Why does God want our praise and worship?
There it was again…A question about God that I have been hearing a lot lately. This time it was in a sports column.
The writer was commenting on a quote from the Australian rugby union player Will Skelton:
I’m a big believer in Jesus Christ. I’m a big believer that he gave me gifts to glorify his name … When I train or play I try to glorify him
Great comment from my point of view, but here is how the Sydney Morning Herald writer responded:
If your belief stacks up, Will, why, precisely does he need glorification? In the words of Bertrand Russell, “is he really that vain?” Discuss.”
The Divine Narcissist?
I never heard this kind of question 20 years ago, but am hearing it more and more these days–especially as some in our world are concerned at the general rise of narcissism amongst others (never themselves, of course).
My first response is that this was an ironic objection in a world that is so focused on selling oneself and personal branding; an attempt to ‘cut God down to size’. In the land of the tall poppy syndrome, why not go for the tallest?
At the same time, there seems a reasonableness about this response. We are suspicious of those who blow their own trumpet and who seem to be demanding they be loved and glorified. Why not apply this to God as well?
So, why does God want our praise and worship?
Here are five quick thoughts to help you and your young people think this question through.
1. He alone is worthy
It is entirely right to give God glory and for God to demand glory because he alone is worthy. One of the most elementary teachings of the Christian faith is that there is a God and you are not him. God is glorious in himself and as creator and redeemer. At the end of it all, all creation will give appropriate praise and glory (see Revelation 5).
2. It’s good to glorify what it glorious
C.S. Lewis observed this years’ ago in one of his essays. He pointed out that at the end of a concert it is a natural response to give glory to the performer by applauding, whooping, hollering, asking for an encore and so on. We know this because of the awkwardness that sometimes occurs when something great is done in church and we feel we ought to acknowledge it. If God is glorious and has done glorious things, then it is entirely appropriate to make this known and celebrate it.
3. God wants – but doesn’t need – our praise
At the back of this ‘narcissist God’ claim is the idea that somehow God needs our praise, our approval, our gratitude and our glory to shore up his fragile ego and help his self-development. This is far from the case for the God who has existed in perfect community, Father, Son and Spirit from eternity.
4. It is to our benefit that we give glory to God
It is an expression of his goodness to us that we glorify him, as this is what we were created for. We were created as worshipping beings. To give glory in the right place is to fulfil one of the very basic aspects of what it means to be human.
5. It is to our detriment that we give glory to the wrong god
This is graphically seen in Romans 1 when Paul talks of exchanging the glory of the true God for false gods concocted out of the created order. The result of this great exchange is a slide into all sorts of unhelpful behaviours which incur the wrath of God. We become what we worship. Glory in the right place means we can grow into the image of our God and Saviour.
One of the more helpful things I have read this year comes from Paul Tripp, who points out that we are engaged in a daily battle for glory. He argues that we will either give glory to God or to something other than God, and in that choice lie pathways to glory or ruin.
As people involved with children and youth, we need to make sure we are leading them the right way.
So, why give God our praise and worship? Because we only find our true selves when we give glory to the living and true God–the one who has revealed the fullness of his glory in his Son, Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:13).
The Rev Dr Bill Salier is the Principal of Youthworks College.