Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The most important question whenever I meet someone is “What do you worship?”
It’s an unspoken question, even though the answer would tell me much. It’s often not worth asking because few seem to be capable of giving an answer. Many would respond with “I’m not religious.” For them, the word “worship” is related to religious worship and, since they are not religious, they don’t relate to those who call themselves “worshippers”.
What they don’t realize is that worship is not necessarily related to religion or a deity.
Truth is, everyone worships something or someone. The only question is the object of worship.
The equation of worship
Worship is the sum of faith and love.
Everyone has faith in something. Some rebel at this notion for the same reason they rebel at the notion of worship. For them, the word “faith” is often associated with a religious deity. Yet, this is only one application of the word, even if it is the most common.
The first definition of faith is a “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” The word implies a relationship between an individual, and whatever object the individual chooses: spouse, family, nation, science, democracy and, yes, even God.
The question is not whether you have faith, but in who or what you place your trust or confidence. Each day, you demonstrate your faith in any number of ways. You may have faith in your family, that they will be there when you need them most. You may place faith in the things you own, trusting in their reliability to perform as advertised. You may even place faith in the various cultural and social structures in which you operate, such as the expectation that you will be paid for the work you provide.
Without this faith, you wouldn’t be able to exist. You would suffer from constant anxiety, susceptible to paranoia, paralysis of action, and even psychosis as you constantly doubt whether you could trust your family, the things you own, or whether your paycheck will be waiting for you.
As necessary as faith is in your daily life, much of our modern pain comes from placing faith in things not worthy of such trust. Anyone who has experienced the betrayal of family, been stranded in a blizzard, or been robbed of their wages, knows of what I speak. This understanding raises a few important questions, necessary for avoiding the heartbreak coming from bad faith. “What do I have faith in?” “Is this worthy of such faith?”
While the reader ponders this, it’s also necessary to point out that, like faith, everyone has love for something. From the related chapter of my book:
John Lennon once sang that all you need is love. It’s like saying all you need is air. Everybody loves something or someone, whether family, friends, neighbors, shared values, lifestyle, or only themselves. I have yet to meet someone who absolutely lacks love, as perfection in anything is impossible. Even pure narcissists reveal a love for themselves.
In addition (outside of the pure narcissist), everyone I have met also loves more than one thing. We love our families, and our friends, and our values, and our lifestyle, and so on. I have yet to meet anyone who loves all things equally (although I have met a few who love equally among many things). This suggests everyone has a preference for some things more than others, a prioritized list within each of us. Your spouse receives far more love than the cute guy/gal in the next cubicle (or at least should). Your family hopefully receives more love than your coworkers.
After hundreds of observations, I am confident in saying many of us don’t know our priorities.
Almost everyone provides a socially acceptable answer when asked about their priorities. “I love my family first.” Peek behind the curtain though, and you’ll often find a hidden truth about what they really love. It is a truth revealed through behavior. Awareness, if it comes at all, is often gained from those affected. “You love her more than me!” “Mom always loved you best!” “Would you put that down and pay attention to me!” “You spend more time at your job than with me!” We discover our priorities through the challenges of others.
What do you love the most? Ask those closest to you. Sadly, some people have no one to challenge them, while others aren’t interested in hearing the response. Show me what a person loves, and I’ll have a good hunch as to how they will behave. Organize those loves by priority, and I’ll predict their behavior with uncanny accuracy. Everyone has love, most love more than one thing, and those loves are prioritized. These observations bring us to a critical point.
If our behavior reveals who we are, and our behavior is directed towards what we love most, then what we love most will define each of us.
If everyone has both faith and love in something, then the intersection of these two groups represents those select things we love with complete trust and confidence.
What is another word for that which we love with complete trust and confidence? Worship.
The whitewashing of worship
In ancient times, worship was often associated with a wide variety of totems and rituals (some of which are still practiced today). In contrast, today’s cultural expressions of worship are more polished. Regardless, none of these expressions define worship.
Worship is not defined by our acts of reverence and adoration, nor is it defined by the object we select to worship. Like love and faith, worship is a relational word, a reverence and adoration by someone, for some object. A deity is only one object among several, just as a worshipper is only one among several if they all worship the same object. There is literally nothing under the sun which cannot be worshipped.
What do you have faith in? What do you love?
What do you worship?
For Christendom, the answers are disturbing. When I ask Christians what they worship, many emphatically shout “Jesus!” Yet, when you take the Christians out of their churches, their behavior reveals a different truth. That truth may include:
- Hero worship – with the “hero” often being a pastor, whether offline or online.
- Church worship – looking for the building and congregation to supply whatever is needed spiritually.
- Service worship – reverence and adoration for the kind of performance linked above.
- Nation worship – in which love of country and voting conservative is considered part of one’s discipleship; a cross wrapped in an American flag.
- Bible worship – substituting the Words on the page for the living WORD received through the Spirit.
- Self worship – the most common of all.
The more you separate out the components of worshipper, expression, and object of worship, the more examples you see.
In the aftermath of the pandemic (at the time of this writing), many Christians were deprived of their objects of worship. Many did not fare well, desperately grasping to whatever they could find as the storm raged. Some went on the offensive, attacking anyone and everyone deemed responsible for removing their objects of worship.
A precious few woke up. “What have you been worshipping?” is the question they heard whispered in their soul. Whatever it was, it wasn’t God: it was idolatry, no matter how noble the idol may be in appearance.
Everyone has faith in something. Everyone loves something. And faith plus love equals worship.
To those with ears to hear, my question remains the same.
Who, or what, do you worship now?