I was recently asked why God would want us to praise and worship Him. This is a question I hear every so often since we immediately assume that a person who demands praise is a pompous big-head. I think there are many Christians out there who secretly wonder about this—afraid to ask the question (lest they be thought unspiritual), but bothered all the same.
God is completely self-sufficient and doesn’t need our praise and worship. However, He does deserve it. Would you agree that it is right and good to praise someone who is worthy of praise? We instinctively know this and praise people for all sorts of achievements. We praise the people we love and admire, and it’s not right or good for us to withhold praise from them.
We all understand the concept of praise being due certain people. Imagine that you crafted an incredibly beautiful sculpture and won a prestigious award for your creation; but when the time came for the award ceremony, they gave the prize for your sculpture to the wrong artist! That would not be just, right, or good. In the same way, God—as the only being perfect in goodness, justice, love, etc.—is worthy of our praise. We do, in fact, owe Him that praise. He wants us to praise Him because it is right and good for us to do so. Since God wants us to do right and good things, of course he wants us to praise and worship Him.
Beyond the praise being right and good (and because of its being right and good), worshiping God also brings us joy and enhances our relationship with Him. We see this in human relationships as well—think of a man with his wife. Doesn’t it bring him great joy to praise her?
I think it it’s interesting to note that very often, non-theists try to explain things like the creation of the universe and the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin of life as being the result of blind forces. That is the opposite of praise – that is speculating about nature to avoid giving credit to nature’s Creator and Designer. They are trying to escape the obligation to worship by attributing the great miracles of God to no one, so they can be accountable to no one. This is not the kind of thought life that God looks kindly on.
One important result of studying the world, including science, is to be able to understand what God has done in the world and to give him appropriate recognition for it. It is part of being in a relationship with him that we know him and respond appropriately to his real character. The refusal to acknowledge God is one of the symptoms of rebellion against him.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.
33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
And this also appears in Luke 12:8-10:
8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God,
9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
This passage is an early passage from Q, because it’s shared by Matthew and Luke, and Q is a source for those two early gospels. To get on the right side of this verse, it’s important to study what God has done, so you can give him the praise that he has earned. He wants to be acknowledged, and we want to hold up our end of the relationship and give him that acknowledgement. He did the deeds, and that means he should get the recognition for it.
One more thing I want to say about this. I see a lot of people singing songs about God in church, expressing praise for things they have no reason to believe that God has done. I think a good way to have authentic praise for God is to tone down the singing in groups and the emotional highs and the pretty buildings for a while, and focus on apologetics. Focus on learning the real stuff that God has actually done that we can know about – by studying science and history. In fact, it really scares me when I see young people singing and raising their hands and closing their eyes at church when I know good and well they have no intellectual grounding for these activities – it makes me feel like I am in some cult or something, surrounded by self-serving, fun-seeking weirdos.
You know that brings up an interesting question. What do you suppose would happen if I gathered together all the pastors and singing church people into a room and told them that we were going to do a scientific study of what God has done in nature, and a historical study of what God has done in history? My guess is that they would attack me, drive me out of the church, and go back to singing songs in groups with big musical bands and colorful lights in the ceiling. I think we need to guard against making Christianity about feelings and experiences and group gatherings, and make it more about knowledge. What has God really done that we can know about?
Let’s lay down a base of knowledge about God from nature and history, and then once we know he is real and he is good, we can talk about theology, and praising him for all of that. We don’t want what we do in church to be in anyway comparable to what non-Christians do in night clubs and concerts – gathering in groups and dancing around ecstatically. Blech! Christianity is about truth, not feelings.