to see many who attend worship with an attitude of reluctance, indifference, duty, or distraction. Worship is special time we should guard and cherish. May we come not begrudgingly, but with happiness in our hearts and a song of praise on our lips. May we put aside all pangs of lunch, all complaints about the length of the service, stop checking Facebook and Amazon, and shut out all the petty concerns of the world, in order to devote a slice of time to God with all the attention He deserves. A worshipful frame of mind is not something that needs to be forced by dimming the lights or burning incense. Emotions of love and wonder will exist without these trappings if the worshiper’s heart is right, regardless of whether the thermostat is perfectly set, or the music is perfectly pitched. “Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).

Playing at Our Worship

The trouble comes when we begin to think of worship as just one among many optional extracurricular activities, as something to evaluate for how much it thrills humans rather than how much it honors God. When the congregation becomes the audience, we have misplaced the object of our praise. When worship becomes entertainment, we have forgotten its true purpose. And take warning—there’s no point for churches to try to compete with Hollywood or Disney in worship; if that’s what people crave, no amount of production on a worship stage will suffice, and people would sooner go to the movies.

Much modern worship is idolatry. The Bible repeatedly condemns those who would worship a mere created thing rather than the Creator (Psalm 115:1-8; Isaiah 44:9-17; Romans 1:18-23). Few in present-day America worship gods of wood or stone; nevertheless, we still have our idols. Paul said in Philippians 3:18-19, “Many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” False worship has always had a lot in common with human desires, from the Israelites who “offered burnt offerings ... and rose up to play” (Exo. 32:6), to the Moabites who combined sacrifice with immorality (Num. 25:1-9), to the Corinthians who ended up drunk during the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:21).

None of this is to suggest that worship should be boring to be good. But we must constantly remind ourselves that God is honored by the simple fruit of lips that offer songs in His praise (Heb. 13:5), by hearts devoted to His will, by the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13). Seek to praise God in worship, rather than playing around or having ears tickled, and you can’t help but be edified and uplifted!

-John Guzzetta