What is Worship?

I am a word nerd. There’s no denying it. One of the first things I do when preparing a message or a post is to look up the definition of any words central to what I’m trying to say.

Before I go any further in this month-long discussion of worship, then, I think it’s important to determine what worship is. After all…how can we know how to do something – or if we are doing something as it should be done – if we aren’t certain what that “something” really is?

The word “worship” comes from Old English, a combination of weorth (meaning “worth”) and scipe (meaning “ship,” or “position”). From there, we see how worship is ascribing worth to something – saying, in essence, “You are worthy of my attention…my affection…my adoration. You are worth everything I have to give.” The opposite of worship, then, is hatred…neglect…indifference. A complete lack of affection or care.

If you ask a dictionary (always a good place to start), “worship” is both the FEELING OF ADORATION and the ACTIONS THAT COME FROM THAT ADORATION. It’s a way of feeling…but it’s also what you do with that feeling. It’s love that’s put into action.

While the word “worship” is usually associated with church culture, we really don’t have to look very far from wherever we are to find worship demonstrated for us. We worship everything from coffee (pumpkin spice lattes, anyone?) to Facebook (how long has it been since you checked it?) to our jobs (how many hours a week do you work?) to money (what’s the status of your checkbook this month?). In our actions, we show how worthy those things are of our whole selves. We put different things in a position of worthiness, elevating them above all other things. They will eventually become so important to us that they actually rule us – our time, our energy, our thoughts, our desires, our choices, and – yes – even our finances.

My favorite description of the general term “worship” comes from Harold Best, in his book Music Through the Eyes of Faith. He says someone is worshiping when they are “acknowledging that someone or something else is greater — worth more — and by consequence, it is to be obeyed, feared, and adored. Worship is the sign that by giving myself completely to someone or something, I want to be mastered by it.”

If we worship our stuff – our clothes or phones or cars or whatever – those things come to monopolize our lives. They are more important than anything else. If we worship our jobs, everything else will take a back seat to our work. If we worship Twitter, we’ll find ourselves neglecting real-life people in front of us to check on Avatars on a screen. If we worship money, we become single-minded in our pursuit of it, and nothing else will matter.

Regardless of what we place worth on, one thing is certain. We will all worship something, because something has precedence over everything else in our lives. That position of utmost importance will be filled by something.

Because I want this series to be both informative and practical, I won’t make this post any longer than it already is. Instead, I’ll leave you with these simple questions: What are you worshiping? What does that worship look like for you? How is that worship mastering you?

Think on that today…and I’ll see you tomorrow as we look at what God has to say on the subject of worship. I’m so glad to be on this journey with you. It’s already been so good for me. I pray it has been – and will be – the same for you.

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