Worship - Not as Important as we Thought?

In my church there is an assumption among many that worshipping God is the primary thing God wants us to do. Some cite the story of Joshua going into battle with worship singers leading the way, as an example of the overriding importance of worship. Others, who want to affirm the importance of 'ordinary' life, try to convince us that the tasks of ordinary life can be a form of worship. Denis Alexander has tried to affirm the positive status of technology by suggesting it too is a form of worship.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Scripture does not seem to agree. There is no unambiguous command "You must worship God." There is no clear teaching that worship is a primary thing that is required of us by God. Let us examine this surprising state of affairs, by looking to see what is actually important in God's eyes, looking to see what the status of worship is, and pondering why we seem to assume that worship is so important.

What is Important to God

What is important to God is not worship but:

Attitude of heart is what is important to God, attitude of humility rather than arrogance.

The Status of Worship

If we look through all the verses in Scripture that mention worship, then we find something surprising: only one verse seems like an unequivocal command to worship God. The vast majority are either exhortations to worship God by one person to another (e.g. "O! Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!"), instructions about whom to worship, or instructions about how to worship, or stories about people worshipping. It is as though worship is seen as like breathing: as something we will do naturally as human beings, without being commanded to.

Why We Assume Worship is so Important

So why do we seem to attach such importance to worshipping God? It may be that we have unwittingly absorbed a pagan view, in which the deities demand worship more than justice.

Maybe this is why God expressly forbade the creation of images, even representing himself. Maybe this is why God told David "I have never commanded you to build a temple for me, it did not even enter my mind."

Verses that reference Worship

These are drawn from Young's Concordance, and separate out the different Greek and Hebrew roots.


Denis Alexander, 2003, Worshipping God with Technology, Cambridge Papers 12(4).
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2004.

Created: 9 February 2004. Last updated: 23 December 2004 some corrections; moved verse list to end and formatted it.