Sunday, September 25, 2011

Does God want our worship?

In the often anti-Christian show The Simpsons, there is an episode in which Homer Simpson is tricked into becoming a missionary (Episode "Missionary: Impossible" from Season 11.) The illiterate primitive people at the mission know more about religion than Homer does, in some ways. The show's writers have someone ask Homer a question that many Christians have heard from skeptics, and instead of having Homer give a Christian reply, they have Homer give the standard mockers' reply, with a little Hollywood flair added:
Native: "If the Lord is all-powerful, why does he care whether we worship him or not?"

Homer: "It's because God is powerful, but also insecure. Like Barbra Streisand before James Brolin."

If you were to search the commands in the books of Moses, you would not find a command where God asks for flattery. In the commands of the books of Moses, God shows remarkably little interest in receiving praise. In the Ten Commandments, the well-known command forbidding idol-worship is not, after all, followed by a command insisting on praising God. The Sabbath command does not contain a command to conduct worship services; it contains a command to rest from work. The kind of "worship" which God asks of his people as they live their daily lives is to be ethical: to be morally good. He requires of his people that they live good lives: not lying, not stealing, not murdering, not taking each others' wives and husbands. He asks his people to be holy as God himself is holy. He asks us to follow him in his ways.

The Simpsons doesn't exist to be fair; they exist to entertain. But if they had given a decent answer, it might have gone something like this:
Native: "If the Lord is all-powerful, why does he care whether we worship him or not?"

Could have said: "He cares whether we live good lives. It wouldn't be such a bad idea if we cared about our lives as much as He does."

And even that is before we begin to understand what a blessing it is to know God, and to be his people.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Worship, of course, is the proper and appropriate relationship of man with his Creator-Redeemer. In other words, it's good, right, and proper for us. That's why God wants it, isn't it?

Weekend Fisher said...

The way we put it in our liturgy is that "it is good, right, and salutary" for us, at all times and in all places, to thank God. I think we're in fairly close agreement.

That puts us both fairly far away from the standard skeptical line, given unanswered on The Simpsons, that God is looking for praise and reassurance like an insecure but vain person.

Most of the religious observances God asks of us fall under the category of goodness. Or as the prophet summed up, "What does He require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

God doesn't need our worship. We need to worship God.

But I differ with you somewhat. Isn't the statement about God being a jealous God about worship?

Weekend Fisher said...

The "jealous" part comes up time and again about idolatry -- where he commands us not to worship other gods -- not to bow down or serve them.

Interestingly, it's not followed by a command to worship him. The service he asks, following on those commands, is generally to treat our neighbors well. Worship services were special occasions among the ancient Jews; studying the Torah was to be a daily thing.

I'm not saying God is uninterested in our worship services. I'm saying that The Simpsons' portrayal of the standard-issue mocker's line -- that God asks for flattery -- is wrong.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF