Is All of Life Worship?

This is a hotly debated topic, and people on both sides of the argument seem pretty passionate about their beliefs. I’ve been thinking about this subject, and I’d like to throw in my two cents.

There are some pretty big implications that may result from one’s position on the question. Those who argue that all of life is worship are attempting to elevate every aspect of life as meaningful, sustain an active awareness of God, and live with the purpose of bringing praise to God. They are attempting to break the mold of the sacred/secular divide, treating some small segments of life as sacred and others as secular.

Those who contend all of life is worship may use the following passage to make their point.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2).

Our bodies are to be devoted to God in all that we do. They are given as a living sacrifice; they are holy, set apart for God’s purposes, and they are considered one’s spiritual worship. This is a compelling verse for this point of view.

On the other hand, those who argue that all of life is not worship are attempting to make worship an intentional and special activity. Time and intention need to be given to consciously praising God. Advocates of this position often value specific forms of worship, and they don’t want to see worship minimized by fusing it into other aspects of life.

They may use some of the following verses to make their point.

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (Gen. 22:5).

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,  2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:1-2)

See Gen. 22:8; Ex. 33:10 and Acts 8:27-28 for a few more examples.

These passages are compelling, too. They present a picture of distinct times of worship. These passages imply a time when people are not worshipping, they go to a specific place for the express purpose of worship, and when they are finished they return.

Hmm? So, what do we do with these seemingly contradictory points of view. From where I sit now, I tend to try to take a composite position. That’s cheating, you say? You’re probably right, but I feel both sides of the argument have something to contribute to godly living.

I still feel comfortable with the language of going to worship, that is, going to a place for express purpose of giving praise to God. I think we should devote specific time to overt, intentional worship, especially in the assembly of the saints, although I wouldn’t limit worship to a public, communal affair. One could also set aside specific time in private or small groups to pray, sing and utter words of praise.

Having said that, I don’t want to give up on the impulse that has caused some to say that all of life is worship. Rom. 12:1-2 uses the metaphor of worship to describe our lives. There is a sense in which all of life is to be devoted to God and lived intentionally for God. If this is just a matter of semantics, maybe it’s better to think of all of life as holy, a term I doubt any would contest (1 Pet. 1:14-16). In another words, the distinct act of worship is a fitting metaphor or picture for what all of life should be. Aspects, attitudes and the intentionality of worship should be applied to all of life. God should be the foundation upon which we build all of our actions.

Using sacrifice as a metaphor for life is a daunting and challenging picture. One does not half-way sacrifice or most-of-the-way sacrifice. The demands of discipleship, being a follower of Christ, are demanding. It requires those who have made a claim of discipleship to question whether their life truly matches their profession. It’s a good question and one I need to revisit repeatedly.

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5 Responses to Is All of Life Worship?

  1. Patrick H says:

    I’ve been thinking about this question over the past few years, too, and have encountered both extremes (the most absurd example I heard from a teenage boy: “I worship God when I play soccer, so why do I need to go to church?”; on the other hand, limiting one’s religion to 5 acts in an assembly can be equally absurd).

    I’ve come to the conclusion that worship is a fitting description of both what we do Sunday morning (and other times) when we gather together, and the way we live. The difference is a matter of content: one is an offering of words, the other of one’s life. Perhaps it’s similar to a marriage: the husband who fails to say “I love you” and the husband who fails to be a servant-leader to his wife are both wrong, because love is communicated through both words and actions. So is our love for God.

    (And, interestingly, Paul ungrammatically says that we are to present out “bodies” as “a” living sacrifice. It’s something we do together, as one body.)

    • Jeremy says:

      Patrick, thanks for your comment. I have thought about your comment off an on since you wrote it. I’ve also encountered both extremes, and I think it can be unhelpful to isolate the word to a single thought. Instead of having to choose (an either/or situation), this seems in my mind to be a both/and situation. I’ll have to think some more about it being a matter of what we offer up (whether words or actions), but that very well may be the thought.

      Your comment that we offer our bodies collectively as a group is equally intriguing. In the NT, you are never far removed from the community of Christ. American Individualism is completely foreign to the NT.

  2. Cuzn Dave says:

    The impulse of wanting to please God all the time is certainly healthy (Col. 3:17), but it is an over-reaction (to the secular/spiritual divide which you referenced) to say all of life is worship. Js. 1:26-27 shows that religion is not limited to “Sunday activities” but includes our daily speech and treatment of our fellowman. We must always practice pure religion because God’s revealed religion covers every aspect of life. From Genesis-Revelation, worship is a vital part of, but not the entirety of, pure religion.
    You mentioned above from Rom. 12:1 “the distinct act of worship is a fitting metaphor.” If this verse uses worship as a metaphor for life, your statement implies that they are not synonymous. The nature of figurative language (metaphor) is to compare similar things, not identical things. (Ps. 51:17 is similar to Rom. 12:1).
    If all of life is worship, then our college racquetball matches (played according to the rules, as a means of bodily exercise and spending time together) was worship. How can that fall within the realm of the angel’s admonition “Worship God” (Rev. 22:9) or Jesus’ admonition of John 4:23? As Patrick pointed out, by the statement of someone, some would put soccer in that realm. I know of no textual evidence for such.
    Worship is a worthy topic of interest, study, and learning (Jn. 4:23).

  3. Pingback: Top 11 Posts from 2011 | Theological Sweets

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