Tuesday, August 18, 2009


If you were raised listening to Christian sermons you've probably heard someone tell you that mankind was made to worship. Makes sense right? Why else would there be so many different faiths? Worship plays a major role in many religions, and the desire to worship almost seems to be the impetuous behind the beliefs of the religious. Lately I've been thinking about worship on a broader scale. I used to "lead worship" at a church a few years ago, but I think really all I was doing was singing songs. I think the church mistakes "worship" for music too often, and although music is a great avenue to share your gratitude, as a fundamental practice I feel like the singing of songs can sometimes fall short (Especially if the songs are poorly written, but that is another topic). That might be surprising to you, me being a musician and all, but like I said I've been thinking about this and I guess I just want to share what I've come up with.

This isn't a new idea, in fact it has been talked about by many folks much smarter than l for hundreds of years. The fact isn't that you were made to worship and so you should do so to fulfill your purpose. The fact is that you DO worship, every day, and you don't really have a choice in the matter. Every day of your life there is some goal, some throbbing need or desire that propels you through your day. Whatever that is for you, that is what you worship. Examples are a need for more money, fame, respect, love, freedom, self-actualization or inner peace. It has symptoms like overworking, people pleasing, greed, laziness, emptiness, pride and longing. It manifests itself in excessive behavior with drinking, video games, drugs, working, reading, traveling, eating, watching TV or movies, promiscuous relationships, obsessing over things. If your sole motivation is characterized by any of these things, or anything else you can think of, then that is what you worship. That is your idol.

I've heard it said that an idol isn't necessarily a bad thing. I believe that statement. An idol is usually a good thing made into a God thing which then becomes a bad thing. Money can be used for good, but when you worship it people suffer. You suffer. People can also make idols out of their kids, acts of service or charity and good works. These are all good things, but the problem is that man-made idols never fulfill, because man himself is flawed. If you worship your deeds, you worship imperfection. If you idolize a person, you worship something that will never fill you completely, something that will always fail you and leave you empty. When you idolize flawed things, you become even more flawed. Sin is not a generous boss. Loving your kids is not a bad thing, making idols out of them will probably not only cause you suffering, it will cause the suffering of your kids as well. We all do it to some extent though. We have this longing to be driven, to be obsessed, to worship something. We were all built to worship.

So where have we gone wrong? Why do we make idols out of such petty and insignificant things? Why do we choose to worship empty gods? The answer is that perhaps we were not made for this Earth. Perhaps the Earth is not how it should be. Maybe our world can never satisfy us.

C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." He also says in Encounter With Light, "If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don't feel at home there?"

We long for more, we long to be in relationship with something amazing, to worship absolute goodness and be in communion with it. We long so much for this that when goodness is not fully apparent we find things to take its place. Bono says, "I have this hunger in me…everywhere I look, I see evidence of the Creator. But I don’t see it as a religion, which has cut my people in two. I don’t see Jesus Christ as being any part of a religion. Religion to me is almost like when God leaves – and people devise a set of rules to fill the space."

We choose things we do, things that define us, things that serve as practical idols that may or may not be disguised as good things. We create a religion when we are out of communion with the pure goodness of God. This is no new phenomena.

In the Old Testament the Israelites couldn't be left alone for more than a few days before they would create an idol to worship. When Moses came back with the Ten Commandments, he came back to his people dancing around a newly fashioned golden calf, which they had quite quickly decided was the new god that they were going to worship. It was a physical god, made of gold and things found precious in the eyes of man, but a man-made god nonetheless. A lifeless, meaningless, dead god. Yet we all do this. As Christians we spend some time apart from really seeking God and suddenly these idols start creeping back. The career, the family, the tasks at hand, those things that fulfill only temporarily. Like a crack addict living for their next hit, worshiping the pipe and the temporary relief it provides, however devastating to their life, soul and welfare.

Out of the Ten Commandments, number two and three are about having no gods before God and not worshipping idols. God is a jealous God, for sure, especially when people worship empty pieces of scrap metal over the God of Creation, but I think it's more than that. It's because God knows we were not designed to worship anything other than Him. He wants us to choose the best option for our lives. We are so quick to fill the void with garbage and we self destruct when we do so. Sometimes it takes fifty years for people to learn this, and some people never do. They die bitter and alone. A perfect picture of that is Daniel Day Lewis' character in There Will Be Blood. His idols greed and lust for money became so powerful that they eventually chased away anyone that ever cared about him. He ended up a broken down, bitter old murderous drunk.

What is incredibly sad is that many so-called Christians these days choose many gods before God: acts of service, judgement, principal, religion, pride. These things enslave Gods people, only damaging them and those around them. So when I enter a church and see all these people who worship money, family, religion and status singing songs, I find it hard to believe that those songs really mean anything. True worship is when God is first in your life. Only when that happens can you have perfect love for your family. Only when you worship the True Goodness can True Goodness flow from you. When God is first, you wont have greed, judgement, anger, bitterness, laziness. Your sufferings will only be short-term in light of the peace that comes from community with the Creator. I've been blessed enough to experience this on occasion in my life. I am terribly flawed in my own right, and am guilty of everything I've spoken against, but I've experienced Truth in a way that brought overwhelming peace, and I just want to share with you so that you might have that same opportunity.


  1. Exceptionally put. I, too, am disappointed when I see people like this, and it hurts when I look in the mirror and see myself like this sometimes. I am reminded of Don Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz, where he says, "Belief is not what you say, belief is what you do." Belief and worship are more than just singing songs and giving money to the church, it's also about giving time to the One who created us and listening to what His will is.


  2. Once upon a time, I misjudged you, Matt MacDonald...not that it was ever my place...but I did so anyway. My "religion" stood in the way, and I couldn't even see it at the time. Reading your blogs has shown me where your heart really is, and I feel the need to tell you openly that I'm sorry. You're brilliant, and obviously very much in tune with your Creator. I love reading your blogs. Please keep writing them! Thank you.

  3. my youth leader told us the same sermon about how we are always worshipping something. it's always made me try to realize if i'm putting god first in my everyday life.

  4. It makes me feel guilty yet hopeful. Hopeful that God can transform our worship. Thanks.

  5. A great post Matt. Thankyou for that. Time for some life examination.

    To anyone that would like more on the topic of worship, pick up a copy of Louie Giglio's book entitled "The Air I Breathe". It's absolutely fantastic and flows pretty much right off of this.

    Again Matt, thanks for the reminder and the great post.


  6. This makes me long to fill my life with the only thing that can fill it. And I need to realize this more now than ever. Thank you.

    God bless

  7. We were created for worship, if we don't worship God we WILL worship something else. Interestingly enough, what we worship is what controls us. For me, I'd much rather be controlled by the God of all creation then by myself, or money, or desire, or accomplishment, or anything else.

    Good post.

  8. You had me really intigued with this one, where was it going? But actually it makes perfect sense, to have a personal relationahip with God is to worship. To spend one on one time with Him is worship. Anything that takes the focus off God can be considered an idol. So the emphasis of worship should be the act of focusing on God. (But I do like the music too!)