The Primary Issue

When a lawyer asked Jesus what was the most important issue, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” (Matt. 22:37). Jesus was quoting from the Law (Deut. 6: 4-5). All the Law and commandments of Scripture are based on this one preposition — God is the only logical object of worship.

We see this same concept stressed in the structure of the Ten Commandments. The first two commandments declare God as the only entity worthy of worship. Furthermore, worship of any other person, thing, or idea, is strictly forbidden. All the other commandments strengthen or elaborate on this core idea. It is important at this point to say something about worship. We tend to think of worship as praise to, singing about, or adoration of an object. This is accurate. However, it is not all-inclusive. Worship is about how you live life. Inherent to the human experience is the search for purpose. We long to do. We long to achieve. We long to matter. We need a cause. This is because the primary function for which we were created is worship. All created beings were designed to glorify/bring honor to their Creator. Each creation of God was given differing capacity for worship, however, each was given capacity. No creature had greater capacity for worship than Lucifer. The problem was that Lucifer turned from God, and lavished his capacity for worship on himself. This ultimately was his downfall, and it led to the downfall of humanity.

As beings designed for worship, we will fulfill our primary function. Unfortunately, in our current fallen condition we perform our primary function at the feet of practically everything but our Creator. We serve the gods of money, power, sex, fame, and relationship. Worshipping that which does not deserve worship only leads to misery and further exacerbates our fallen condition. When we create functional saviors out of things like money and relationships, we set ourselves up for failure and crushing sorrow. Let me explain. If you trust your money and from it derive your sense of self-worth and purpose, when you lose your job or your retirement fund in an economic downturn, the underpinnings of your entire existence are removed. This leads to men jumping out of office windows when the stock market crashes. When your children are the most important thing the world to you and one of them tragically dies or emotionally turns on you, you find yourself wrapped in depression and wracked by despair. The issue is worship.

Worship is about ultimate things. Idolatry—false worship—is taking a good thing and turning it into an ultimate thing. Money can be a very good thing (it is necessary to take care of one’s family, fund ministries of mercy, and finance Gospel outreach), however, only a fool makes it an ultimate thing. Relationships are a good thing. Family interaction and societal inter-relatedness is a gift from God, but only an idolater makes relationships an ultimate thing.

How does one tell the difference between a good thing, and an ultimate thing? When we are restrained from achieving a good thing, we become angry. This is a natural response; however, if we cannot achieve an ultimate thing we are crushed. When one loses a good thing, he is saddened. When he loses an ultimate thing, his life is never the same again. Once again, this is a matter of worship.

In all of this, one is forced to marvel at the beautiful logic of God’s plan. He requires worship because He deserves it, but also because He is the only thing capable of fulfilling the role of an ultimate thing. Money cannot be ultimate because it is finite. Fame cannot be ultimate because it is transitory. Relationships cannot be ultimate because they are dependent on fallen, finite people. Only God never changes. Only God is eternal. Only God is infinite.

We worship God because worship is about living life, and only He makes life worth living.

[The discussion of ultimate things was inspired by Pastor Tim Keller. The contents of this article were the result of a conversation Drew had with a truck driver in Duncan, SC.]

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