This question keeps cropping up in various forms lately in different quadrants of the internet, so I figured I’d blog about it in a post all of its own. I mentioned this before in another post, but it does keep rearing its head, so here is another go at it.
First, I have to admit that the phrasing of the question itself is a bit puzzling, as I don’t know of anyone or any scripture that claims that God needs our worship in the least. God doesn’t need anything. Even if you want to discuss God from the general philosophical point of view of God being the sum of all perfections, that leaves no room for a need, which implies a lack.
There was one atheist/agnostic that seemed to keep returning to the idea of, “maybe God needs our worship because He draws power from it?” asked in a hypothetical way of course. This reads just like a plotline from Stargate; SG-1 with the Ori. No, God’s power doesn’t come from outside of ourselves, and this way of trying to figure it out shows human arrogance once more. The implication is that God is really relying on us for His power, which makes no sense at all. He had absolutely no issues in creating from nothing without us around, nor in making any of the major decisions about life, the universe and everything.
I feel the question in it’s legitimate form is closer to, “why does God request/command our worship?” I’m absolutely positive there are many reasons. Another popular reason non-believers put forth is that God is somehow ego-maniacal…that He demands worship to somehow stroke His ego. Again, this would imply a lack which does not fit. Many non-believers delight in trying to paint God as some kind of petulant tyrant. I do believe that is why this question occasionally makes the rounds.
I think that one of the main reasons that God requests/commands our worship is that it is good for us, as I’ve mentioned before. Anything else we worship doesn’t work out to benefit us, and in fact, brings harm. Once more; food, money, other humans, nature, false gods, etc… it never works out. Stick with worshiping The Perfect Being who loves and cares about you, it works out a lot better in the end. Another aspect came up when a non-believer insisted that worship is really what keeps someone out of Hell, basically they presented a straw man argument about the nature of entrance into Heaven, or winding up in Hell. Here is a very revealing bit of scripture:
Matthew 15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. 12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
It isn’t all about worship folks. There can be those that worship in a way that is completely meaningless. The worship is in vain. Salvation isn’t about worship, it is about faith, trust, love, etc… Worship flows so naturally from these things that many Christians get a bit confused when non-believers get stuck on the idea of worship. Yes, we get it, you don’t want to bow down to God, but don’t try to twist the idea of worship into something negative, nor some kind of lack in God.
I enjoy this passage too because the disciples are still learning, “but, but, but, you offended the Pharisees.” Many miss Jesus’ straightforward answer, “Let them alone,” don’t bother with their offended pride, and off they go, the blind leading the blind, let ‘em fall in the ditch. You see, it was the Pharisees caught up in this fake style of worship that was done, not from love, but from some odd sense of self-pride. They worshipped all right, but that worship didn’t amount to a hill of beans; again, worship itself is not the point.
Does God deserve worship? Now, there’s a question. The answer is absolutely 100% yes, He alone deserves worship. He’s the Alpha, and the Omega, He is absolutely Holy, Righteous, Just, He is Love, He is our Saviour. Worshipping in spirit and in truth flows naturally from faith, love and trust. It is never a negative thing when directed at God from the proper motivation.