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Perhaps you have heard this familiar mantra: "Life is worship!" The most recent occurrence in my life took place while reading Worship Leader (July/August 2014, 10) magazine. After quoting Colossians 3:17, Mark Roberts offers this conclusion:

Here worship is not limited to the kinds of things we do when gathered as God’s people. It’s not only or mainly a matter of singing, teaching, and prayer. Rather, in verse 17, includes everything we do. Yes, everything.

Roberts then links Colossians 3:23 with Romans 12:1 in this way: “As (Paul) writes to the Romans, we worship God by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, glorifying him with all that we are and all that we do.”

Roberts’ interpretation of the cited biblical passages has become commonplace. He is far from the only contemporary Christian claiming that all of life is worship. I wonder, however, if we can hit the pause button to reflect on the premise that worship includes everything we do - yes, everything. 

Before doing so I offer a definition and a caveat. I understand worship as declaring the glory and majesty and greatness of our God, that activity by which we echo that which now takes place in heaven. Now this caveat: While we may question whether everything we do in the name of Jesus constitutes an act of worship, let's affirm that worship is connected to life. Jesus affirms as much when he assured us that Individuals may see our good works and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16). In other words, our lives as Christ-followers may lead others to worship the Lord.

But does the Bible teach that worship includes everything we do? That all of life is worship? I invite you to come along side me and help answer the following questions:

  1. In Romans 12:1, does the apostle Paul teach us that all of life is worship? Or did he compare and contrast Old Testament worship, which included offering dead animals as sacrifices to the Lord, to New Testament worship, which calls us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices? Is not the central thrust of this text, then, a call to discipleship? An affirmation of Luke 9:23-24?
  2. In Colossians 3:17, 23, does the apostle Paul equate activities “in the name of Jesus” with worship? Can we come to that conclusion when we examine the phrase “in the name of Jesus” as used in the New Testament?  (Such as casting out demons in the name of Jesus?)
  3. Does the Bible teach us that all of life is worship? Or does it distinguish between worship of God and other activities done in the name of Jesus? Take as one example Jesus’ conversation with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Didn’t Jesus distinguish between the contemplative act of sitting at the feet of Jesus and the active life of service? Didn’t he state that, at that moment in time, Mary’s contemplation was better than Martha’s service.
  4. From a theological perspective, is it true that all of life is worship? That we can boil down the nature of life to worship? I remember reading somewhere in the works of Augustine that our God is love, our Triune God is a relationship of love, and God the Holy Spirit draws us into the love of God the Father through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Consequently, as Christ-followers we hope that love of God and neighbor permeates and shapes every aspect of our lives. In other words, wouldn’t it be more accurate to state that all of life is love?   
  5. Does it really help us to equate life with worship? How does this advance our understanding of the Christian faith? It seems to me that we may affirm the work of the Reformers with respect to vocation and their desire to remove distinctions between the sacred and secular without concluding that all of life is worship. I remember doing so during my days as a garbage man in Chicago. I was convinced that I picked up trash for the Lord. It was sacred work, but I never consider that work an act of worship.
  6.  Does it make sense to equate life with worship? If all of life is worship, worship is, in the end, ubiquitous and meaningless.


Could you expand a bit on point #6? Are you saying that life is ubiquitous and meaningless? I don't remember learning that in my catechism classes ;-)

Surely.  Thanks for the opportunity clarify.  If all of life is worship, then everything we do is worship.  Hence, worship becomes indistinguishable from every other action; worship gets lost in our actions.  It is no longer an identifiable action. Does that help?    

[ wúrship ]

1. treat somebody or something as deity: to treat somebody or something as divine and show respect by engaging in acts of prayer and devotion
2. take part in religious service: to take part in a religious service
3. love somebody deeply: to love, admire, or respect somebody or something greatly and perhaps excessively or unquestioningly

It would seem that you could take part in a worship service without actually worshipping God (due to inattention, lack of devotion, lack of faith, etc.).    Or you could you could worship God while driving your car, cutting your grass or washing your dishes.

Some people call the team that leads the singing in church the worship team.  So they consider only active adoration to be worship, I suppose.  Even listening to sermons might not be worship if it is done only to learn or to evaluate...  rather than to honor God. 

What is the difference between worship and religion?   All of life is religious? 


Sam, you never cease to be provocative in all the right ways. If we take your definition of worship as "worship as declaring the glory and majesty and greatness of our God" then I imagine it is possible to be in a worship service and not be worshiping because you are going over in your head the plans you have for Sunday dinner even as your voice sings "How great is our God".  It may also be possible to "declare the glory and majesty and greatness of our God" in our work whenever we see God's activity and acknowledge it.  I think that's helpful.  But then I lament not worship then? confession? or are those expressions of our relationship with God but not worship per se? Is this a matter of how narrow or expansive our definition of worship is? 

Good to "hear" from you, Joyce.  You caught me. I prefer a narrow definition of worship. The primary reason is that I have not find adequate answers to the questions stated in my blog. As a result, I am not sure that scripture supports the more commonplace and broad view of worship. 

Your questions regarding lament and confession lead us down a different road.  Suffice to say at this time, I think it may be advantageous to take a broad view of the Sunday service or liturgy by suggesting that it includes more than worship. Perhaps it is helpful to affirm that the Sunday service includes many types of prayers, including, but not limited to praise, lament, confession.  As you will readily discern, such an approach was normative in our circles before the 1970s. I wonder if it may be helpful to revisit it?

So - a narrow view of worship and a broad view of the Sunday service!  Thanks for helping me clarify that! 


With regard to distinguishing religion from worship.... maybe that's where the confusion is.  So let me try to answer my own question (I'm not sure about the pay-grade...)  All of life is religious, because it reflects your faith values.   All of life reflects who your God really is, and how important you think your God is.  Or whether you are trying to serve more than one god.  The atheist or christian who serves himself, the fan who adores his hockey team, the father who serves his work:  how have these things been placed in life relative to God who puts his claim on us.  If you worship God daily, that becomes part of your religion.  If you worship God only on Easter sunday, that is a reflection of your religion.  The way you do your work, and the type of work you do, reflects your relationship to God, and in that sense is part of your religion.  If you say that God has no place in your bedroom, or your office, or your tractor-trailer unit, then that is part of your religion, even if it is not worship.  And perhaps serving God, and worshipping God are not necessarily the same thing?

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