Must All of Life Be Worship?

Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there, and we will worship and return to you.

Genesis 22:5

I recently came across a social media post which specifically promoted the idea that God wants us to worship Him non-stop, 24/7.  While contemplating the question of whether God desires us to worship him without stop as we live our fallible lives here upon this earth, I have to ask if it is even possible.  This is a valid question because God would never wish us to do something which is impossible for us to do (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).  If worship must be never ceasing 24/7, that means God would want us to worship while we simultaneously sleep, bathe, eat, work, and do a host of other activities.  How exactly is that possible?  Indeed, since the Bible makes clear that no Christian is without sin (1 John 1:8), how exactly does one worship God while simultaneously sinning, even penitently? 

Abraham spoke of the act of worship in a way that implies that it had a beginning and an ending.  He basically told his servants that he and Isaac would travel to the mountain in Moriah, start to worship, and then return when they had completed their worship.  If God had wished for Abraham to continually worship Him for every moment of every day, it would have been superfluous and contradictory for Abraham to speak of his plans to worship at the mountain because he would have been worshiping already.  Indeed, he would have somehow been worshiping God while simultaneously talking to his servants about his travel plans. 

The Hebrew term translated “worship” in this verse (saha) has the same definition as the Greek term in the New Testament which is most often translated “worship” (proskyneo): prostrating oneself in homage and reverence to God, showing obeisance or deep reverence and respect to the Almighty.  When I consider these definitions, I cannot wrap my mind around the concept of talking casually with others about my travel plans, sleeping, cheering for my favorite baseball team, or also giving into a temptation to sin even though I might repent of it later…all while at the same time consciously revering my God and Savior.

Yet some still think 24/7 worship is both possible and demanded by God.  In my observation, it comes from a misunderstanding of Romans 12:1, in which Paul speaks of Christians “present(ing) your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” and calling it (in some translations) “your spiritual worship,” “act of worship,” or “spiritual service of worship.”  From these renderings it is easy to conclude that our entire lives must be spent in active worship to God.  Yet the Greek term used here (latreia), carries with it the idea of “service” (which is how some translations render the term in this verse).  As used in the New Testament (and as its Hebrew equivalent, aboda, is used in the Old Testament), this term is used once to describe the concept of simply serving God (John 16:2).  The rest of its usages describe the kind of rites and services the Hebrews, and especially the Hebrew priests, offered to God in their preparations of the sacrifices which Israel made in worship to God (Ex. 12:25-26; 13:5; Josh. 22:27; 1 Chr. 28:13; Rom. 9:4; Heb. 9:1, 6). 

This fits how Paul used it in Romans 12:1. A theme found in the New Testament is how the physical ordinances of the Old Testament foreshadowed spiritual concepts in the New Testament (cf. Heb. Col. 2:17; 8:5; 10:1).  Just as the Hebrews priests physically offered animals sacrifices in service to God, Christians are to offer themselves (“your bodies (as) a living and holy sacrifice”), which is our spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1; cf. Matt. 22:37).  God wants us to continually serve Him in every aspect of our lives.  He knows that we will fall short at times, but we can still serve Him by obeying His wish to repent when we fail (1 John 1:7-9).

The New Testament speaks of Christians worshiping God not 24/7, but rather in conscious actions which logically begin and end.  These actions consist of singing, praying, hearing God’s Word preached, partaking of communion, and giving.  We will speak more of these in future articles.               

— Jon

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