It reflects poorly on a god to be dependent on humans. This thought hit me several months ago while reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, whose bestseller revolves around the gods of various mythologies carried into the United States by their immigrant worshippers. Over the centuries, these gods have grown weak for lack of worship. Human praise is their strength, and without it, they drive taxis to pay rent, huddle in cheap housing, drink themselves into forgetfulness. The story is both comical and sad, and it raises an interesting question: Does a god require human recognition?
Some accuse the Christian God of neediness, painting Him as a spoiled child requiring constant attention. The idea does not sit well with me, but it bears considering. The call to worship is a constant throughout the Bible. Either God possesses an insecure temperament that thrives on flattery, or worship is not only about God.
A brief biblical investigation seems to indicate that God does not depend upon humans for worship. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (NKJV). And in Luke 19, when the Pharisees rebuke Jesus’ disciples for their praise, Jesus answers, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). The whole of creation worships by its very function, just as any human masterpiece points to the talent of the artist.
I think it likely that the very cells of our bodies proclaim God’s glory, whether our minds recognize it or not. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, who is from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). My computer dictionary defines a temple as “a building devoted to the worship . . . of a god or gods or other objects of religious reverence.” I am convinced that every heart pumps praise and that the electrons in a fingernail spin worship. Human lips offer but a single melody in the universal symphony of admiration for the Creator.
So if God does not require praise from people, why does He encourage it? First Thessalonians 5:16-19 gives the following commands: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (NKJV). That last line is of particular interest to me. One of the meanings of the word quench is “to extinguish,” as a fire is extinguished by a hose. When we do not praise (rejoice, pray, give thanks) we extinguish the Spirit, stifling the greatest source of power in the universe.
Free will gives us the choice to follow or fight the current of the creation. When we strive or complain, we offer up our power to things of minimal significance, denying the breath of God in us. But when we praise, it brings us into harmony with the cosmos. We find peace and purpose in the natural rhythm of creation, gaining strength by working in unison with the Spirit. Could this be why Joshua and his army were told to worship as they marched around the walls of Jericho? Our power is greatest when we recognize the power at the heart of all things, which is also in us.
The call to worship, then, is not about God. God does not need our worship. His existence validates itself, and His creation reflects Him without regard for human opinion. We are the ones who need worship. The call to worship is a call to sync with the highest forces at work in this world, to open our earthbound intellects to the incomprehensible. Worship brings us into alignment with the best parts of ourselves and the world around us.
As an experiment, the next time you are tempted to complain, to focus on a negative situation, or even to demand help from heaven, try to speak a few words of praise instead. See what happens.