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:
- 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?
- 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?)
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- Does it make sense to equate life with worship? If all of life is worship, worship is, in the end, ubiquitous and meaningless.