Our culture has formed us to think about nearly everything transactionally. Is what I will get equal to or greater than what I am being asked to give? This mindset even shapes how we think about worship. If I sacrifice my Sunday morning, what will I receive in exchange? Will the sermon be inspiring or at least helpful? Will the music be invigorating? Will my kids learn something useful if I go through the pain of getting them up and ready? Will God bless me if I give Him my morning?
But what if we’re wrong? What if God did not intend for worship to be practical? What if worship is not transactional? King David, who led ancient Israel in worship as well as in battle, also wrote many of the songs they used to praise God. In Psalm 27, David reveals a very different motivation for worship. Rather than hoping for a return for his investment of time and effort in praising God, David says that all he wants is “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” David did not view worship as a transaction, but as infatuation.
Jesus affirmed this impractical understanding of worship shortly before His death. While reclining at a table, a woman poured a very expensive flask of oil upon His feet. When His disciples saw this they were outraged. Like many people today, they could only see through the lens of practicality. “This ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor,” they said, rebuking the woman.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus shot back at them. “Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me” (Mark 14:5-6).
The disciples were thinking about a transaction. What could the ointment be exchanged for? Jesus, by contrast, was blessed by the woman’s infatuation ‒ her impractical and beautiful act of devotion. The disciples saw the spilled oil as a lost opportunity. To them the oil was only a commodity to be utilized and exchanged for a measurable outcome. What they interpreted as a waste, however, Jesus saw as priceless. He recognized the spilled oil as an outpouring of worship.
True worship can never be wasteful because it seeks no return on investment. True worship is never a transaction. It is always a gift ‒ an extravagant, wasteful gift. In a word, true worship is generously giving to God and desiring only God in return.
Reflect: As you reflect on David’s song and the woman at Jesus’ feet, consider how their vision of God informed their worship. How do you see God, and how does your understanding of Him inform the way you worship?
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).