The Biblical God requires worship. Some find that repulsive. Isn’t someone who wants constant adoration prideful? Is God some kind of narcissist?
David Hume was a famous 18th-century philosopher. He was also no fan of Christianity. He wrote:
“It is an absurdity to believe that the Deity has human passions, and one of the lowest of human passions, a restless appetite for applause”.
Before becoming a Christian, even C.S. Lewis struggled with the idea of a God who required worship. While reading the book of Psalms, he thought God was longing “for our worship like a vain woman who wants compliments.”
So what’s the deal here? Is God an egomaniac? An egomaniac is someone would be someone with delusions of personal greatness. They self-consumed and feel underappreciated. That’s not my opinion, that’s the definition of an egomaniac.
Can God be an egomaniac?
Let’s rephrase the question. Can an all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful being have delusions of grandeur? It becomes nonsensical to ask. God can’t delude himself. And there is no one greater than he is.
So if God exists and requires our worship, let’s consider there are good reasons for him doing so. Perhaps worship isn’t for the glorification of God’s ego.
What is worship?
Worship is short for worth-ship. That means giving someone their proper worth. If God exists, what would be worth more than the Creator and Sustainer of life? When you think about it, ascribing worth to someone is to acknowledge their value. We do this every day when we express gratitude.
Let me illustrate this: I come home to a candlelit dinner. I find out my kids are at their aunt’s house. My wife makes me a steak, sweet potatoes, and my favorite chocolate pie. The proper thing to do is express gratitude.
Now let’s say I don’t do that. I eat the food, loudly burp and then ignore her the rest of the night. That’s not me valuing her gesture of love. I’m not valuing her as a person, either. If she values herself, I’m probably going to spend some time sleeping on the couch!
If God is the giver of If God is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” as James 1:17 says, then the right thing to do is to thank him. You’re expressing that you value the good things that he’s given you, and you’re valuing that he is the source of it all. A failure to do so is going to create distance.
This is just how relationships work. And God wants a relationship with us.
You might say “well, yeah. But isn’t God above all this kind of stuff?” No, he doesn’t need your worship. But our failure to express worship causes us to view reality differently than it really is.
When we worship, we see God more clearly.
When we thank God, we recognize and remember who he is and what he’s done. He becomes bigger according to our perspective. This isn’t so God can get an ego-feed, but so we can grow in our confidence and trust.
Some might say “if God is real, he hasn’t been very good to me.” If you’re reading this you probably have electricity. You have a computer or a phone. You have internet access. You have the ability to read. You have a mind that can process what I’m writing. I’m guessing you’ve probably recently eaten a meal and drank clean water. You’re not in any imminent danger. Don’t tell me you have nothing to be grateful for!
He’s been so gracious to provide for us in so many different ways. Remembering this assures us that “he that began a good work in us will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 1:6)
When we worship, we see ourselves more clearly
You’re grateful when someone has been gracious to you. But can you be gracious to someone who feels like they deserve it? That’s not possible. When we’re grateful, we shift our minds from what we think we deserve and realize that everything good in our lives is a gift.
If you don’t think that is so, you’re not valuing the mercy of God. And you’re failing to understand your own depravity. We’re all guilty before a holy God. We’ve all cheated, lied, stolen and exploited. So we all deserve to experience the curse, death, and hell. (Galatians 3:13, Romans 6:23, Revelation 21:8) Yet, we’re still here!
When we worship God, we recognize his grace. We see that God is treating us better than we deserve. Worship gets us past our entitlement issues. It’s even scientifically proven that gratitude has many mental health benefits. Grateful people are happier people.
When we worship God, we see others more clearly
When I am grateful for God’s mercy and grace, I will want to pay that forward to others. I’ll recognize getting a better deal than I deserve. I should treat others better than I deserve. God values others, so I should too. (1 John 4:19-20) I think if we’re honest, we’ll become grateful for our friends and family who put up with a lot of our shenanigans. We’ll also be thankful for all the good times we’ve been able to enjoy being around our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors etc. We’ll recognize the image of God in them, and God loving us through them.
Jesus is not an egomaniac.
Jesus receives worship in the gospels, indicating he’s God. (Matthew 28:9) While he deserved our worship, he humbled himself and became a servant. (Philippians 2:6-11) His miracles were acts of compassion. (Matthew 14:14) He suffered the humiliating death we deserve in order to bring us to the ultimate source of satisfaction. (Romans 5:6-9)
Right before he went to the cross, the gospels tell us of Mary Magdalene anointing his feet with a costly perfume. It’s said the ointment was worth about a year’s worth of salary. The disciples said “what’s up with all this waste?! She could have given this money to the poor!”
Jesus had none of it. The disciples didn’t value him correctly. But Jesus set Mary free from demonic oppression. (Luke 8:1-2) She loved Jesus. She expressed her value with this costly gift. Jesus said that what she did would be remembered forever. (John 12:1-8) He accepted that he was worth the gift. Perhaps he could smell it while still on the cross, and it reminded him that he was loved.
There are no words or deeds that can be wasted on Jesus. Jesus believed he was worth her deeds. But he also believed in Mary’s worth. And he believed in the worth of others, which is why he died for them. Jesus doesn’t have a restless appetite for applause, but rather an intense love for everyone, even those who hate him. Egomaniacs don’t sacrifice themselves to save their enemies. Worship isn’t a one-way street. It’s to help us to value God, ourselves and others in light of the truth.
Is God a tyrant for demanding our worship?
On the benefits of gratitude:
Erik is a former atheist turned Christian after an experience with the Holy Spirit. Other interesting stuff about Erik: He’s a baseball nerd. His baseball writing has been published in ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com and has been mentioned in the WSJ. He’s a web designer by day and is the co-owner of a small decor business with his wife. He’s a dad of four and lives in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area. He’s passionate about the intersection of evangelism, apologetics and the local church.