Like it or not, we are all worshippers

Question: When was the last time you used the word ‘noble’?

Ummm…having a hard time remembering? Me too. “No bull” doesn’t count, by the way.

‘Noble’ is not a word we throw around much today, and not simply because, at least here in the United States, we don’t confer on anyone a title of nobility. I wonder if perhaps we don’t value the concept of being noble like we used to.

Noble: having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals

You probably know this, but when you google a word you can access a graph that shows the incidents of a word’s use over time. Here’s how the usage of ‘noble’ has dropped over the last 200 years.



I point this out because I’ve been pondering a statement I read recently about worship, and how what or whom we worship impacts our own character.

“The truth is that our supreme fulfillment, as moral beings made in God’s image, is found and expressed in actively worshipping our holy Creator. When the object of homage is noble, the rendering of homage is ennobling; but when the objects of homage are not noble, the rendering of it is degrading… [But] it is impossible to worship nothing: we humans are worshipping creatures, and if we do not worship the God who made us, we shall inevitably worship someone or something else.”(1)

What the authors are asserting here is not a new idea; it goes back to the Old Testament.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands….Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. ~ Psalm 115:4, 8

And more recently, 19th century American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying,

“The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. And a man will worship something … That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”

We become what we worship, or at least we grow to resemble it. Is whom or what you worship ennobling you or degrading you?

The word worship is a mashup of worth-ship…it’s what we ascribe the greatest worth to. So if one’s goal is to make as much money as possible, if that’s what’s most important to him, he’s worshipping the almighty dollar. Such an object of worship is ignoble and will always degrade its worshippers.

If humanity is deemed of greatest worth, as an uncreated happenstance of purpose-lacking time and chance, then we are worshipping a happy accident. Something that did not have to be, but is contingent on random mutations and the survival of the fittest is not a noble object of worship.

And if your god loves only those who obey him and commands conversion under threat of death, he is not noble and rendering him worship will result in you becoming ruthless and dictatorial as well.

But if your God is greater than you, if he is perfect in holiness, righteousness, compassion, patience, mercy, kindness, and love, then true worship of him will mold and shape you into his likeness.

If all this is true, doesn’t it make sense to foster and promote the kind of worship that will result in we worshippers becoming more noble ourselves?

(1) Thomas Howard and J.I. Packer, Christianity: The True Humanism (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1984), 146.

This post was originally published in July, 2015.