There is no doubt that North America is growing increasingly secular. People continue to claim no religious affiliation and church attendance is down. But does this mean worship is on the decline as well? The reality is: everyone worships.
In his book Encounters with Jesus, Timothy Keller quotes David Foster Wallace who was a best-selling novelist and was well respected in his field. Tragically, Wallace committed suicide, but a few years before he gave what has become a very famous commencement speech at Kenyon College. He said,
“Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god…to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before [your loved ones] finally plant you… Worship power, and you will end up feeling week and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”[i]
There is no evidence that Wallace was a Christian, but he gets it perfectly right, everybody worships. Everyone finds hope, satisfaction, and joy in something. It could be a job, money, family, academics, or anything we think gives us ultimate meaning or significance. Jesus says in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These are strong words from Jesus. We should not misunderstand him to be teaching us to literally hate our families; he is using hyperbole to make a comparison. Timothy Keller writes, “Everybody has got to live for something, but Jesus is arguing that, if he is not that thing, it will fail you.”[ii]
Whether we admit it or not, we are all mastered by something, we all worship. Jesus is the only one worthy of worship because he does not rule over us with a heavy hand, but he humbly came from heaven to serve us. He took our place when he bore the judgment from God on our behalf and his death for us gives us life. If Jesus really did die on the cross for sin and rise from the dead, then he is certainly worth our worship and he alone can give us fulfillment, joy, and meaning in life.
Who or what do you worship? If it’s not Jesus, your life will be in ruin. If it’s Jesus, you will have everlasting joy.
[i] Timothy Keller, Encountering Jesus, 29-30.
[ii] Ibid, 28.