Ends As Means?
By Anthony Casperson
Right before the worship service began this past Sunday, I had realized that in my rush to get ready that morning I had forgotten to have my time alone with God. Specifically, I had forgotten to pray. Normally, it wouldn’t be anything for me to worry about because I know God isn’t going to punish someone for missing a prayer time on occasion.
But a thought came into my head. “I should pray right now for guidance in this week’s blog.
You see, one of the places where I get inspiration for blogs is during Sunday mornings. Not necessarily from the specific topic dealt with during the service, because even rabbit trails can be good fodder to think about later. My thought being that praying for God to give me wisdom while worshiping him would give me a better chance of finding something to write about this week.
But that thought rang out as hollow. Was I really thinking that using a worshipful moment like prayer as a means to writing a good blog was a godly thing to do? Worship of God (praying, singing, listening to his word, having fellowship with his people) is an end in and of itself. It’s not something that we use in the process of reaching for something else.
Worship is the thing we should be reaching for.
In that moment, I realized that I was trying to use prayer to aid in my writing of a blog instead of worshiping God through it. One of the things that I do to worship God, and help others worship God, (writing theological blogs) took precedence in my thoughts over actually worshiping him.
And that is a repentance-worthy offense.
I prayed in that moment, not for blog ideas, but to repent and ask God to help me worship him properly. He deserves my full attention and worship. Nothing came for a blog idea that day, but I did worship him more fully than I have experienced recently. And that is a better result.
Fast forward a few days to the day that I’m actually writing this. I’d been spending a few days trying to figure out what to write about. Nothing was coming. And another thought came into my head.
“Maybe this morning’s bible reading will inspire me with an idea for the website.”
Head dropping, I realized that this was a repeat offense of what happened Sunday. I was taking the worshipful moment of spending time in God’s word as a means to help me write a blog. While repenting for this second offense of the same type in less than a week, thoughts about why this happens flooded my mind.
Why is it that we get so wrapped up in thinking that we can somehow manipulate God into doing what we want if we just do certain spiritual acts? “If I go to church every week, then God will eventually give me the job I want.” “If I go to small group, then God will help me with my relationship problems.” “If I give a little money to God, then he’ll bless me with even more.”
We think that worshiping God is just a means to get us the things that we want. But the worship of God isn’t a stepping stone to something else. It’s the destination. That’s where we should want to be, what we should want to do.
We become enthralled with the notion that acts of worship obligate God to do something for us. We forget that we’re not in control of God. The worship of idols has invaded our thoughts. Not that we actually bow down before carved images of wood, stone, silver, and gold. But rather the idea that all idolatry follows: appeasement.
“If I just follow the rules, then things will work out my way.” “If I just work hard enough, then I can get promotions and make even more money.” “If I act/dress/speak in the way these people think is best, then I can get their respect and join their exalted ranks.” Not all appeasement is throwing virgins into volcanoes, but it’s all just as ridiculous…just as ungodly.
In Acts 17, Paul spoke to respected philosophers in Athens about worshiping God. In this city filled to the brim with idols, he spoke about the God unknown to them. During part of this discussion (looking at verse 25), he says that God is “not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
Paul understood that human worship, acts of service, aren’t needed by God. We’re not doing him any favors. So there’s no obligation there. We’re not giving him anything he doesn’t already have.
But he gives us everything.
As a result of giving us everything, we worship God. He deserves our worship and praise because without him nothing would exist. Worship is the end result of realizing that he has done everything for us already.
Any use of worship as a means to another end supplants the works of God. It’s an attempt at a heavenly coup to make us be greater than God. The sin of the Enemy.
How do we stop making worship a means to other ends? Honestly, I don’t know yet. But what I do know is that it’s not an easy task even when we know it can happen.
My best guess, though, is that it starts with asking God to help us properly worship him…repeatedly.