My dad is quoted for saying, “Religion is a powerful force in people’s lives!” Last night at dinner we were discussing the various religions we encountered while living in a foreign country. Some of the topics we broached were the amount of money that religion generates, as the Buddhist burn incense sticks that can cost up to $1500 or more per stick; The ignorance of people who are educated, some having PhD’s, Master’s Degrees, CEO’s of companies, or even doctors and lawyers, yet they believe a man with an elephant trunk for a nose is a God. As we engaged in this conversation with our friends, sharing with them some of the things we saw, heard, smelled and experienced while living in a foreign country, my dad made a comment that inspired this blog post. He said, “Religion is fear based, most people are just trying to please or appease their gods”. As he elaborated on this thought, I began to consider the idea of what are we really doing as people, and I determined it is one of three things, we are either appeasing, pleasing or responding to our God. Every religion calls what they do worship, so let’s look at why they are worshipping.
When you speak to people you hear the why, behind the what, they are doing and many will tell you they are worshipping in order to appease their god. They do not want their god to be mad at them and allow bad things to happen to them, so they worship them. They don’t want their god to ignore them, forget them, or hurt them, so they worship them. They worship to appease the potential wrath of their god. When our worship is rooted in fear, our worship can become appeasing, thinking we can keep the wrath of our god at bay, at least for a little while longer. Many religions are spending billions of dollars on worship materials in order to appease their god, but the root of this kind of worship is fear.
Other people, when asked about worship are doing it to please their God. They want their God’s approval and are afraid if they don’t please them and seek to do everything they want, the way they want it done, their God may not be pleased with them. Being affirmed is so important to them they will do whatever it takes to please their god. People are exhausted from doing so many works for their god, because it is rooted in a fear of not being pleasing to their god. Matthew 7 speaks about people who cast out demons, healed the sick and did all kinds of good works, but the chapter concludes with the statement, away from me I never knew you. People who seek to please their god, fear if they do not do good works, they will not be affirmed as a good person.
Thankfully, there is a third group of people who are responding to their God. Knowing who they are, knowing who their God is, these people have no fear, for they have been perfected in love. When you are not trying to earn something, run from something, please or appease something, you can genuinely respond to God out of love for Him, not out of fear of Him. Responding to God is the ability to lift up our hands and voices in praise, because of who He is. Knowing He is good, that He is faithful, that He is loving and that He is alive, makes responding to Him easy. While praying the other day, I found myself saying, Father it is easy to love you; it is easy to serve you; it is easy to pray to you; it is easy to worship you. Responding to God is easy when you know who He is and who you are to Him.
So, how do you know whether you are worshipping to appease, please or respond to your God?
Appeasing and pleasing are exhausting, responding is refreshing. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” When we are responding to God in worship, it does not feel like work, it does not wear us out from trying to appease or please, because we are responding to the One who first loved us.