Our culture has conditioned us to think about almost everything transactionally. Is what I get equal to or more than what I am asked to give? This mindset even shapes the way we think about worship. If I sacrifice my Sunday morning, what will I get in return? Will the sermon be inspiring or at least helpful? Will the music cheer you up? Will my children learn anything useful if I go through the pain of getting them up and ready? Will God bless me if I give Him my morning?
But what if we are wrong? What if God didn’t want worship to be practical? What if worship is not a transaction? King David, who led ancient Israel in worship as well as in battle, also wrote many songs that they used to praise God. In Psalm 27, David reveals a very different motivation for worship. Instead of hoping for a return on the time and effort put into glorifying God, David says that all he wants is to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” David saw worship not as a transaction, but as an infatuation.
Jesus confirmed this impractical understanding of worship shortly before his death. As the woman sat at the table, the woman poured a very expensive vessel of oil on his feet. When His disciples saw this, they were indignant. Like many people today, they could only see through the lens of practicality. “This peace could be sold for more than three hundred dinars and given to the poor,” they said, reprimanding the woman.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus shot back at them. “Why are you bothering her? She did me a good deed” (Mk 14, 5-6).
The students thought about the deal. What could the ointment be exchanged for? Jesus, on the other hand, was blessed by the woman’s love – her impractical and beautiful act of devotion. The students saw the oil spill as a lost opportunity. For them, oil was only a commodity to be used and exchanged for a measurable result. However, what they considered wasteful was considered priceless. He recognized the spilled oil as the pouring out of worship.
True worship can never be wasteful because it does not require a return on investment. True worship is never a transaction. It is always a gift – an extravagant, extravagant gift. In short, true worship is giving generously to God and wanting only God in return.
Display: When you think about David’s song and the woman at Jesus’ feet, think about how their vision of God affected their worship. How do you see God and how does your understanding of Him affect the way you worship?
(Excerpt from The generosity of a lifetime’s devotion, used with permission from Generous Church).