Why Worship God?

Why Worship God? November 3, 2022

Some astute people have asked why God needs the worship of people. Some have even asked if God is a narcissist requiring constant worship. We don’t anthropomorphize God (apply human characteristics). God has no needs that we’re aware of that people can address. Following God (or Jesus) means following the way we have been shown to behave.

Someone said, if you think people don’t care about gender, just call God a she. Funny how we are. I try not to use personal pronouns with God. He, she, and it don’t seem to apply. So what is this worship business of this invisible person all about?

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” – John 4:23-24 (NASB)

Image by lehava nazareth Pikiwiki Israel: "Religion in Israel - Procession on the parvis of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre headed by Kawas (Ottoman guards)"
Image by lehava nazareth Pikiwiki Israel: “Religion in Israel – Procession on the parvis of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre headed by Kawas (Ottoman guards)”

How would we honor God?

Our tradition is to go to church. There we sing songs of praise and we listen to Bible passages which God brings to life in each one of us. Or not. We share a common experience, and commune with Christ. But does this really honor God?

Historical experience with God

From ancient days until today people all over the world in all religions have understood the profound presence of God in their lives. It usually isn’t something “felt,” not a feeling, but more of a compulsion to understand and do the right thing. It’s an experiential thing.

Praising God, which is not the same as worship but part of it, is based on a variety of things that God does in our lives. God is love. God is merciful.

By this we mean that God gives us space to grow and overcome the shortcomings in our lives. God is tolerant, not quick to punish, patiently enduring our faults just as we do small children.

God is forgiving when we do things and aren’t right, we recognize this as the thief on the cross did, then turn away from those things. In doing this God leads us to better lives.

God isn’t just someone who transforms us from being selfish and uncaring people who might hurt others to people who avoid hurting others and instead help them. God helps us in our times of need. God answers prayer.

Church has a lot to do with community. God helps us form caring communities that are centered around common interests. Others who worship God do help others.

God heals our bodies and souls. Prayer works.

We show our love, thanks, and joy in many different creative ways. We express the person that God created us to be through using our gifts, talents, education, and aptitudes by sharing them with others. Church is a place we can help others through education, sharing our talent in entertainment, educating others on life skills, and giving assistance or money to social causes.

Praise essentially means to tell what God means to us or has done in our lives.

What does it mean to worship God?

In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) the word translated “worship,” (shâchâh) essentially means to bow down, even to the point of being prostrate in homage, obeisance, and/or reverence – worship.  In more common terms this means special honor or respect, bowing in respect, deep respect. This was the common meaning at least until the time of Jesus.

For example, the Catholic Vulgate translation of the word commonly translated from shâchâh as worship in Ezekiel 46:2-9, renders the passage as “adore.”

The word “worship” didn’t enter usage until around the year 1300.

To honor – verb

Perhaps it might be better to zoom in on the older and newer idea of worship as how to “honor God.” Honor as a verb keeps the meaning of respect, but carries with it “fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).” The Israelites had an agreement (covenant) with God about being his people and God would be their God.

One article defines honor as: “. .. the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and of personal ethos, that manifests itself as a code of conduct, and has various elements such as valour, chivalry, honesty, and compassion. It is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or institutions such as a family, school, regiment or nation. Accordingly, individuals (or institutions) are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions with a specific code of honour, and the moral code of the society at large.”

In the New Testament in John 4:23, the word translated as “worship” comes from the Greek word, “proskuneo” from which you can easily see the word prostrate. “Like a dog licking its masters hand.” Homage, reverence, adore.

For example, the Catholic Vulgate translation of the word commonly translated as “worship” in the New Testament in John 4:23, is rendered: “but the hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”

To honor God would be more in line with what Jesus taught about “doing,” not just praising.

Jesus and the prophets

Jesus called out the people who only pay lip service to God, quoting Isaiah: “‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’””

By precepts Jesus was referring to the oral torah which were traditions of the Fathers that sometimes were put in higher regard than the Torah (first five books of the Bible). The Torah was at minimum guidance in life and at maximum rigid laws.

Note: Tithing (literally 10% of what you grow) is a Hebrew Bible edict. The food was intended to be shared with the religious leaders, the poor, and yourself at a feast. When the leaders were too far away the crop portion could be converted into money and whatever your heart desired could be purchased with it. Deuteronomy 14:22-26.

Jesus said to give as you are prospered.

Like the day of rest (Sabbath) these customs grew into other traditions.

For example, giving was a tradition while helping others is a command. In this situation Jesus said to them that the Torah says to honor mother and father, but instead they say ““Whatever I have that would help you [mother and father] has been given to God ….””

The strong message from Jesus is that you are not to neglect people in need while giving to God.

The True Worship Jesus refers to is what the prophets Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel talked about. They spoke harshly of those who ignore duties while paying lip service to God through following traditions, but in Jesus’ words, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness ….” – Matthew 23:23 (NASB)

Related articles

What is meant by truth (worship in spirit and I truth)

What a Church Has to Offer


The worship traditions we have are largely good things. They bring people together into community in which we are supportive of each other and are more powerful in addressing needs.

But worship traditions can’t displace our duties to others. We honor God by doing what God asks of us – that is, service to others.


The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. God is love. Be like God.


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If I’ve challenged your thinking, I’ve done my job.


Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world better.

– Dorian


About Dorian Scott Cole
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